A Coalition of Nonsense

“It doesn’t have to be true. It just has to be plausible and it strikes me as plausible.”

This statement was made back in September of 2009 by Tom Flanagan, a University of Calgary political scientist and former adviser to Stephen Harper, in reference to the sudden resurgence of the “C” word from within the Conservative caucus.

It seems as though each time the Conservatives find themselves in a position of vulnerability, thePMO issues talking points for Conservative members to trumpet. Repeatedly. In front of as many cameras as possible.
It’s through this very tactic that the idea of a ‘coalition’ once again becomes the focal point of political conversation, whether or not it has anything to do with the topic being discussed.

The ‘coalition’ bogeyman has proven to be a favorite tool of the Conservative’s, because simply suggesting such a possibility requires no facts, evidence, or substance to back it up. As Tom Flanagan said, “it doesn’t have to be true. It just has to be plausible”. Simply raising the prospect of a coalition, tossing in a “separatist”, a “socialist” and a “power grab”, and the scheme to create an atmosphere of unrest or chaos is complete.

The irony is, Stephen Harper himself headed an ‘unholy coalition with the separatists and socialists’ in 2004 in an effort to bring down Paul Martin’s minority government. Once again demonstrating that the phony outrage and fear-mongering over ‘power grabs’ and ‘overturning elections’ is nothing short of Harpocrisy, – a unique kind of hypocrisy – where it’s perfectly fine if Stephen Harper does it.

It is, however, important that the record on the past coalition be set straight.
First of all, Michael Ignatieff was NOT the man who sought to form the 2008 coalition. That man was Stephan Dion, the leader of the Liberal Party. The media even pointed out Ignatieff’s clear distaste for a coalition, and commented about his silence on the matter.

In December 2008 on CTV’s Question Period , Ignatieff informed Jane Taber that he was not privy to the discussions being held between Dion, Layton and Duceppe, and had no first hand knowledge what options were being discussed. When the letter to the Governor General was signed at that memorable press conference, it was not Michael Ignatieff at the table; it was Jack Layton, Gilles Duceppe and Stephane Dion. It wasn’t until Ignatieff replaced Dion as the party leader that he had any formal involvement in the 2008 coalition, and even then did so reluctantly.

It’s Ignatieff’s words from 2008 that Pierre Poilievre is so fond of (partially) quoting, repeating how Ignatieff said he was “prepared to form a coalition government and to lead that government”. Of course, Poilievre doesn’t bother to repeat the entire quote, for fear the public will realize the true context and intent of what was said. For that, you must go back to the December 10, 2008 press conference with Ignatieff, following his temporary appointment to replace Stephane Dion, THIS is what Michael Ignatieff said:

I told caucus I will vote non-confidence in this government. I am prepared to enter into a coalition government if that is what the Governor General asks me to do…I also made it clear to the caucus, no party can have the confidence of the country if it decides to vote against a budget it hasn’t even read.”

 

Jump ahead to September 2009 when the Conservatives found themselves once again facing the possibility of a vote of non-confidence. They eagerly rolled out the talk of another coalition in the works, despite clear indications that the allegation was not based in reality. When directly asked about the possibility of another coalition, Ignatieff unequivocally killed the very notion. In a press conference on December 11 2009, Ignatieff stated:

“Stephen Harper believes he’s entitled to a majority government. But in order to get that majority, he’s going around saying that the Liberal party would enter into a coalition government. Let me be very clear. The Liberal Party would not agree to a coalition. In January (2009) we did not support a coalition, and we do not support a coalition today or tomorrow.

So, that’s that. End of story. Case closed. Time to talk about issues, Right? Not as long as the Conservatives could keep the fantasy going.
Noted conservative political columnist Don Martin even dedicated an article to the willful ignorance being demonstrated by the Conservatives, and their insistence on keeping the idea of a coalition alive.
In the end, though, there was no election and the coalition talk once again disappeared.

Fast forward to January 2010, and the Conservatives once again find themselves sliding in the polls, embattled in prorogation backlash, tangled in torture allegations, and subjected to international scorn. Cue the coalition propaganda!

On January 25, members of the Conservative Party took to the airwaves, simultaneously pushing the coalition nonsense on Canada’s two political shows: CBC’s Power & Politics, and CTV’s Powerplay.
On CTV, Rick Dykstra was hard at work playing up threat of a coalition, as Pierre Poilievre was subjecting the viewers of CBC to his repetitious talking points. If that wasn’t enough, the official Conservative website was being updated with coalition fear-mongering, stating among other things, that “Bob Rae is trying to re-write history” and “Canadians won’t forget how Michael Ignatieff and the Liberals tried to overturn the results of the last election through their Coalition with the NDP and the Bloc Québécois”.

It’s shameful that the Conservatives think so little of the collective intelligence of Canadians that they believe repeating disproven accusations and political nonsense about an imaginary coalition, which exists only in the convoluted Conservative psyche, will draw support at the polls. That atmosphere of political unease and confusion is exactly what the Conservatives rely on to get elected.
Thankfully, Canadians are far smarter than Stephen Harper gives them credit for. They’re not buying in to his “Weapons Of Mass Destruction” tactics. Canadians are fed up with Republican style political games and Conservative propaganda straight out of the Karl Rove playbook.

It’s time for all Canadians, including the Canadian media to actively call out the lies as they happen. In order to have an honest political debate, politicians must debate honestly.

Canadians are fed up with tuning into political talk shows, only to see the Conservatives dodge questions with threats of ‘evil coalitions’ and ‘secret back-room deals to usurp the Conservative government’. When given a platform, the Conservatives will throw around the threat of a ‘coalition’ like Rudy Giuliani does the tragedy of ‘9/11’.

It’s time, for once and for all, to put an end to this nonsense.
There is no coalition, there will not be a coalition, and every time a Conservative rolls out the ‘coalition’ threat, it simply serves as an indication that the’d rather not answer the question, discuss the topic, or verify the information put before them.

Citizens say Yes to democracy, No to Harper’s Prorogation

By proroguing Parliament, and thereby subverting Democracy, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has succeeded where others have failed.  He has galvanized Canadians from across the political spectrum, including many who were formerly apathetic citizens, in a common political cause: To stand up for democracy, and demand political accountability.

More than 150,000 Canadians have joined the “Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament” Facebook group, where they are leaving messages to the Prime Minister and voicing objections to his decision to prorogue parliament. Members of the group are sharing information, ideas, opinions, and videos, all the while learning more about prorogation itself and why in Harper’s case, the decision was not justified.

The massive backlash against Harper must have hit a nerve with the Tory faithful, as the conservative echo chamber quickly took to the airwaves, issuing PMO approved talking points and struggling to defend Harper’s ill-conceived decision to shut down Parliament. Time and again, Conservatives talkers offer up random excuses and possible explanations for Harper’s decision to prorogue, yet every time they are countered by facts which demonstrate the folly of their arguments.

For instance, no government has ever found the need to shut its doors simply because the Country was hosting the Olympic games. Past Canadian governments certainly didn’t see the need to prorogue during the 1976 Summer Games in Montreal, or during the 1988 Winter games in Calgary.

As for needing extra time off to ‘recalibrate’ before the upcoming budget announcement, why didn’t Harper’s government see fit to prorogue during its recent pre-budget consultations?

Harper has himself brushed aside the outcry from Canadians, arguing prorogation is a “routine constitutional matter”, citing lengths of past parliamentary sessions which have no relevance to current sessions of parliament. Meanwhile, others speak of past governments which had also sought prorogation, attempting in error to compare previous situations to Harper’s current political maneuvering.

One key difference is that during prior prorogations, the majority of the governments business had already been completed. Harper’s prorogation, on the other hand, kills 37 government bills, 11 of which are Justice bills dealing with the Conservative’s much talked about “tough on crime” agenda. (But fear not, the long gun registry was somehow granted immunity from prorogation, and will survive.)

A front page Globe and Mail editorial puts Harper’s prorogation into context:
“For the second consecutive December, Stephen Harper is putting Parliament on ice. In the act, the Prime Minister is turning prorogation, a sometimes sensible parliamentary procedure, into an underhanded maneuver to avoid being accountable to Parliament. In the interests of political expediency, the government will diminish the democratic rights of Canadians. Proroguing stops committee work and makes all legislation pending before Parliament vanish. Historically, it has been used when a government has implemented most of its agenda. Until Mr. Harper’s innovation, it was not an annual occurrence; the last minority government to use it more than once was Lester B. Pearson’s Liberal administration in the 1960s.”

Of course when all else fails, one can always blame the media. How innovative. Some Conservative columnists (who also happen to be members of the ‘Blogging Tories’) are attacking publications and news organizations who dared challenge Harper’s decision, and  Conservative bloggers are even resorting to accusations that the Liberal Party or the CBC are behind the grassroots Facebook revolt. By spreading misinformation and unsubstantiated accusations, the Conservatives and their supporters demonstrate just how concerned they are over the matter.

But I suppose because constitutional experts, political commentators, legal scholars, and even some influential Right Wing publications have used facts to denounce Harper’s prorogation, Conservatives must now rely on debunked claims to deflect criticism.

For this minority government, that flat out denied the possibility of a recession during the previous election campaign, that inherited a $12 Billion dollar surplus from the previous Liberal Government and subsequently spent its way to a $56 Billion dollar deficit after vowing never to do so, that has tarnished Canada’s international reputation on issues we used to be seen as leaders on, to now claim they have the ‘confidence of the house’ and therefor hold the right to do as they please, without consequence, is downright insulting to the Canadian public.

Canadians can not prorogue their next credit card bill until the next paycheck arrives; they cannot prorogue existence until companies start hiring again; they can not prorogue the tax man until their pensions miraculously reappear. Rather, Canadian citizens are forced to accept life’s responsibilities, while the Prime Minister and his Government flee from the Afghan detainee inquiry where they’re faced with allegations of complicity in torture. (It should also be noted, that if Stephen Harper refuses to face these allegations and call a public inquiry, the International Criminal Court may do it for him.)

Indeed, Canadians have every right to be angry, and Stephen Harper’s attempt to delegitimize citizen’s frustrations only serves to solidify the will of the people who are speaking out, talking action, and attending the upcoming anti-prorogation rallies being held across Canada this Saturday, January 23.

As the Prime Minister hopes for complacency, Canadians are engaging, and preparing to send him a message: “Prime Minister Harper, you were elected to serve the people. Now get back to Ottawa and do your damn job.”