MP Report by Jay Hill, M.P.
Canadians Deserve an Effective, Functioning Parliament
Fixed election dates are all about levelling the playing field for all parties in the House of Commons. Under our fixed election date legislation, in this minority Parliament, Stéphane Dion, Jack Layton or Gilles Duceppe are allowed to freely determine when an election will take place. So why can’t Stephen Harper?
The push towards fixed election date has always been firmly rooted in the desire to remove from a MAJORITY government the ability of the governing party to manipulate the timing of an election to suit its own partisan purposes. At the same time, it provides Canadians with enhanced certainty and confidence in their democratic and electoral systems.
Ironically, we find ourselves in a minority situation that actually puts the power to manipulate the election date firmly in the hands of opposition parties. There is no level playing field if it’s not equally acceptable for the governing party to have the same ability when Parliament is clearly deadlocked into dysfunction.
We have surpassed even the most optimistic expectations by becoming the second-longest serving minority government in Canadian history. I never expected it to be easy and, believe me, it hasn’t been.
In my role as Secretary of State and Chief Government Whip, I am afforded a very intimate perspective of the inner workings of Canada’s current minority Parliament. I have witnessed and been directly involved in the intensive daily, sometimes hourly, negotiations and compromise our Government has utilized in order to keep Parliament functioning for as long as it has.
The relationships I’ve fostered over the years with the opposition Whips and House Leaders have proven to be helpful in moving certain House business forward from time-to-time. Yet, it has become abundantly clear in recent months that no amount of compromise or negotiating is going to allow Parliament to continue productively.
In an ideal world, our Conservative Government would have preferred to GOVERN until the first fixed election date of October 19, 2009.
Yet look at the reality: obstructionism, delay tactics, and the ridiculous abuse of standing committees for partisan witch hunts instead of legitimate parliamentary business.
Dozens of important government bills continue to languish without any hope the opposition will allow them to move forward through the Chamber or committees. In other words, thanks to the “tyranny of the majority”, which Speaker Peter Milliken referred to in a recent ruling on the crisis in Parliament, this minority government’s agenda does not have the confidence of the House … the legislative prelude to an election call.
Canadians deserve a functioning democratic system and the only way to regain an effective Parliament is through a general election. Despite Mr. Dion’s misleading claims, Canada’s fixed election date law was never intended nor does it legally prevent the dissolution of Parliament by the Governor General, particularly in a minority situation.
It’s extremely difficult to get any work done when you’re constantly looking over your shoulder and wondering “is this the day?” That’s no way to run a country, especially in a time of economic uncertainty.