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On ensuring an unelected official does not decide the fate of our country

By DJ Kelly December 3, 2008

Also available on the Calgary Herald’s Q.

The Governor General is a figurehead position, it has been for many years. It is unfair to ask an unelected official to decide the fate of our country.

Therefore there is only one option Michaelle Jean has before her: do whatever the Prime Minister asks of her. Assuming the PM enjoys the confidence of the House, he represents the will of 308 elected officials. This is the precedent and is exceedingly fair.

However it is also the reason Stephen Harper cannot ask her to prorogue Parliament.

To ask her to do so would be to ask an unelected official to decide the fate of our country. To do this would be near political suicide. It would be considered by many, myself included, as cowardly and undemocratic. The House of Commons is the governing body and they alone should be the ones to decide the future of Canada. Its members are our representatives. This is what we sent them to Ottawa to do.

In my eyes this leaves Stephen Harper with only three options. He can only present one to the Governor General, and she should agree to whichever one he proposes regardless of her own personal opinion.

  1. Work with the opposition MPs to avoid defeat on Monday’s non-confidence motion – This is obviously my favourite option as it means Parliament returns to civility and we can get back to the job of governing and fixing the current economy situation we are in. It is however the hardest option of the three to undertake because it requires patience and quick work.

    If they go this route the Conservatives only have until Monday to strike a deal on the economy with the Liberals or the NDP. Or the Bloq. All you need is the support of one of those parties and we can get back to business as usual. Harper has already shown he is willing to back down on the majority of items proposed in the offending Fiscal Update – the Coalition should show they are willing to do the same. It is time to make at least one more concession to one other party. This is democracy in action. After Monday’s vote, you will have officially failed or succeeded at being a minority government. And you would only have two options left to choose from if you prove to be a failure.

    Proroguing is an extension of this option but one that you have asked an unelected official to grant you extra time to undertake the task. Instead, go ask an opposition leader and get more time democratically by gaining the confidence of the House of Commons, and Canadians.

  2. Call an election – There is no shame in this if you can’t work with other parties. Let Canadians decide if we agree with you or the opposition. If we agree with you then you will probably get a majority. If not, you’ll become the opposition and the party we think can do the best job governing will be given a chance. Or you may be given a message that we don’t trust anyone fully and we are happy with a minority government so quit your bitchin’ and get back to work.

    Of course one could argue that this is what we just did on Oct. 14, but sometimes people need to be told twice.

    If you don’t like the option of facing the electorate once more that leaves you with only one last option.

  3. Step aside and let the Coalition give it a try – If you think the first option is going to hurt the Tories pride this one will really sting. But it isn’t such a bad option. They will have a minority and with the support of the Bloq you could bring them down anytime you like. When the Conservatives of course will be in a much better position to win an election with a majority.

The morale of the story is there are still options available to the Government that don’t result in an unelected official deciding the fate of our country. We should expect the rest of the House of Commons to respect any decision the Prime Minister makes so we can avoid that; just as we would expect him to obey the will of the House if they decide this Parliament will not continue.

Of course there is that fourth looming option: prorogue. Suspending Parliament only to avoid a confidence motion is something I think most Canadians can agree is ridiculous for the reason I outlined above, hence why I’ve ruled it out altogether. But prevailing thought is this is what the Prime Minister will announce he is going to ask the Governor General to do. If he really does go down this road, I’d like to think she kicks him out of her office and says, “Get back to work and stop running away from your problems.” Although as an unelected official I don’t think she can do much more than agree to whatever he asks.

So if a suspension is what he asks for, and what he gets, the Prime Minister certainly will have lost my confidence forever for putting the future of our country in the hands of someone other than Parliament.