Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have been in power in Canada since 2006. In the spring of 2011, they won a majority government for the first time, which means they are able to push their agenda through without any checks and balances from opposition parties. Instead of passing budgets and legislation that is representative of the values and needs of all Canadians, they are now able to focus solely on the Conservative agenda.
Liberal party comes out swinging
This has opposition parties incredibly upset. The Conservatives have not only been pushing through their agenda, but also shutting down debate in Parliament and brushing aside concerns and suggestions from opposition parties. This week, the Liberal Party of Canada had finally had enough. Interim leader Bob Rae, house leader Marc Garneau and former Prime Minister Jean Chretien came out swinging.
At a press conference in Ottawa, Rae said (source: CBC):
This is a government that abuses power on a regular basis like everyone else eats breakfast; that’s what these guys do, and there’s something wrong with that and it’s something we need to talk about. This is a government that is marked by excessive partisanship, a narrow-minded ideology, an attempt to control the agenda of Parliament without consultation, without discussion
Garneau backed him up with some numbers. According to the CBC:
Liberal House leader Marc Garneau said the last time there was a majority in the House of Commons, Jean Chrétien’s government from 2000 to 2004, 153 bills were debated during 419 sitting days. Time allocation, a procedural tool used to cut debate short, was invoked 10 times during those four years.
Harper is on track to tie that number in only 66 days, and he’s using time allocation to avoid debate on controversial proposals, said Garneau.
Chretien warns that abortion, gay marriage, capital punishment could soon be on the table again
They were backed up by Prime Minister, Jean Chretien who sent an e-mail to Liberal supporters expressing his concern. His message, also posted on the Liberal Party of Canada’s website, read:
When I was first elected in 1963, there was no Medicare.
There was no Canada Pension Plan. No Flag. No Charter of Rights. The Constitution was British law and there was no Clarity Act.
Liberals built these things — and more. We eliminated the deficit. We paid off debt and lowered taxes. Liberals kept Canada out of Iraq, while the Conservatives would have taken us to war.
Somewhat self-congratulatory to be sure, but his warning to Canadians that came later in the message is right on the mark:
Unless we are bold. Unless we seize the moment. Everything we built will start being chipped away.
The Conservatives already ended gun control and Kyoto. Next may be a woman’s right to choose, or gay marriage. Then might come capital punishment. And one by one, the values we cherish as Canadians will be gone.
Some may say that is an exaggeration, but the Big Blue Book of Harper Quotes shows his true colors. What he says during an election campaign and what he is capable of doing may be two completely different beasts.
Can anything be done about it?
But, as irate as the Liberals are, there likely isn’t very much that they can do about it. Only 61.1% of eligible voters voted in the last election and, of those, only 39.6% voted for the Conservatives (source: Simon Fraser University). Because of Canada’s unfortunate British parliamentary system, having the support of 24% of eligible voters (the percentage of eligible voters who voted Conservative in May 2011) is enough to allow the Conservatives to do whatever they want for the next four years.
This truly could mean the unraveling of Canadian values.
Photo Credit: Michael Ignatieff on flickr