Who can forget that time in December 2008 when Conservatives in the House of Commons recoiled in horror at the thought of a Liberal-NDP coalition government surviving thanks to a written pledge of support from the Bloc Québécois?
With a vote of confidence looming, the Conservative prime minister, Stephen Harper, called the deal signed on December 1 that year by Liberal Leader Stephane Dion, NDP leader Jack Layton and the Bloc’s Gilles Duceppe a reckless scheme in which the Liberals would attempt to govern subject to a veto by “socialists and separatists.”
Hardly an hour passed without some Conservative supporter in Alberta screeching about the danger of sitting down to sup with a separatist. Judging from the tone of the brouhaha about the coalition’s junior partners here in suburban Alberta, local Conservatives clearly saw Duceppe as the Devil and the Dippers as his dupes.
If Governor General Michaëlle Jean had let the three Opposition leaders’ vote of confidence proceed, as democracy and Parliamentary tradition demanded, Dion would have been prime minister, the Liberals would have mostly run the show, the NDP would have got a quarter of the cabinet seats, and the Bloc would have held up the rather rickety structure that resulted.
On December 4, however, Harper persuaded Ms. Jean to ignore Parliamentary tradition and democracy and let him prorogue the House, saving his government.
So, who can forget all that? Conservatives in the House of Commons, that’s who.
On Monday, they rushed en masse to vote for Bloc Leader Yves-François Blanchet’s motion to remind Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberal government that it is the “legitimate right” of Quebec to decide when to use the Notwithstanding Clause pre-emptively.
“It is solely up to Quebec and the provinces to decide on the use of the Notwithstanding Clause,” the motion read in part.
Why? Well, Conservatives including their massive Alberta Caucus are obviously prepared to sup with separatists – without demanding the proverbial very long spoon – as long as they think it will hurt Trudeau’s government.
Beyond that, the Conservatives led by Calgary-born Pierre Poilievre are obviously also more than a little afraid of the Alberta separatists who make up a considerable portion of the base of the United Conservative Party (UCP), for all intents and purposes the provincial wing of the federal Conservatives, and a significant part of their own base that might easily turn to a separatist entity like the Maverick Party if they start to act too Canadian.
They also know, of course, that Conservative provincial governments across the country are itching to use the Notwithstanding Clause, which allows legislatures to suspend fundamental rights protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to pre-empt the rights of Canadians when they come in conflict with the party’s ideology.
Efforts in Ontario and Alberta to destroy the freedom of association that is the foundation of free collective bargaining are an excellent example of what Conservative provincial governments have in mind.
It was the specific purpose of Blanchet’s motion to defend Quebec’s odious Law 21, which forbids public employees to wear garments that are also religious symbols, such as the head coverings traditionally worn by Sikh men and Muslim women.
Arguably, that too is not much of a problem for the Alberta Conservative Caucus, as long as too many Christian symbols aren’t getting caught in the metaphorical crossfire.
With its glaringly unconstitutional Sovereignty Act, inspired by Harper’s pre-prime-ministerial Firewall manifesto, Premier Danielle Smith’s UCP Government is vying to become the Canadian champion of this ongoing effort to undermine Canada’s Constitution and Charter.
The vote Monday in the House of Commons – in which the Liberals, New Democrats and Greens defeated the assembled sovereigntist parties by 174 to 142 votes – demonstrates that Poilievre and the Conservatives are willing to undercut Canada to own the Libs.
As predicted, premiers meekly accept federal health deal
Readers will note that, as predicted in this space, Canada’s premiers have meekly accepted Ottawa’s plan to finance health care for the next decade.
Last week I asked what the mostly Conservative premiers would do about the offer: “I’ll tell you what they’re going to do. They’re going to take it. They’re going to like it. They’re going to complain with some justice it wasn’t enough. And then they’re going to blame Trudeau for causing inflation by spending too much.”
So far, they have done everything except complain about inflation. Trust me, that’s coming soon.
The premiers vowed to ask for more money later, something here in Western Canada they could provide themselves by adopting a reasonable taxation policy. When the time comes, whoever is in charge in Ottawa will remind them of that.
The deal will see federal funding of health care grow by about $46 billion over the decade. It does little to stand in the way of Conservative efforts to privatize health care delivery.