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Monday, January 26, 2009

It stopped being about the budget two months ago

Let's review where we are, shall we?

Before the Governor-General reads the throne speech today, she's going to be swearing in 18 new senators - appointments that should not have been made, or should have been refused by the Governor-General, until the Prime Minister proved he had the confidence of the House.

The reason we don't know if he has the confidence of the House is because the Governor-General let him suspend parliament in the face of losing a vote, just like they do in your more civilized Banana Republics. But the opposition might have changed their mind since then, since the Liberals helped with the second stage of any Banana Republic-style centralization of power - they had the Leader of the Opposition disappeared.

And let's not forget where this started - when the government felt a world-wide financial crisis was excellent cover to de-fund the opposition parties.

Suspending Parliament was arrogant. In Canada, the Prime Minister serves at the pleasure of Parliament, not the other way around. Continuing to act like Prime Minister without proving that confidence, particularly with the Senate appointments, moves into the territory of hubris. Now the Prime Minister is playing another game of chicken with the new Liberal leader, "playing games with budget leaks" as Mr. Ignatieff himself put it. This looks like an early sign of the government governing exactly the way they did before the last election: pushing the Liberals into a corner again and again just to watch the creative ways the Liberals could fold their cards, again and again.

The budget might just provide Mr. Ignatieff with a fig leaf's worth of cover to back down from defeating this government, and I feel certain that if it does, Iggy's going to take it. But Harper has spent nearly every day since the last election making a mockery of our fundamental democratic institutions. He attacked the opposition as anti-democratic, and possibly even seditious, even as his behavior suggested a lack of understanding, or a lack of respect, for Canadian parliamentary tradition. His government came very close to defeat, his career very nearly ended, and instead of using the eight weeks since to show any sort of contrition for that behavior, he's once again engaged in brinkmanship with the Liberal Party. I hope, for the sake of Canada's parliamentary democracy, that Mr. Ignatieff is willing to take a stand, to help escort this usurper from 24 Sussex Drive.

I suggested at the suspension of Parliament that Mr. Harper should have done his party a favour and stepped aside. Time's up. It's no longer about the budget. Really, it never was.

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