Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 3/12/2008 (4548 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA -- Prime Minister Stephen Harper, calling a prospective Liberal-NDP coalition illegitimate in a televised address, will meet Governor General Michaelle Jean at Rideau Hall at 8:30 a.m. CST Thursday to discuss the political crisis.
Facing the possibility of losing his job to Liberal Leader Stephane Dion as early as next week, Harper appealed to Canadians in a televised address to the nation Wednesday night that a coalition government would thwart the will of voters.
But Dion, in an address that immediately followed Harper’s, rejected the prime minister’s reasoning, saying that, in Canada’s parliamentary system, a government that loses the confidence of the House of Commons loses the right to govern.
For the last two days, the two leaders have been angrily jousting in the House of Commons. On television Wednesday night, they toned down their approach for a prime-time audience but kept up the same lines of attack.
In his address, taped in his Parliament Hill office, Harper argued that his government had taken several steps to protect Canada’s economy from the global economic downturn and promised to do more when his government tables a budget on Jan. 27.
"Unfortunately, even before the government has brought forward its budget, and only seven weeks after a general election, the opposition wants to overturn the results of that election," Harper said. "They propose a new coalition which includes the party in Parliament whose avowed goal is to break up the country."
Harper’s address came on the eve of a historic meeting he is expected to have Thursday with the Governor General, who will likely be asked by the prime minister to suspend or prorogue Parliament. If she grants his request, as many expect she will, Harper will have bought himself some breathing room to convince Canadians of his position.
"Canada’s government cannot enter into a power-sharing coalition with a separatist party," Harper said. "At a time of global economic instability, Canada’s government must stand unequivocally for keeping the country together.
"And the opposition does not have the democratic right to impose a coalition with the separatists they promised voters would never happen. The opposition is attempting to impose this deal without your say, without your consent and without your vote. This is no time for backroom deals with the separatists."
Dion, in his address, also taped in his Parliament Hill office, said Harper had lost the confidence of the House of Commons by rolling out an economic update that focused on "partisanship and settling ideological scores" rather than the struggling economy.
"The Harper Conservatives have lost the confidence of the majority of members of the House of Commons. In our democracy, in our parliamentary system, in our Constitution, this means that they have lost the right to govern," said Dion.
He argued that coalitions have worked well in many other countries, and he said the opposition coalition would be built on the "great Canadian value" of consensus.
"Our coalition is a consensus, a consensus to govern with a well-defined program to address the most important issue facing the country: the economy."
Dion said he shares the frustration of Canadians with the political crisis, but he accused Harper of extending the crisis by refusing to allow a confidence vote that could topple the government.
"A vote is scheduled for next Monday. Let it proceed. And let us all show maturity in accepting the result with grace and the larger task of serving Canadians in mind," said Dion. Last week, Harper delayed the ability of the Liberals to table a non-confidence motion until Monday.
On Wednesday, the Liberal leader sent a letter to the Governor General declaring that Harper would be abusing his power if he asks her to suspend Parliament, a process known as proroguing.
"If Mr. Harper wants to suspend Parliament, he must first face a vote of confidence," Dion said in his address.
Harper’s televised message was the first he has delivered as prime minister. The French version was virtually the same as the English address, except that Harper used "separatist" in English and "sovereigntist" in French.
The last time a prime minister made a prime-time televised address to the nation was Paul Martin on April 22, 2005. Like Harper, his address came as he faced the prospects of losing a confidence vote in the House of Commons.
Martin, too, used his address to build public opinion for his point of view. Harper, who was then opposition leader, criticized Martin’s appeal.
"Mr. Martin’s speech tonight was not about saving this country. It was about saving the Liberal Party," Harper said at the time.
Harper’s address came hours after the Bloc Quebecois released a draft agreement that suggested the Canadian Alliance, one of the predecessor parties of Harper’s Conservatives, had negotiated their own deal with the Bloc Quebecois to take power from the Liberals in 2000.
According to a draft agreement released by the Bloc, the Canadian Alliance, the Progressive Conservatives and the Bloc Quebecois worked out a deal for a coalition government that would have made a prime minister of Stockwell Day who was then the leader of the Canadian Alliance. Day is now Harper’s trade minister.
The unsigned agreement appears to have been prepared in advance of the 2000 election, and was ready to be implemented if the vote had resulted in a minority government for the Liberals. Jean Chretien however, led the Liberals to a majority.
Day told the Commons he knew nothing about the agreement.
"Up until last night I had never seen that letter. I had never seen it, I never authorized that document. This is a fabrication, a complete fabrication. My DNA would never allow me to do a deal, a coalition with socialists and my heart would never allow me to do a deal with separatists," said Day.
But asked by reporters in 2000 at the possibility of forming an alliance with the Bloc, Day said: "If there are people who embrace the views of the Canadian Alliance -- and believe we need a federal government that is limited in size, that respects the provinces and that wants lower taxes -- I’m not interested where they may have been in the past politically."
The opposition earlier this week attacked Harper for seeking the support of the Bloc Quebecois himself in 2004 when he was trying to unseat the minority government of Paul Martin.
Typically, the Governor General grants a request to prorogue as a matter of course at the end of a long Parliament, but Jean will be facing unprecedented circumstances, namely, the prospect of a government trying to suspend Parliament in the face of certain defeat.
"Mr. Harper is threatening to prorogue Parliament which is akin to pulling the fire alarm before you go into an exam you know you’re going to fail," said Liberal MP Justin Trudeau.
"He’s denying our fundamental rights to vote and be heard in this Parliament and to express our non-confidence. "
If the Governor General grants Harper’s request, Harper has up to a year to recall Parliament, but would likely reconvene the House just before the Conservatives table a budget on Jan. 27.
If she does not grant his request and the government loses the confidence vote, then Jean will have to make another big decision -- whether to send Canadians to the polls again or allow the unprecedented Liberal-NDP coalition to assume power.
The accusatory tone and palpable anger of MPs has spilled out beyond the House of Commons. On Tuesday, the Vancouver office of Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh was vandalized in mid-day and on Tuesday night, an aluminum sign put up by coalition supporters in the northern B.C. riding of NDP MP Nathan Cullen was destroyed.
"Someone ... essentially firebombed one of our signs in the middle of the night," said Cullen. "You can see the result of the incendiary language that’s coming out of Parliament that is invoking a lot of fear and anger and hatred. And it’s, I think the prime minister has to take some account of this."
But Conservatives are convinced that a majority of Canadians are on their side in this political showdown.
"I’ve got to tell you I’ve been in politics, in elected politics at least for 13 years," said Industry Minister Tony Clement. "I have never seen the outpouring of support for the government’s position that I’ve received. I’ve received over a thousand emails in 24 hours. It’s totally unprecedented."
The Conservatives hope to turn public opinion against the idea of a government led by Dion with NDP Leader Jack Layton in his cabinet, but to do that, they need time.
Harper is scheduled to attend a ribbon-cutting ceremony in southern Ontario on Thursday afternoon. Toyota Motor Manufacturing Co., in a rare piece of good news from the auto sector, is officially opening a new vehicle assembly plant in Woodstock, Ont. Clement, the industry minister was to be the federal representative at that event but, late Wednesday, the prime minister decided to attend.
This is an abbreviated version of Harper’s speech, released by the PMO
Canadians take pride in our history as one of the world’s oldest continuous democracies. During the past 141 years, political parties have emerged and disappeared, leaders have come and gone, and governments have changed.
Constant in every case, however, is the principle that Canada’s Government has always been chosen by the people. And following the light of this democratic tradition, Canadians have built one of the most peaceful and prosperous countries the world has ever known – a land of hope and opportunity that inspires others around the globe, and has drawn millions as new immigrants to our country.
On October 14, for the 40th time since Confederation, Canadians voted in a national general election. We are honoured that you returned our Government to office with a strengthened mandate to lead this great country through the most difficult global economic crisis in many decades. Canada’s Government is acting to deal with the crisis, right now.
Further personal and business tax reductions are coming into effect;
• We are doubling spending on infrastructure;
• We are ensuring credit for businesses and consumers by injecting liquidity into financial markets;
• We are helping seniors who rely on RRIR income;
• And securing pension plans.
We are implementing the Automotive Innovation Fund and, working with the Government of Ontario, we are undertaking due diligence on any further requests for assistance from the auto industry. We are increasing support and incentives for manufacturers, the forestry sector, and others to pursue business opportunities. We are implementing agreements with the provinces to enhance labour mobility. And, next month on January 27, we will bring in a budget which will contain additional measures to boost Canada’s economy, while making sure we avoid a long term structural deficit in Canada’s finances.
In preparation for that budget we are consulting widely with Canadians, meeting with premiers of our provinces and territories, and working in collaboration with our international partners in G20. The Minister of Finance will be consulting with the business community and interest groups.
We are consulting with, and expect to hear more from, the opposition parties in Parliament. We hope they bring forward specific proposals -- we have invited them to do so. In fact, we have already changed some of our proposals to meet their concerns. Unfortunately, even before the Government has brought forward its budget, and only seven weeks after a general election, the opposition wants to overturn the results of that election.
Instead of an immediate budget, they propose a new coalition which includes the party in Parliament whose avowed goal is to break up the country. Let me be very clear: Canada’s Government cannot enter into a power-sharing coalition with a separatist party.
At a time of global economic instability, Canada’s Government must stand unequivocally for keeping the country together. At a time like this, a coalition with the separatists cannot help Canada. And the Opposition does not have the democratic right to impose a coalition with the separatists they promised voters would never happen.
The Opposition is attempting to impose this deal without your say, without your consent, and without your vote. This is no time for backroom deals with the separatists; it is the time for Canada’s government to focus on the economy and specifically on measures for the upcoming budget. This is a pivotal moment in our history.
We Canadians are the inheritors of a great legacy, and it is our duty to strengthen and protect it for the generations still to come. Tonight, I pledge to you that Canada’s Government will use every legal means at our disposal to protect our democracy, to protect our economy, and to protect Canada.
Verbatim speech from Liberal Leader Stephane Dion
Canada is facing the impacts of the global economic crisis. Our economy is on the verge of a recession. Canadians are worried about losing their jobs, their homes, their savings. Every economist in the country is predicting increased job losses and deficits for the next few years.
The federal government has a duty to act and help Canadians weather this storm.
Stephen Harper still refuses to propose measures to stimulate the Canadian economy. His mini-budget last week demonstrated that his priority is partisanship and settling ideological scores.
The Harper Conservatives have lost the confidence of the majority of Members of the House of Commons. In our democracy, in our parliamentary system, in our Constitution, this means that they have lost the right to govern.
Canadians don’t want another election, they want Parliamentarians to work together. That’s our job. Canadians want their MPs to put aside partisanship and focus on the economy.
The Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party are ready to do this. Jack Layton and I have agreed to form a coalition government to address the impact of the global economic crisis. The Bloc has agreed to support this government on matters of confidence. The Green Party has also agreed to support it.
Our system of government was not born with Canada. It is ancient. There are rules that govern it and conventions that guide it.
Coalitions are normal and current practice in many parts of the world and are able to work very successfully. They work with simple ingredients: consensus, goodwill and cooperation. Consensus is a great Canadian value. In this spirit, we Liberals have joined in a coalition with the NDP. We have done so because we believe we can achieve more for Canadians through cooperation than through conflict. We believe we can better solve the challenges facing Canada through teamwork and collaboration, rather than blind partisan feuding and hostility.
Our coalition is a consensus to govern with a well-defined program to address the most important issue facing the country: the economy. It is a program to preserve and create jobs and to stimulate the economy in all regions of the country. The elements of the program need to be spelled out and this is what we will do if we are allowed to present it to the House of Commons.
We share the frustration Canadians have about a political crisis that has been allowed to take prominence over the more important economic challenges we face. Elsewhere in the world, leaders are working to cope with the recession, to bring forward the kinds of investments that will help their people and their economies. Politicians are working together. Rivals are working together.
Mr. Harper’s solution is to extend that crisis by avoiding a simple vote. By suspending Parliament and continuing the confusion. We offer a better way. We say settle it now and let’s get to work on the people’s business. A vote is scheduled for next Monday. Let it proceed. And let us all show maturity in accepting the result with grace and the larger task of serving Canadians in mind.
Within one week, a new direction will be established, a tone and focus will be set. We will gather with leaders of industry and labour to work, unlike the Conservatives, in a collaborative, but urgent manner to protect jobs.
To stimulate the economy and create good well-paid jobs we will not only accelerate already planned investments, but invest significantly more in our country’s infrastructure. Helping our cities like Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal or Halifax build modern, efficient public transit systems.
Investing in our rural communities so that cherished ways of life are protected for future generations. We can stimulate our economy through investments in clean energy, water and our gateways.
We will invest in our manufacturing, forestry and automotive sectors to protect and create jobs. We believe that in these tough economic times the government has a role to play to ensure that those who are doing their share for the prosperity of our country can continue to provide for the well-being of their families.
In times like this our compassion as a country is tested. We believe it is imperative that the government offers Canadians who have already lost their job, whether in the factories of South Western Ontario or the forests of Eastern Quebec and British Columbia, the support they need to live in dignity and develop new skills.
That is precisely what we intend to provide.
Earlier today I wrote Her Excellency the Governor General. I respectfully asked her to refuse any request by the Prime Minister to suspend Parliament until he has demonstrated to her that he still commands the confidence of the House.
If Mr. Harper wants to suspend Parliament he must first face a vote of confidence.
In our Canada, the government is accountable for its decisions and actions in Parliament.
In our Canada, the government derives its legitimacy from an elected Parliament.
Allow me to end tonight on a personal note. If I am entrusted with the role of Prime Minister for the next months that I have left to serve, I will work day and nights to combat this economic crisis, to do what it takes to minimize its effects on Canadians, to protect jobs and to create jobs.
I will serve my country until my time to serve is at an end.
Full text of NDP Leader Jack Layton’s televised address
OTTAWA — The full text of NDP Leader Jack Layton’s live televised address Wednesday:
My fellow Canadians, tonight we are at a crossroads in our collective history.
An economic storm unlike anything seen in a generation is upon us.
And Canada must have a strong and effective government that holds the confidence of Parliament.
Tonight, we do not.
Tonight, far too many Canadians will lie awake not knowing how they’ll put food on the table tomorrow, or pay the bills this month.
Seniors will check their pensions and savings and see the true cost of collapsing markets.
And in Canada, this recession has only just begun.
Tonight, only one party stands in the way of government that works for Canadians.
When people look to their federal government, they want to see a sense of leadership.
Mr. Harper has not shown this leadership.
Families about to receive their last paycheque needed hope.
World leaders have acted rapidly and boldly to stimulate their economies.
Economists and business leaders have asked for strong and targeted measures.
In Canada, New Democrats offered constructive input and good ideas.
On election night, I committed to working collaboratively with Mr. Harper in the new minority Parliament.
In the days and weeks following that election, I laid out our effective ideas to stimulate the economy.
I described them in great detail in speeches across the nation.
In the House of Commons.
And in a face to face meeting - at my invitation - with Mr. Harper on November the 12th.
I focused on the needs of working families, of those being thrown out of work or whose pensions were at risk.
Of those working in our key industrial sectors.
And the need for a new energy economy to create new jobs for the 21st century.
Instead of acting on those ideas, or presenting any plan to stimulate the economy, he delivered a partisan plan to sell off public buildings, kill off opposition parties and roll back workers’ and women’s rights — none of which would create one job or protect one pension.
Stephen Harper refused to act. Now he is trying to turn an economic crisis into a political one.
But Stephen Harper has broken trust with the Canadian people.
And because of that, he has lost the confidence of Parliament.
He’s more interested in his job than you and your families’ jobs.
It was Stephen Harper’s job to make Parliament work.
But he has refused.
By putting an end to Parliament, buy putting locks on the doors, he is rejecting the democratic choice of 62 per cent of the people.
And every MP will see their democratic right to vote confidence in the government.
Every member of Parliament will be denied their vote.
Every Canadian will be silenced in the people’s House.
We will have a Conservative government without legitimacy.
That doesn’t have to happen, because this is a remarkable moment in Canadian history.
The opposition parties have acted together with a common goal: to return hope to people and help them go through these very difficult economic times.
For the first time, the majority of parities chosen by the people have put aside their differences. For the good of the people.
For the first time in memory, the majority of the people’s representatives set aside their differences for the good of Canada.
This is a time of hope.
Tonight, only one party stands against the welfare of the Canadian people.
On Monday, the two leaders of the proposed coalition sent Her Excellency the Governor General a letter making it clear that the majority of members of Parliament no longer have confidence in this Conservative government.
Nothing we have heard tonight changes that fact.
And tonight, we are announcing that if it pleases Her Excellency, every New Democrat member of Parliament is prepared to individually express their lack of confidence in this government.
A new kind of government, with a new kind of politics, is ready to serve, one that will put the economy and working families first.
Thank you, and good night.