Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Have I got a fourth-year thesis for YOU!

(Part 1)

Dear Canadian political science students:

Let me suggest your fourth-year essay in contemporary Canadian politics (if you can talk your prof into it).

Over the last year or so, we've been lucky(?) to be witnesses to some unusual activity on the Canadian political landscape. I speak, specifically, of two ideologically contrasting events:

And here's where the fun starts since, given that these two events came from opposite ends of the political spectrum, wouldn't it be entertaining to do a rigourous and methodical analysis of the fundamental differences between those two movements? Because, really, when was the last time you had such similar activities occurring so close together, but coming from such wildly differing ideologies? Seriously, doesn't the phrase "compare and contrast" just leap to mind? Of course it does.

Now, despite some advice I was given when I was discussing this with a friend, I'm going to suggest a couple obvious differences that could be explored, but what you'd do with this is entirely up to you. Let's start by comparing the respective Facebook pages to see how their creators introduced the topic.

First off, there's CAPP -- Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament -- and its alleged mission, which we shall read carefully:

On December 30th, Prime Minister Stephen Harper prorogued parliament, effectively shutting down our democratic institutions for the sake of political expediency. The group started with a very simple idea: Canadians contacting their Members of Parliament and requesting that they return to Parliament Hill on January 25th when parliament was supposed to resume. What a difference we've made. Many MPs have listened and they will be returning to serve the interests of the Canadian people.

What do we do now? We need to keep the pressure on the Prime Minister and our MPs to recognize that there needs to be changes in Ottawa. First and foremost: prorogation. As it stands, the decision to call prorogation is at the sole discretion of the Prime Minister. While proroguing is typically done to signal the end of the parliamentary session, this most recent case has shown that the power can be abused.

So, what can we say about the above? Well, the first thing we can say is that it appears to be honest and accurate. Regardless of whether you support it or not, it's hard to deny that the group has a straightforward rationale. There are no hysterics. There is no screeching. There is no panty-yanking. There is no pitiful plea to emotion. And, most importantly, there is no claim that prorogation is illegal.

That last part is important, as the Facebook description openly admits that the right to prorogue Parliament "is at the sole discretion of the Prime Minister," which of course it is. No one is denying that. No one is claiming that prorogation is unconstitutional. One is simply claiming that its power is being abused, nothing more, and that democracy is suffering as a result.

Got all that? Good. Because here's where the "compare and contrast" comes in.

Let's check the description of the earlier Facebook Against a Liberal/NDP Coalition Government to see how well it holds up. The beginning of the description:

This group is for all Canadians against a Liberal/NDP Coalition propped up by the Bloc Quebecois.

And already we see a bit of bias creeping in -- "propped up by the Bloc Quebecois." Oh, no ... apparently, we should be suspicious that the Bloc is involved because, um, they're French? No, wait, they're from Quebec! Oh, I know, they're separatists. Ignore, of course, that they're Canadians and were duly and honestly elected like everyone else. It's important to open your case with a quick smear job. On we go:

In the last federal election, Liberal leader Stephane Dion said he wouldn't form a coalition with the NDP because they had "bad economics" that weren't in the best interest of our country. What does Mr. Dion do a few weeks later?

He signs a coalition government with the NDP. Also in the agreement was the separatist Bloc Quebecois.

ZOMG, NO!!! Stephane Dion broke his word! How ... awful! And I should point out, how irrelevant, particularly since I suspect Dion would have kept his word if Harper hadn't tried to gut public financing as his first official act. In any event, whether or not Dion flip-flopped or not is quite irrelevant to the discussion since it's entirely within his right to propose a coalition government if the current one falls. But the subtle smears continue:

How low has the Liberal Party and NDP gone when they sign an agreement that gives so much power to a party devoted to the destruction of Canada? There is only one winner in this coalition accord. Unfortunately, that winner, is the Bloc Quebecois.

Yap yap yappity yap they're all horrible people and never forget that the Bloc aren't real Canadians. The word "destruction" is a nice touch, too. Then the madness kicks in:

This move by the opposition parties is unethical and not in the spirit of democracy. Yes, it's completely within the bounds of our constitutional framework. However, it's unethical for these parties to deny a coalition in an election and form an agreement after an election.

It's unethical! They have every right to do it! But it's still unethical! Smear smear smear. And then the batshit crazy bubbles to the surface:

Canadians might have voted 62% combined popular vote for the opposition parties, but there is no majority who voted for a coalition.

Yes, and there's a reason for that -- the word "coalition" did not appear anywhere on the voting ballot so pointing out that no one "voted for a coalition" doesn't really mean a whole lot, does it? But honestly, it gets so much funnier:

To form a coalition this accord should have to face the Canadian people in the form of a federal election. Put it to the people, let them decide, after being made aware of this agreement, whether or not they want a Conservative Government or Liberal-NDP, Bloc supported coalition government.

The opposition parties don't want an election, because they know they would be brutally defeated.

A more egregious rewriting of history would be hard to find since, if memory serves, the Opposition was so ready to bring it on, which is what inspired Stephen Harper to piss his pants and frantically call for prorogation -- to avoid getting his ass handed to him on a plate.

I could go on, but I assume you see where I'm going with this. The whole "compare and contrast" is enlightening, is it not? The recent CAPP facebook page was clear and to the point, and described nothing more than what its organizers felt was the fundamental issue that was an abuse of Prime Ministerial power. The earlier anti-coalition page was, on the other hand, total crap, laden with emotional blackmail and outright historical revisionism. And that's only Chapter 1. Are you starting to see an undergrad thesis in this somewhere?

More coming ...


Niles said...

The spin now going at high revs as voiced by Pierre PollyParrot yesterday on tv is a concerted relentless talking points effort to revive the hysteria about the eeeeeevil coalition. He was on with Libby D. of the NDP and Bob Rae of the Liberals.

That's all PP could say. coalition coalition coalition. The efforts to reform the ability to prorogue were nothing more than eeevil conspiracy forward thinking on Ignatieff's part (ie: wow, what a genius for thinking that far ahead so many moves!!1! and somehow this is bad to be so SMRT so far in advance) to enable, *after the reforms are in place*, for 'Teh CoalitionCoalitionCoalition tm' to rob the courageous PM of the ability to stop them from trickily snatching power away from duly elected governmental representation. Repeat ad nauseum, no matter what the questions were.

Oh. and Bob Rae did it too, so there nyah, lalalala not listening, you did it too, coalition.

The take away I have from it is they *really* want those people from the Facebook group re: anti-coalition to be lured back into view, so they're sending out mating calls en masse.

Audrey II said...

I'm not a poli-sci student, but here's my take:

In short, the CAPP position is premised on the acceptance of Responsible Governance as existing as the basis for Canadian governance, defers to the virtues of proper application, and opposes the abuse of it. It accepts accepts the critique of Plato of direct democracy and reflects the development of "western democracy" as superior. It acknowledges and reflects a long history of political evolution. It shows a consideration of non-partisan long-term tenability.

The anti-coaltion position, on the other hand, denies the existence of Responsible Governance and/or attempts to replace it, through sheer virtue of assertion, with a more politically convenient form of governance. It panders to populism and frames the notion of "democracy" to be something more akin to what Plato warned as being tyrannical in nature. It rejects the evolution to contemporary western democracy in favour of what happens to provide the best short-term partisan opportunity. It fails to consider tenability by attempting to assert out of existence and important check on executive power specifically crafted into the fusion of powers.

That's my humble opinion. Feel free to tear into it.