Saturday, April 30, 2011

On non-answers

There are some questions that can reasonably be left unanswered before election day.

The Prime Minister's willingness (or lack thereof) to accept Canada's constitutional means of transferring power is not one of them.

Good on Terry Milewski for challenging Stephen Harper to make it absolutely clear whether or not he'll accept the Governor General's authority to ask another party to form government. And as long as Harper refuses to answer, we have to assume the worst as to how far Harper is willing to go - and how much damage he's prepared to do - in clinging to power regardless of the will of Canada's voters and elected representatives.

Update: After serving as one of the Cons' chief cheerleaders through most of the campaign, even John Ivison can't help but to see serious problems in both Harper's evasion and his party's attempt to intimidate Milewski and the rest of the media:
CBC Television’s Terry Milewski asked whether Mr. Harper would respect the Governor-General’s decision, if he called on a second-placed party to form government after a Conservative minority was brought down. The Prime Minister said he wasn’t going to speculate on what might happen after the election, despite the fact his whole campaign has been based on conjecture about what might happen post May 2. Mr. Milewski accused the Conservative leader of ducking the question and repeatedly asked him to answer. By this point, the assembled partisans felt it their duty to jump in for their man. “Shut down the CBC,” shouted one man. Another behind Mr. Harper was screaming, gesticulating and visibly upset. To be fair to Mr. Harper, he gestured for calm and maintained his composure. In days gone by, he would have responded to such a challenge by attacking the source.

Quite why the press conference needed to be held in front of a hostile crowd is not clear, unless it was an attempt to intimidate journalists. Other parties hold the presser in a separate room after the event.

Party spindoctors suggest Mr. Harper likes the visuals of being surrounded by supporters but it lends the appearance of a lynch mob when the inevitable happens. One suspects the visuals of this morning’s episode will be replayed on newscasts across the country and confirm many people’s impressions of the Conservative Party as the home of anger, intolerance and blind partisanship.
Update II: Mark Kennedy nicely summarizes the stakes:
His refusal to answer the question Saturday raises fundamental questions about whether Harper might provoke a constitutional crisis in the wake of an election.
[Edit: fixed wording.]

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