Sunday, September 14, 2008

A Minority Is Still A Minority, A Majority Still A Majority

There is already speculation as to whether it will be possible to hold the Conservatives to a minority on Oct. 14, or whether they might win a majority. This discussion is largely irrelevant because there's little difference. Canadians must understand that to elect a Conservative minority is, in effect, to elect a Conservative majority.

This bit of mythology has had too wide a circulation for too long a time. In fact, though, the Tories minority status has imposed significant constraints on their ability to pass legislation over the past several years. Here's just a quick list of really awful Tory bills that, for various reasons, died:

Legislation to kill the CWB (I forget the formal title)
Bill C-484 (Abortion Legislation)
C-10 (Film Censorship Legislation)
C-61 (Copyright Legislation)
Senate Reform (can't remember the name of that one either)
C-6 (Veiled Voter Legislation)

Now, the particular histories behind these bills are different in each case, but for the most part (and in a number of instances I am not probably not recalling at the moment), they were basically killed "by the process" after passing their first or second reading in the House. And the reason that they died in this way, and other ways equally inauspicious, is because, in a minority government, the government does not control the committees designed to examine and amend proposed legislation. The backroom maneuvers that killed them never achieved the same public profile as, for example, the Liberal abstentions in the House that sent them to committee in the first place, but nevertheless they worked.

Give Stephen Harper a Majority, and all of that changes. His party runs the committees. His party rams through what it wants to ram through. The quality of legislation that comes out of the HOC depends entirely on his whims.

18 comments:

Mike514 said...

Your post is interesting because it brings up questions of democracy. The public elects a minority, the minority gov't passes legislation in the house, where it's subsequently killed by committees.

You seem to agree with this process (although I don't want to put words in your mouth - correct me if I'm wrong).

It brings to mind, in a way, our unelected senators killing bills that were passed by our elected MPs in the House.

What are your thoughts on the democracy of this process? If people elect a minority Tory gov't, shouldn't that government be allowed to legislate, provided it passes its legislation through the House first?

Mike514 said...

Sorry, the end of paragraph 1 should say: then it's subsequently killed by committees.

bigcitylib said...

In electing a minority government they elect a parliamentary process that goes with it as well. Its our weak equivalent to U.S. divided government, where the insitutitions keep one another in check.

People know, or should know, what they're getting.

bigcitylib said...

So yeah I approve.

Gayle said...

mike - in most minority government situations, the governing party recognize they have to cooperate with the opposition. When that does not happen, and when the governing party decides to make all bills a confidence vote, there are only two choices left to the majority of MP's - either vote down the legislation and thereby send us to a 200 million dollar election, or use the committees to force the government to either cooperate or kill the legislation.

What your question ignores is that the majority of Canadians voted to oppose Harper.

Gayle said...

BCL - I notice there has been no attempt to kill the gun registry either with this minority government.

Joseph said...

Ah, but saying a minority is "like" a majority is one sneaky way of getting voters acclimated to thinking it would be ok for conservatives have a majority.

Nice of the media to comply on strategy to that level of planning, isn't it?

Liberal media my ass.

Ti-Guy said...

Ah, but saying a minority is "like" a majority is one sneaky way of getting voters acclimated to thinking it would be ok for conservatives have a majority.

I'm really not sure if that was Andrew Stark's intention, but I did find it a little too clever.

The point is that Harper does not respect parliamentary democracy and cabinet government and our largely unwritten conventions make the system easy to game or even berserk. Minority, majority, it really doesn't matter with these neconservatives because they don't really believe in democracy...not even the flawed representational type.

stageleft said...

And the Liberals wouldn't take advantage of the (for this time around anyway) a minority is really a majority situation?

Any political party that forms the next government will have essentially a free hand for at least 2 (maybe 3) years because no other political party will want to take the country into an election so soon - none could survive the backlash even if they did have the cash to run a campaign.

Ye 'ole system is hooped folks.

stageleft said...

mike514: Democracy? Since when was rule by the greatest minority considered a democracy?

Here's a question for you - when was the last time a Canadian government took power with more than 50% of the popular vote?

Firebrand said...

Of course had the Liberals had the backbone to vote against those bills they wouldn't have passed (at least most of them, I'd have to check on what the BQ and NDP did in each case). The Tory minority has been able to get away with passing a number of egregious bills because the Liberals have been permanently unprepared for an election and thus unwilling to fight one. This is despite the fact that when Dion became Liberal leader in December *2006* he pledged that the party would be ready for an election in the spring of 2007! If the Liberals had called Harper's bluff it's likely he would have backed down and would have to have cooperated with the opposition. Even better, had the Liberals actually been ready for an election and been prepared to fight one in 2007 we might not have a Harper goverment today.

Ti-Guy said...

The Tory minority has been able to get away with passing a number of egregious bills because the Liberals have been permanently unprepared for an election and thus unwilling to fight one.

That's because Liberals expect to govern, Firebrand.

Mike514 said...

Good discussion. Thanks for entertaining my questions.

Paul S said...

"Minority, majority, it really doesn't matter with these neconservatives because they don't really believe in democracy...not even the flawed representational type."- ti-guy

Spoken like a true loser I might add. Sheesh.

Ti-Guy said...

Go fuck yourself, you little cocksucker.

Paul S said...

Don't mind ti-guy folks. Some neo-con bullies kicked sand in his face when he was a kid and he still hasn't gotten over it.

Ti-Guy said...

Some neo-con bullies kicked sand in his face...

That never happened to me. I was never bullied as a kid.

You must have been, though. Ergo, all the payback you're meting out with your aggressive stupidity.

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