The main issue of this election is personal
"This government is willing to sacrifice Canadian soldiers to bring democracy to Afghanistan and Libya. But it cavalierly dismisses democracy at home.
Cynics hold that Canadians don’t care about such abstract matters, that as long as our bellies are full we will put up with anything. We shall see. The cynics have been surprised before." — Thomas Walkom, in The Toronto Star, March 25, 2011.
It's been a week since the Conservative government of Canada (also known as "The Harper Government", about more of which anon) was finally defeated in the House of Commons. Stephen Harper had decided to roll the dice and put Thomas Walkom's claim that Canadians do care about such abstract matters as integrity and democracy to the test.
Having survived two and a half years, there was no great surprise that the government was defeated on a motion of non-confidence; what was (or should have been) a surprise was that that motion also declared that the Harper government had not just lost the confidence of the House but that it was in contempt of Parliament, an historically-unprecedented occurrence.
Some have no doubt argued that the charge was strictly political — and maybe it was — but sometimes the strictly political is based in reality.
In this case, the opposition had insisted — quel horreur! — that the Harper Government provide cost estimates for its proposed "anti-crime" bills (I use the quotation marks deliberately, and will return to Harper's "tough on crime" posturing in a future column). Contemptuous of Parliament indeed, the government of the Prime Minister Who Would Be President simply refused to tell the House of Commons — and by extension, the people of Canada — what the new prisons and guards, etcetera, would cost, insisting the measures be approved on faith.
Such a patently unreasonable stance can only mean that Stephen Harper wanted the election, no matter how much he protests otherwise. Harper was gambling that he could campaign his way into that ever-elusive majority government at last — at which point, if it happens, the gloves will come off and the spectre haunting Canada will will solidify into a very real neo-conservative nightmare.