It is surprising to me, given my libertarian socialist bent, to find myself nearly in tears upon hearing the news that the Governor General of Canada chose to ignore the wishes of the majority of the members of the House of Common and prorogued Parliament. It surprised me more than the grey days of the Mike Harris government of Ontario, with its Omnibus Bill and other attacks on on civil society. It even hit harder that the declaration of the War Measures Act by Pierre Trudeau, a political leader who had a strong history of supporting civil rights and civil liberties.
It was unusual to see representatives of three political party work hard to find common ground in order to address the problems of the day. While not moving towards a radical agenda, the coalition of the Bloc Quebecois, the Liberal Party of Canada and the New Democratic Party symbolized a new way of working together, indicating that perhaps community and mutual aid were concepts creeping back into the public agenda. And, as Canada is a parliamentary democracy, the majority of House of Commons should naturally form the government.
Yet, using language worthy of Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe or Hugo Chavez of Venezula, the now officially minority voice in the House of Commons, has attacked the majority as traitors, socialists and dangerous to democacy. Instead of accepting the will of the House of Commons, Harper and his supporters have chosen to undermind the democratic institutions of Canada. Aided by the Governor General, the Conservative Party have shown contempt for the House of Commons that they have chosen to serve in. Refusing to give up authority to the majority, they have circled their wagons and are waging a war of vicious accusations against those who have found a way to put aside partisan interest for the public good.
This is truely frightening. If elected officials are willing to show such contempt for the political process they have chosen to be a part of, what are their views about those who have different ideas, lifestyles or visions of how social should function. If members of the House of Commons are being denounced as traitors, who will be next? If even parliamentary traditions are not respected by M.P.s, what will be the next target?
We already know that pay equity and the right to strike are in danger, non-profit health care threatened and the idea of Canada as a haven for those opposed to war and injustice a concept pushed to the margins.The Harper agenda is not a hidden, right wing one but a public right wing one. Such an agenda combined with a blatant anti-parliamentary, anti-democratic approach to governing makes me quite frightened for the future of Canada.
It is not a coup when the majority of a legislature agrees to work together to do their job. It might be a coup when a small group refuses to cede power to larger, particularly when the larger group clearly represents the will of the people by having won approximately 62% of the popular vote.
Is Canada close to becoming a kinder, gentler Burma?