Monday, December 8, 2008

The Conservatives and the Big Lie

I'm going to tell you a story, boys and girls...

Once upon a time, there was a country. It was a big country, but more in terms of landmass than anything else. It was a proud country, though, and kept its cities and its populace bright and shiny.

In this country, there were all sorts of political parties, but for the longest time, there were only two that mattered - the Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives. One or the other of them always formed the government, but was kept from going completely nuts because of the structure of the country's system of governance.

You see, boys and girls, unlike their neighbours to the south, the citizens of this country don't elect leaders. They elect Members of Parliament. Those MPs, collectively, decide who will run parliament. Who will be the lead, or prime, minister. Now, this means that most of the time, the political party that has the most MPs in the House can choose one of their own as the Prime Minister. But - and here is the first part of the story you should remember, boys and girls - there is no law saying they have to. If they felt that a Member from another party would be a better Prime Minister and hold the confidence of the House, they could decide he or she should be the Prime Minister.

Now, that leads us to point number two. Since the country's inception, a few other parties rose to political prominence, to the degree that they now claim a number of seats in the House to themselves. This makes it possible for a party to "win" an election with less than fifty percent of the seats, since they need only have a larger fraction than any other single party. However, their Prime Minister must then not only secure the confidence of his own party, but that of enough other MPs to make up that crucial fifty percent.

Under this country's system of governance, should the sitting Prime Minister lose the confidence of the House, it is entirely within the prerogative of the other parties in residence in the House to propose a new candidate. If, through some happenstance, the "other" parties happen to make up a larger fraction of the house than the party which formed the government, they are in fact capable of doing this without the aid of any of the MPs from the sitting PM's party.

Finally, in this country, there was an entity known as the Governor General, a representative of the monarchy that once held sway over the country. This post is still important, and holds some power. In the event of a pending loss of confidence, he or she has many options, but three principal ones, delineated here:

  • to prorogue Parliament for a short time, on the premise that the disruption is temporary and time will alleviate any problems

  • to let the confidence matter go through, fail, and call another election

  • to let the confidence matter go through, fail, and hand the government to the opposition to give it a try

These are all options as outlined in the constitution of the country.

However, the leader of the dominant party at the time of this story, boys and girls - he wanted to trick the good citizens of the country! When the other parties - who had more MPs in the house than his party did - decided to team up to remove him from office, he squawked that it was undemocratic, and unconstitutional! He played up the fact that the citizens had voted for him, not them! But as evidenced above, the citizens had voted for both, since they voted MPs into the house, not Prime Ministers!

He cried that what the country needed now was stability, not another election - discounting the fact that it was fully within the powers of the Governor General to simply turn the government over to the other team, and avoid the hassle of an election altogether!

Yes, the cowardly leader even pressured the Governor General to use the prorogue option, thus forestalling any chance of a no-confidence vote.

Will this story have a happy ending, boys and girls? I don't know, yet. But I can hope.

No comments:

Post a Comment