Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The PM who thought he was a king

The Harperites Are Misrepresenting 
Our System of Government

James Laxer:  In Canada, we do not directly elect our prime minister. The prime minister is an elected member of the House of Commons... The Governor General asks the leader of the political party that commands the support of the majority of the House to form a government. In the case of a minority parliament, the critical issue is which party or combination of parties can command the support of the majority in the House.

Yesterday, when the leaders of the Liberals, NDP and the Bloc, whose parties hold the majority of seats in the House announced their intention to defeat the Harper government and replace it with a Liberal-NDP coalition with the support of the Bloc, they were playing out their roles within the system of responsible government.

The Conservatives are appearing on news shows, talk shows and are organizing rallies putting out the word that what is happening in Ottawa is an attempted 'coup.' At the centre of this inane claim is the proposition that Canadians just re-elected Stephen Harper as prime minister and that he has a mandate to govern.

The Canadian prime minister is not a quasi-king in the manner of the American president. He or she rises or falls depending on the votes of the majority in the House of Commons. That is what is going on here. What is coming to an end is the rule of a prime minister who thought he was a king. What is coming is a government that actually represents the views of the majority of the members of the House, and for that matter the majority of voters in the recent election.
Image: Chris Wattle/Reuters; source here.