哈波（Stephen Harper）將請總督莊美楷（Michaelle Jean）下令國會休會，讓他有更多時間準備明年1月要提出的新版刺激經濟方案。不過，帶頭倒閣的自由黨黨魁狄安（Stephane Dion）嘲諷，要求國會休會只是拖延時間而已，他並上書總督要她駁回哈波的請求，因為哈波在位越久只會讓金融風暴拖得更久，惡化加國經濟困境。
在 國會握有多數席次的左派政黨自由黨和新民主黨，批評哈波拿不出具體的救經濟方案，加上不滿哈波提案廢除國家對政黨的補助，遂聯手籌組聯合政府，下周一要在 國會發起不信任投票罷絀哈波。若哈波未過關，總督很可能讓反對黨的聯合政府上台做做看，而非立即要求重新舉行國會大選，將是首次有加國執政黨因不信任投票 被趕下台。哈波前晚在電視演說中譴責反對黨的手段不民主，他將尋求所有法律途徑阻止反對黨的奪權行動。
Canadian Leader Shuts Parliament
OTTAWA — Canada’s parliamentary opposition reacted with outrage on Thursday after Prime Minister Stephen Harper shut down the legislature until Jan. 26, seeking to forestall a no-confidence vote that he was sure to lose and, possibly, provoking a constitutional crisis.
Mr. Harper acted after getting the approval of Governor General Michaëlle Jean, who represents Queen Elizabeth II as the nation’s head of state. If his request had been rejected, he would have had to choose between stepping down or facing the no-confidence vote on Monday.
The opposition fiercely criticized the decision to suspend Parliament, accusing Mr. Harper of undermining the nation’s democracy. “We have to say to Canadians, ‘Is this the kind of government you want?’ ” said Bob Rae, a member of the opposition Liberal Party. “Do we want a party in place that is so undemocratic that it will not meet the House of Commons?”
That sentiment was echoed by constitutional scholars, who lamented that the governor general might have created a mechanism that future prime ministers could use to bypass the legislature when it seemed convenient.
“This really has been a blow to parliamentary democracy in Canada,” said Nelson Wiseman, a professor of political science at the University of Toronto. “It has lowered the status of the elected Parliament and raised the status of the unelected prime minister.”
Thursday’s events had their origins in a hotly contested election, which Mr. Harper’s Conservative Party won less than two months ago without achieving a majority, leaving it vulnerable to challenge. In light of that and the growing economic turmoil, Mr. Harper promised to work closely with the opposition in the Parliament.
But the proposed budget he presented last week had none of the stimulus programs that the opposition had sought to help Canada’s sagging economy. The final insult for the main opposition parties, the New Democrats and the Liberals, was a provision that would eliminate public financing for political parties. They considered it a deliberate slap because Mr. Harper’s Conservative Party is currently far better financed than they are.
With that, they began scrambling to put together a coalition with the backing of the separatist Bloc Québécois to displace Mr. Harper’s government.
Mr. Harper said he suspended Parliament to allow time to put together a budget that he would introduce in January, and he once again spoke in conciliatory terms, inviting the opposition to participate in the drafting. “Today’s decision will give us an opportunity — and I’m talking about all the parties — to focus on the economy and work together.”
But Stéphane Dion, who leads the Liberals and who would become the coalition’s prime minister, dismissed the idea of working with Mr. Harper and said the Conservatives’ budget was unlikely to satisfy the opposition’s economic demands.
“We do not want any more of his words, we don’t believe them,” Mr. Dion told reporters before the closed doors of the House of Commons. “We want to see changes, monumental changes.”
Opposition leaders said they would continue to try to form a new coalition, and strongly criticized Mr. Harper’s attempt to thwart them. “He’s put a lock on the door on the House of Commons,” Jack Layton, the leader of the New Democrats, told reporters. “He refuses to face the people of Canada through their elected representatives.”
The opposition’s move to form a new coalition has, in turn, elicited sharp criticisms from some Conservative members. “That is as close to treason and sedition as I can imagine,” Bob Dechert, a Conservative member, said Wednesday, echoing a refrain heard widely in Alberta, the prime minister’s home province.
Technically, what Mr. Harper did was to “prorogue” Parliament, a move that stops all actions on bills and the body’s other business, and thus goes well beyond an adjournment (which was not available to Mr. Harper in any event, as it requires parliamentary approval). It is not unprecedented — prorogation is used occasionally to introduce a new legislative agenda — but this is the first time any Parliament members or constitutional scholars here could recall the maneuver being used in the midst of a political crisis and over the objections of Parliament.
Mr. Harper declared the parliamentary suspension after a two-and-a-half hour meeting in Ottawa with Ms. Jean. While no governor general has ever previously rejected a prime minister’s request to prorogue Parliament, several constitutional scholars said Mr. Harper was the first one to have asked permission when he did not have the support of the legislature.
“That’s why they spent two and a half hours talking,” said C. E. S. Franks, a professor emeritus of political studies at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.
Ms. Jean did not explain her decision, but Professor Franks speculated that Ms. Jean thought it was the least disruptive option. “There’s every likelihood that saying no would have thrown the whole system into turmoil,” he said. “But maybe it needs that.”
None of the opposition parties have suggested that they will mount a legal challenge. Adam Dodek, a law professor at the University of Ottawa who has studied the governor general’s powers, said Canadian courts could offer only an opinion about the constitutionality of the decision. They lack the ability to issue orders to the governor general.
“I think it highly unlikely that any court would want to deal with this,” Professor Dodek said.
He added that an appeal to Queen Elizabeth was impossible.
In contrast to the relative public indifference to the elections two months ago, the current situation has provoked a passionate debate in the country and inflamed latent regional tensions.
In Western Canada, the Conservatives’ main base of support, political commentators are arguing that the coalition represents an attempt by more populous Ontario and Quebec to deny political influence to the West. But many Quebecers, particularly French speakers, have been offended by Conservative suggestions that they have no interest in remaining a part of Canada.
A most un-Canadian caper
Dec 4th 2008 | OTTAWA
Canada’s prime minister clings on to office, for the moment
THERE are no tanks in the streets or protesters occupying the airport, but Canada is in the midst of political turmoil the like of which this normally placid country has rarely seen. Only seven weeks ago Stephen Harper, the prime minister, won a second term for his Conservative government, but once again without winning a parliamentary majority. Now the three disparate opposition parties—the centrist Liberals, the socialist New Democrats (NDP) and the separatist Bloc Québécois—have ganged up in order to oust the Conservatives and replace them with a centre-left coalition. That left Mr Harper scrabbling for survival.
On Thursday December 4th he asked Michaëlle Jean, who as governor-general acts as Canada’s head of state, to suspend Parliament until January. After a two-hour meeting, she agreed to do so. That means that for now Mr Harper has dodged a confidence vote scheduled for December 8th that the opposition parties, provided they stick together, were bound to win. The opposition holds 163 of the 308 seats in the House of Commons.
Their alliance is an unlikely one. Stéphane Dion, the Liberal leader, is an academic from Quebec who came into politics a decade ago expressly to oppose the French-speaking province’s separatists, represented by Gilles Duceppe and his Bloc Québécois. Jack Layton, the NDP leader, has spent his career savaging previous Liberal governments.
Yet on Monday the three leaders wrote to the governor-general offering to form a Liberal-NDP coalition government. The Bloc will not join in but its 49 MPs will back it for the next 18 months. The letter prompted Ms Jean, a former refugee from Haiti, to cut short a trip to Europe to rush back to Ottawa. Under the constitution, it is the governor-general’s prerogative to invite a party leader to form a government, with or without an election.
This sudden decision to stage a political coup was prompted by a government economic statement on November 27th. The ostensible reason for opposition outrage was that Jim Flaherty, the finance minister, offered no new measures to stimulate the economy. But that smacks of a pretext: despite alarmist headlines, for now the economy remains in relatively good shape.
What really provoked the opposition parties was that, having said there was no need for extraordinary measures, Mr Flaherty threw in some highly partisan ones: a big cut in public funding for political parties; a ban on strikes by public-service unions; and measures making it harder for women civil servants to complain if they are not paid the same as men.
A joke doing the rounds in Ottawa holds that Mr Harper, credited with having united two feuding right-of-centre parties to form the Conservatives in 2003, has now done what was thought impossible and united the left too. The government quickly dropped the measures on political funding and the right to strike. But it was too late to stop the opposition’s plans to seize power.
The opposition’s putative coalition is beset with flaws. Its problems start with its leader. Mr Dion piloted the Liberals to their worst-ever showing in the election. He is due to be replaced as Liberal leader at a party convention in May. Then there is policy, which has required some difficult compromises. Mr Dion has agreed to drop his unpopular carbon tax (he now backs a cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions). Mr Layton has dropped his previous opposition to cuts in corporate taxes. A further awkwardness concerns reliance on the votes of the Bloc, whose raison d’être is the break-up of Canada.
All this means that Mr Harper may yet manage to cling to power. He has defiantly raised the political temperature. He has accused the Liberals of selling out the country to separatists (in fact, in his first term he sometimes relied on separatist votes and when in opposition the Conservatives similarly offered to replace a Liberal minority government with help from the Bloc and the NDP). The Conservatives are repeating that message in a blitz of radio and television advertising, as well as planning rallies across the country. He has vowed to “use all legal means to resist this undemocratic seizure of power”.
Nevertheless, the prime minister is damaged. Although there is no open revolt in Conservative ranks, several ministers pointedly failed to applaud the prime minister in the House of Commons this week. But Mr Harper shows no sign of contrition. Now he has bought himself time. He will use it to prepare a budget for January 27th, the dau after Parliament will resume, that will doubtless include some measures to stimulate the economy. He will also hope that the opposition’s ardour for unity may cool. But the parliamentary hiatus might allow the Liberals to bring forward their leadership vote and replace the lacklustre Mr Dion. Mr Harper may have merely won a stay of execution.
Whatever happens, this week’s events may change Canadian politics for ever. Only the Liberals or Conservatives have governed in Ottawa since 1926, but Canada now has four significant parties (a fifth, the Greens, won nearly 7% of the vote but no seats). Coalition politics may be inevitable. Even so, Canadians have little idea who might be governing them after Christmas.