The Jury Talks Back


Winning and Losing Up North

Filed under: Uncategorized — Amphipolis @ 7:45 am

You may have missed it, but Canada had a Federal Election on October 14. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party did well, increasing their plurality in Parliament. You could say that he won.

But this is a parliamentary government. The three other parties together (Liberals, NDP, and the Bloc Quebecois), with their narrow majority, could theoretically form a fragile coalition government and topple him. This has never happened before in Canada. Yet this is precisely what they intend to do, presumably with a confidence vote curiously to be taken just after an election. The Governor-General, Michaelle Jean, would then likely ask for Harper’s resignation and request that the coalition form a new government. The new Prime Minister would be Liberal Party leader Stephane Dion. Jean is cutting short a foreign trip to deal with what is fast becoming a constitutional crisis.

Harper will addressed Canada last tonight. Some had speculated that he would ask the Queen to replace the Governor General with someone who will prevent the Canadian government from being handed over to a weak coalition that includes the secessionist Bloc.

No matter what happens, Canada’s government is far from stable at the moment even after an election in which the ruling party added to their seats in Parliament.

Update – Oops, Harper’s address was last night. BBC is reporting that Harper is seeking to delay next week’s scheduled confidence vote. Read to the end of the article, it is not pretty. Canada’s system of government will not come through this unscathed.


  1. Harper should take a “go ahead, make my day” attitude. If such a weal coalition was formed it would promptly fail over the least controversy and would lead to new elections. Assuming that Harper isn’t a complete idiot (and he clearly isn’t), it should then be child’s play to punish the Liberals at the polls for their stupid political tricks.

    Comment by Kevin Murphy — 12/4/2008 @ 8:18 am

  2. The Governor General has reportedly approved the request to prorogue Parliament, and Parliament has been closed until 1/26.

    Comment by aphrael — 12/4/2008 @ 10:35 am

  3. This is an entertaining take on the story.

    Comment by aphrael — 12/4/2008 @ 12:12 pm

  4. I like this one better…

    Comment by Scott Jacobs — 12/4/2008 @ 2:40 pm

  5. You give a guy two girl’s names like Stephane Dion ….

    Comment by nk — 12/4/2008 @ 5:30 pm

  6. aphrael – I suspect that that is the course that the Governor General would have to take … I don’t think he (in this time she)can choose to call upon anyone else to take over as Prime Minister unless the outgoing Prime Minister requests it …

    It’s amazing how much more honest politicians have to be, when they can never be sure exactly when they may have to face election again …

    Now, if there was only some way to prorogue US legislatures … perhaps the reason that there isn’t, is because the Founding Fathers knew that the Legislatures woudl be full of pro rogues, anyway ?

    Comment by Alasdair — 12/4/2008 @ 6:10 pm

  7. Alasdair, it’s hard for me to tell what the rules are, in large part because they’re not codified and exist merely through traditional use.

    Parliamentary systems in general allow minority governments to fall and be replaced by other minority or coalition governments. But Canada has no tradition of it. So is something which is allowed by the system still kosher?

    It’s a little bit as if the election for President were thrown into the House and we had a debate about whether Congresspeople should have to vote the way the people of their state did … it’s an exception handling system which has never been used. Except that in our case it’s explicitly ok because the written document says so; in Canada, it’s really unclear …. and, ISTM, people’s opinion about it basically mirrors their opinion about the government.

    Were it a Liberal minority about to be replaced by a Conservative-Bloc coalition, almost everyone’s position on the propriety of the change would be inverted, I think.

    Comment by aphrael — 12/4/2008 @ 8:39 pm

  8. The latest:

    Almost three-quarters of Canadians say they are “truly scared” for the future of the country and a solid majority say they would prefer another election to having the minority Conservative government replaced by a coalition led by Stephane Dion, a new Ipsos-Reid poll says.

    Pretty good news under the circumstances, actually. Another election would be for the best.

    Comment by ras — 12/4/2008 @ 8:56 pm

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