Sunday, April 05, 2015

On conventional choices

Following up on this post, other commentators are starting to raise questions about what will happen after the impending federal election.

Based on the Harper Cons' track record, the default assumption has to be that they aren't about to consider themselves bound by mere conventions or if there's a chance to cling to power by using their incumbency to their advantage.

In a worst-case scenario, that could mean that regardless of how Canadians vote, the Cons could continue to exercise all manner of executive power (as bolstered by the ability to "disrupt" peaceful activity under C-51), while freezing out any replacement government by:
- refusing to recall Parliament for a period of up to a year;
- seeking prorogation to buy time if they stand to lose a confidence vote; and
- restarting the cycle by calling another election rather than allowing any other government to establish that it has the confidence of the House of Commons.

To be clear, I doubt any constitutional scholar would consider any of the above actions to be appropriate, particularly if there's a replacement government ready to demonstrate it can win a confidence vote.

But the question of what's appropriate is rather different from that of what the Cons will try to get away with. And considering that Con insiders are happily trumpeting that they consider themselves entitled to overrule voters as to who should be able to represent the interests of Canadians, we have reason to fear the worst.

So in challenging Harper and the Cons on their willingness to accept the verdict of voters, here are the questions to be asked.

Will they commit not to using the spoils of power, including any new powers granted to CSIS under C-51, to disrupt opposition parties or movements during and after the election?
Will they commit to convening Parliament in short order regardless of the results of the election?
Will they commit not to use prorogation to avoid any more confidence votes?
And in a minority Parliament, will they commit not to calling another election until after other parties have received an opportunity to form a stable government?

Unfortunately, it's not obvious what the opposition or the public can do in response if the answer to any or all of those questions is "no".

But at the very least, we'd best press the Cons to answer one way or the other now. If they'll go on the record with at least a surface commitment to peaceful transition now, that could help to sway the decisions of the Governor-General later. And if not, then we can start figuring out how to counter their refusal to accept democratic accountability before it's too late.

[Edit: fixed typo.]

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