- If it weren't for Stephen Harper's attempts to unilaterally rewrite Canada's constitution to fit his current political interests, we wouldn't need a reminder what the rules actually are in an election where no party wins a majority. But since a refresher is in order, Peter Russell provides it:
Until Parliament meets, we won’t know who has its confidence – and commanding the confidence of the House is the licence to govern in our system of parliamentary government. Mr. Harper has the right to carry on as Prime Minister whether or not his party has more seats than the Liberals but only as a “caretaker government” that can take no initiatives. It would be intolerable if Mr. Harper were to follow the example of Joe Clark, who, after the May 22, 1979, election, formed a minority Conservative government but then waited until Sept. 10, 140 days after the election, to test whether his government had the confidence of the House.- Chandra Pasma nicely lays out the opportunity costs of continued corporate tax slashing:
When the House does meet and no party has a majority, there are basically three ways of forming a government. First, the Conservatives can simply carry on as a minority government hoping to win support, issue by issue, from opposition MPs. Second, either the Conservatives or the party that finishes second in seat numbers can form a legislative alliance with one or more other parties that would agree to support them on the basis of a shared legislative program. Such an agreement between David Peterson’s Liberals (who finished second to Frank Miller’s Conservatives) and Bob Rae’s NDP gave Ontario a stable minority after the 1985 provincial election. In this option, the parties supporting a Liberal or NDP government would not have cabinet positions. The third option is a coalition government in which two or more parties form a government and share cabinet posts.
If the Conservatives don’t win a majority on Monday, Mr. Harper isn’t likely to try to form a coalition government or make a legislative alliance with any opposition party. So what would happen if his government fails to win the support of any opposition party when the House meets in late May or early June and is defeated on the Speech from the Throne?
At this point, constitutionally, Mr. Harper has two options. He could resign and advise the Governor-General to invite the leader of the party with the second-largest number of seats, either Michael Ignatieff or Jack Layton, to form a government. Or he could advise the Governor-General to dissolve Parliament and call another election.
It’s the second case that lands us in a “constitutional crisis” similar to the Byng-King affair of 1926. The principal that the Governor-General must be guided by in considering Mr. Harper’s request is that a prime minister’s advice (even if the prime minister has lost a confidence vote in the House) should be rejected only if doing so is necessary to protect the integrity of our parliamentary system. Calling an election, the fifth in seven years, just a few weeks after the last election when there’s a plausible alternative government that can command the confidence of the new Parliament may well be such a situation.
Health care is at the top of the list for issues many Canadians worry about. If we invested $3 billion in health care, we could create more than 54,000 jobs, while the effect on GDP would be in the range of $4.8 billion. We would also have improvements in health care, such as possible reductions in wait times, more family doctors, and more access to specialized equipment.- Meanwhile, Erin highlights the conclusion of the Conference Board of Canada that our past corporate tax cuts haven't produced the investment benefits that are supposed to justify their existence. And thwap is rather less restrained in calling out the corporatist spin.
Canada currently has an affordable-housing emergency, as identified by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Housing. Investing $3 billion in affordable housing could result in more than 47,000 new jobs and a $4.5-billion increase in GDP. Many of the 1.5 million Canadian households in core housing need (with housing that does not meet standards of adequacy, affordability, and suitability) would also have access to safer, more appropriate, and more affordable housing.
More than one in 10 Canadians live in poverty. In 2008, the poverty gap – the amount of money needed to bring everyone in Canada up to the poverty line – was $13.1 billion. If the $3 billion were transferred directly to low-income Canadians through the tax system as a guaranteed annual income, it could generate nearly 56,000 new jobs and a $5.1-billion increase in GDP. It would also reduce poverty by nearly 25 per cent, bringing new-found dignity and security to the lives of many who struggle with the day-to-day challenges of putting food on the table and paying the rent.
Now it is true that the Finance Department, like Jack Mintz, suggests that the benefits of corporate tax cuts will kick in over the long term. But remember, tax cuts happen annually. So this $3 billion investment is not a one-time thing – we are choosing where to invest our $3 billion every year. So while we are waiting for our 100,000 jobs to materialize from business tax cuts at the end of seven years, we could have invested $21 billion in physical or social infrastructure.
- Trish Hennessy releases a special version of her Numbers in advance of Monday's election.
- Finally, the Leader-Post editorial board weighs in on the importance of voting:
The best reason to vote is not out of fear or starry-eyed idealism (though that is not unimportant), but out of enlightened self-interest.But embarrassingly enough, George Jonas and Lawrence Solomon are both working hard to suppress the vote.
Many Canadians fought long and hard in the past to widen the franchise because they understood the desirability of having a government chosen by as many people as possible, rather than a few. Canadians defended this concept, even at the cost of their lives.
Put simply, this country and its political system work best when as many Canadians as possible take a part in the construction of future governments.
Canada bestows many benefits on its citizens. Paying it back by voting is a small price to pay for what we have been given. Voting is a good thing for a citizen to take.