Monday, April 03, 2006

125. Count 'em. 125 vs 183.

Steve at The Kalamalka Rainbow points out that Stephen Harper is behaving in a very "American" way. I would re-interpret that to say Harper is behaving as though he's George Bush coming out of the 2004 election. He's acting as though he has political capital.

Harper, who has muzzled his cabinet and locked the public face of his government down to his "five key principles" let something out during an interview with CBC's The House.

"Ultimately, there will have to be constitutional changes."
Really?! That could be chalked up to Reformist musings if he hadn't carried on to say this:

Harper told the CBC that, as he considers his moves in the weeks and months ahead, constitutional change would be on his list – and not for only one province.

Harper said he would act not "just to accommodate Quebec but also to accommodate demands we have from the West and from other parts of the country."
So, with the weakest minority government in Canadian history, Harper intends on opening a constitutional debate.

In the 2005/06 campaign, the only Conservative reference to constitutional reform is the enshrining of property rights in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That doesn't sound like what Harper is now saying. In fact, he didn't mention property rights at all. So, what is this?

It has the ring of a "hidden agenda".

Harper's view, as other have already expressed, is less federal than it needs to be. His past behaviour indicates a willingness to proceed with an agenda which would Balkanize the country.

As for his views on Constitutional amendments you have to go back to 2004 to get a truly straight answer.

At the top of Harper's list of essential issues is an elected, independent and regionally representative Senate.
Except there is no need for a Constitutional amendment to change how senators arrive at their seats. Of course, there is the fact that one of Harper's first acts as Prime Minister was to "appoint" a senator.

Harper's past Constitutional reform statements suggest that he believes he can pick and choose bits and pieces, hold the necessary meetings, gather the necessary seven provinces with better than 50% of the population and make the changes he believes everyone will be happy with.

Would that it went that way. Mulroney found out the hard way that once you open a Constitutional debate the attraction is there for any group who feels they require inclusion or have demands. Any attempt at Constitutional amendment opens the entire Constitution - not just the selected clause and not just the amendment on the table.

The lesson of both Meech and Charlottetown, says constitutional expert Patrick Monahan, who teaches law at Osgoode Hall, was that "you really can't open the Constitution for particular items without everyone who has constitutional issues wanting to be at the table."
In 2004, Monahan went on to say this:

"Even those of us who are professionally involved with it recognize it's a non-starter."
Which goes to point out something about Harper.

Harper has been documented as being stubborn. Combined with an obvious impatience and a clear loathing of the political media, he believes he can carve his own path and behave as though he has a majority. Any question about his ego should have been put to rest after his reaction to inquiries made by the Ethics Commissioner.

He has made an enemy in the Parliamentary Press Gallery and the media in general. He has appointed an unelected party hack to cabinet. He poached a Liberal from a riding which clearly voted to keep the Conservatives out. He has insisted that he will proceed with a cut in GST and a corresponding income tax increase which will leave middle-income earners with less money and the wealthy with more. And now he's talking about dabbling in the Constitution.

Harper needs a reality check. Or hasn't he heard of Joe Clark?

125. Count 'em.

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