Minority Governments in Ottawa and Victoria

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Politicians who only seek power are easier to spot in an era of minority parliaments.

Working from the reasonably solid premise that majority governments are inherently tyrannical, I prefer as merely a marginal improvement: minority governments. They’re no ProRep, but at the very least, they force more cooperation, though I use the term loosely. We’re seeing an evolution of expectations in and about Ottawa and now I think we’re going to see it in BC in 2013.

Let’s start with BC Conservative MP James Moore who tweeted this out last week: “All Conservative/Bloc/NDP MPs (& leaders) here for final budget votes. Only half of Lib MPs here, Ignatieff missing. Seems fitting.4:37 PM Jun 17th via UberTwitter

I found this quite interesting for him to remark on this. His government exists because of the strategic absence of dozens of Liberals on key votes. The Liberals are in a de facto coalition with the Conservatives. Didn’t he get the memo/text/tweet/VM?

The Liberals show up to vote against the budget and other noxious legislation and they feel good about it. But they only send enough so that with the Bloc and NDP votes, they won’t have enough to defeat the government. And since some of those votes are confidence motions where failure means an election, the Liberals ensure enough MPs are at the spa to miss the vote because they’re afraid of an election now.

Now’s an odd time for the Liberals to be afraid of an election since the Conservatives are in a sucking place relative to other times since the last election. Except for the fact that the Liberal leader is not universally tolerated, loved, or followed in caucus. And the party on the ground still calls itself Canada’s natural governing party.

But federal MPs can be forgiven for this lame kind of strategy. All they are thinking about is jockeying for position until the polling shows they are in majority government territory. Not going to happen. Minority governments best reflect the split opinions in regions in the country.

I’m hoping that the crazy dynamics of minority parliaments will help citizens focus on what kind of cooperation it ought to take to get good things done. It will also show us some things we won’t see in majority governments: politicians who only jockey for power and how the Liberals and the Conservatives have the same anti-human, pro-corporate neoliberal economic agenda. Why? Liberal MP Scott Brison attacked opponents to the Colombia Free Trade Agreement even more than the government did and both parties voted for it.

Now everyone gets to see that the Liberals are just like Conservatives on fiscal issues. That’s important to know.

And now we have this United Party of Canada meme/thing/movement/Frankenstein forming, with lots of vague, feel-good, meaningless, substance-free, policy-void babble on the website: “We believe in you!”. Who knows now, but if they get any traction, dig an even deeper hole for majority parliaments.

And in BC we have new dynamics brewing for the 2013 election, just under 3 years away. Some context:

  1. Last year, someone went rogue and floated the idea of Vision Vancouver going provincial, a mythical third party [try this and this]. That was killed immediately. Effective trial balloon, though.
  2. Last week we heard more about a http://VisionBC.ca domain name. No smoking gun, just more talk, and one crazy reference to the party being centre-left. Isn’t the BC NDP supposed to be centre-left? Sure.
  3. Two weeks ago a Liberal cabinet member quits not because believes the HST to be actually bad, but because he fears the recall campaign that will destroy him starting in November. Then the BC Conservative party first calls him a rat, then says that spokesperson went rogue also, then they suggest a place for him.
  4. The Greens have and will continue to poll in the mid to high single digits, as will the BC Conservatives; more for them if they can get their messaging clear and pull some “real” federal Conservatives lurking in the BC Liberal party.
  5. The right wing coalition in BC for the last thousand years made up of federal Liberals and Conservatives seems increasingly shaky. Some centrist/leftist federal Liberals may not be all that onside with the latest social contract-assassinating government policies.
  6. There are federal Liberals in the BC NDP caucus and orbit.

If Vision BC formed, it could peel some NDP MLAs, operatives and wonks. It could pull Blair Lekstrom and Vicki Huntington in. It could pull George Abbott and Carole Taylor and a handful of current BC Liberal MLAs. It could make a run for government by playing to the centre [or centre-“left”] by featuring some kinder, gentler characters from the Campbell decade.

And if it shoots for government in 2013 it would have to start about now. If it misses government, not inconceivable for a new party [except for Vision Vancouver though], we could end up with a minority legislature: one step towards proportional representation.

With a minority legislature, we’d have up to 4 years for the minor parties to assert themselves, build their bases and impede any further majority governments. We’d also see a redefining of posture for the BC NDP and BC Liberals based on who’s left. That will bloody. There are already a number of MLAs who would not surprise me if they were right now sharpening knives.

And I reiterate this one thing about trust. Politicians who only seek power are easier to spot in an era of minority parliaments. How? They don’t do anything of substance while waiting for a chance to get more power. Demand that they act on principle and they go on vacation, hit the spa, tour the region on a kissing babies tour, anything to keep up the persona of manufactured leadership.

We cannot continue to tolerate that kind of nonsense. 308 MPs in Ottawa watching CBC Newsworld on their iPads to see if they’re tweeted about or more hopefully, trying to guide the Commons committee they sit on to do something of substance? 85 BC MLAs laying low in caucus wondering how they can maneuver themselves into something with a bigger office or hopefully something that makes a difference for people?

All I know is that in minority situations, there isn’t as much space under the radar anymore. And that’s good for all of us.

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Stephen Elliott-Buckley

Post-partisan eco-socialist. at Politics, Re-Spun
Stephen Elliott-Buckley is a husband, father, professor, speaker, consultant, former suburban Vancouver high school English and Social Studies teacher who changed careers because the BC Liberal Party has been working hard to ruin public education. He has various English and Political Science degrees and has been writing political, social and economic editorials since November 2002. Stephen is in Twitter, Miro and iTunes, and the email thing, and at his website, dgiVista.org.

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