When I got back from vacation just over a week ago I discovered there was an elephant in the room: a possible looming federal election that no one really wanted to discuss. Except, perhaps, the media. We’ve even avoided discussing it here on Slaw for whatever reason (are we just too polite to talk politics in public? How very Canadian). In the meantime we have a lovely trio of election-related controversies from which to sample:
(1) To start, citizen watchdog group Democracy Watch accused the Harper government of calling the last election illegally in a Federal Court of Canada hearing heard last week. The case is Federal Court of Canada file number T-1500-08.
From the Democracy Watch news release:
Everything Conservative government Cabinet ministers and representatives said about their Bill C-16 in the House of Commons and Senate made it clear that the legal effect of the Bill (which became law in May 2007) is to require the government (whether minority or majority) to lose a vote of confidence in the House of Commons before the Prime Minister can advise the Governor General to dissolve Parliament and call an election.
As Minister Nicholson said about Bill C-16 in the House of Commons on September 18, 2006: “This legislation provides greater fairness, increased transparency and predictability” for federal elections.” He went on to detail how advance notice of an election is more fair for people who want to run as candidates, volunteer on campaigns, vote or participate in other ways.
“For all these reasons, and to prevent future prime ministers from call unfair snap elections, Democracy Watch has applied to the Federal Court for a ruling that Prime Minister Harper’s calling of the federal election in September 2008 was a violation of the fixed election date law and Canadians’ rights under the Charter,” said Conacher.
News Release: Federal Court Hears Challenge Today of Legality of Conservative Prime Minister Harper’s September 2008 Federal Election Call (Democracy Watch, September 8, 2009)
Harper’s 2008 election call challenged in court (CBC News, September 8, 2009)
(2) Follow this with a frothy possibility of seeing a non-confidence vote by the opposition party today, bringing the existing government down and causing another election. Two of the opposition parties, the Liberals and the NDP, seem at odds with one another however. If this does happen, it will mean a fourth federal election in six years for Canadians.
Four elections. Six years. Is Canada broken? (Globe & Mail, September 13, 2009)
Conservatives to introduce EI reforms (CBC News, September 11, 2009)
Liberals in no rush for election (CBC News, August 27, 2009)
Layton coy on no-confidence vote (CBC News, August 25, 2009)
(3) And finally, a subtle video chaser apparently made informally at last week’s Conservative party meeting in Sault Ste Marie of Stephen Harper was leaked to Liberal Party, which was then sent to the media, putting the opposition parties even more on the offensive.
Harper rallies faithful to work for majority government (CBC News, September 9, 2009)
Kelly McParland: The Tories manipulate the medium AND the message (National Post, September 11, 2009)
Was it leaked intentionally, as McParland and others have suggested? Given that the Conservative Party is taking heat for breaking its own law by calling an election, is it plausible that they want to anger the opposition enough to cause them to bring down the government in a non-confidence vote? In the meantime everyone seems to be expecting an election since campaigning already has seemed to have started with TV advertising campaigns.
However you serve it, it all seems to somehow taste the same: a little off-putting. No wonder no one seemed to want to talk about it.
Caviar three ways by snackfight on Flickr, used under Attribution Share-Alike 2.0 Creative Commons
Screen capture from video of Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Sault Ste Marie as posted to CBC.cac