Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Harper's fixed term

It's just too rich, isn't it? A year ago, Stephen Harper was harping on fixed election dates. October 19, 2009 was set to be our next election date. Here's what the Conservative party had to say about it:
"Fixed election dates will improve the fairness of Canada's electoral system by eliminating the ability of governing parties to manipulate the timing of elections for partisan advantage. Establishing fixed election dates fulfils one of this government's key campaign commitments. It is an important step in improving and modernizing Canada's democratic institutions and practices."
- Rob Nicholson, previous Minister for Democratic Reform
"This important piece of legislation will ensure fairness in the electoral process by eliminating the power of the governing party to call an election to capitalize on favourable political circumstances. The previous Liberal government repeatedly abused the power to call general elections and this legislation will strengthen accountability and provide certainty by setting October 19, 2009 as the date for the next general election."
- Peter Van Loan, current Minister for Democratic Reform.
Of course everybody knows now that Harper is likely to call an election a year early. According to the article, "Mr. Harper said he would not be breaking his word by disregarding his own fixed-election-date law that schedules voting day in October of 2009. He argued that opposition parties want to bring down the government before then, so it is up to him to remove doubt about who will govern."

Yet, there are a lot of bad things in store for the Conservatives in their near-future, between the party's election funding scandal, a slowing economy, and Julie Couillard's upcoming book that will presumably hang MP Maxime Bernier out to dry on his NATO-briefing-paper-indiscretion. It's highly likely that this is a better year for the Conservatives than next year will be. But this isn't an attempt to "manipulate the timing of elections for partisan advantage", nor "capitalize on favourable political circumstances". Nobody will be able to claim that they "abused the power to call general elections", right?

Accountability, you say?

P.S. What did the fixed term bill actually accomplish if both the PM and the opposition can still force elections?

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