Saturday, November 29, 2008

No Constitutional Crisis Here

This ain't a constitutional crisis. It isn't even a political crisis. Okay, it's giving Stephen Harper and his clique some worrisome days, but this is how parliamentary democracy is supposed to work. It ain't a crisis when the constitutional norms are being worked out.

When the prime minister says, "Stéphane Dion does not have the right to take power without an election," he is spouting outrageous misinformation. On October 14, Canadians elected a parliament, and during its life, parliament -- our 308 legitimately elected representatives -- may and must put into power anyone who can secure and hold majority support from it. That's parliamentary democracy, and it is good to see it working. Mr Harper's comments expose the unpleasant authoritarian streak inside most "populist" movements, one that is never far from the surface in old Reformers.

We have often been let down by our parliament in recent decades. In response, Canadians have considered many schemes to hobble MPs and circumvent parliament. There are proposals to gerrymander the unrepresentative Senate into a powerful body that could resist the House. Fixed elections dates remove one of the fundamental checks by which parliament controls itself. The MMP forms of proportional representation would weaken parliament by making MPs into mere appointed delegates of the party bosses.

What we need are not more ways to weaken parliament. What we need are ways to make it begin to work again. Having the parliamentarians debate and decide on who should form the government ... it's a start. May the appetite grow with the eating.
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