Fixing Canada's political mess

Manning Centre for Building Democracy and Troy Media Corporation


December 2008

Fixing Canada's political mess

By Preston Manning
President and CEO
Manning Centre for Building Democracy

The situation is now well known. Partisan overkill by the government (attempting to kill the public subsidy to political parties) leads to partisan overreaction by the opposition (the creation of a coalition to bring down the government). The coalition must justify its partisan reaction on other grounds so it claims to have formed because the government has “no plan” to address the deteriorating economy.

This claim simply ignores the government’s tax-relief measures, increases in health-care transfers, increased infrastructure investments, and credit and monetary initiatives. The Governor General wisely agrees to an adjournment of the House of Commons. It will reconvene at the end of January and the government will present its budget. If the budget, adjusted to accommodate some of the opposition’s demands, is passed, the Harper administration will carry on subject to the constraints of a minority government. Defeat of the budget could lead to the replacement of the government by the coalition (if it still exists) or, more likely, to an election.

Instead of focusing wholeheartedly and cooperatively on the number-one issue facing the country, our federal politicians have added a totally unnecessary and divisive political crisis on top of the current economic crisis. The public rightly ask, “What can we do to straighten this mess out?” Here are six suggestions:

  1. Let them know what you think. By
    e-mail, letter, phone call, or personal visit to your Member of
    Parliament, with additional communication to the party leaders. This is
    why the adjournment of Parliament is a good thing – it provides the
    opportunity for Canadians to give their parliamentarians an earful
    while they are back in their ridings.

  2. Speak with one voice.
    The more uniform and coordinated the messages to the MPs and leaders
    the better. “Get back to work.” “Focus on the economy.” “Stop the
    partisan games.” “This is your employer speaking.”

  3. Don’t pour gas on the fire.
    Use temperate not inflammatory language in communicating with MPs and
    leaders. It was political intemperance that created this crisis; don’t
    add to it. And Westerners, don’t pay the Bloc the compliment of
    threatening secession. Economic crises require the various regions of
    Canada to pull together, not apart.

  4. Dissolve the coalition.
    While the coalition may be good for the NDP and the Bloc, the political
    expediency, regional divisiveness, and instability it represents is bad
    for you, the economy, and Canada. Voters in constituencies with Liberal
    MPs can hasten its dissolution by instructing those MPs to pull out.
    Mr. Ignatieff would likely accede to such democratic pressure.

  5. Get the facts.
    On the government’s economic initiatives (by going to the Finance
    department’s website) and on the opposition’s/coalition’s proposals (by
    going to the party websites). Go to source, and be particularly
    sceptical of anyone who offers only a “stimulus package” as the panacea
    for our economic ills. Simplistic talk about the efficacy of “stimulus
    packages” is the default position of politicians and editorialists who
    don’t know what else to do or say.

  6. Prepare for the next federal election. Inform
    yourself, volunteer to help the candidate or party of your choice,
    donate time and money, work to involve your family and friends. Only
    the informed, active involvement in the democratic process of millions
    of voters like you can give Canada the broadly supported majority
    government it needs in times like these.