Just how valid is Harper's claim that changing governments without a new election would be undemocratic?
"It's politics, it's pure rhetoric," said Ned Franks, a retired Queen's University expert on parliamentary affairs. "Everything that's been happening is both legal and constitutional."
Other scholars are virtually unanimous in their agreement. They say Harper's populist theory of democracy is more suited to a U.S.-style presidential system, in which voters cast ballots directly for a national leader, than it is to Canadian parliamentary democracy.
"He's appealing to people who learned their civics from American television," said Henry Jacek, a political scientist at McMaster University.
Harper is expected, today, to ask the Governor General to prorogue parliament until late January. Does she have grounds to refuse?
Peter H. Russell, a Professor Emeritus of political science at the University of Toronto, has suggested that if Harper were to seek a dissolution, the Governor General would have to consider carefully whether his request is reasonable. Her primary concern must be to protect parliamentary democracy, and repeated short term elections, in Russell's view, would not be healthy for parliamentary democracy. In that case, with the coalition available with a reasonable prospect of holding the confidence of the House for a period of time, she might refuse his request for dissolution, requiring Harper to resign under constitutional precedent, and commissioning Dion to form a government.
Constitutional scholar Ned Franks has suggested that the Governor General could agree to prorogue the House, with the condition that the government could only manage day-to-day affairs until Parliament was reconvened. The Governor General would not approve orders-in-council requiring cabinet decisions, meaning that the government could not undertake major policy initiatives until Parliament was re-summoned, much like the way governments govern during an election campaign. However, this would be unprecedented in Canadian history as no governor general has ever refused a prime minister's request for prorogation or put conditions on it. Likewise, no prime minister has ever asked for a prorogation when facing an imminent confidence vote.
It could be a very interesting day.
"The Bloc Quebecois MPs were elected on Oct. 14 in a democratic process," [Quebec Premier Jean] Charest said. "Democracy has spoken."
Charest added that one of the strengths of Quebec is respect for the opinions of others.
"The debate about the future of Quebec has been conducted peacefully," he said.
"And it should be the same thing in the federal Parliament," he said. "There should not be any accusations when people defend their ideas."
"Every person elected to the House of Commons, every member of Parliament and every political party is a legitimate political party," he said. "They are elected. They have been chosen by the people and they a right to present and defend their point of view."
An interesting turn: Charest and Harper have had each other's back for a while. Harper's pissing off Quebec and Charest has to speak against him.
Hon. Stéphane Dion (Leader of the Opposition, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, I will read the following statement:
The whole principle of our democracy is the government is supposed to be able to face the House of Commons any day on a vote.
This government now has a deliberate policy of avoiding a vote....
The statement goes on to say that it is a violation of the fundamental constitutional principles of our democracy.
Could the Prime Minister inform the House who said those words?
Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC): Mr. Speaker, the highest principle of Canadian democracy is that if one wants to be prime minister one gets one's mandate from the Canadian people and not from Quebec separatists.
The deal that the leader of the Liberal Party has made with the separatists is a betrayal of the voters of this country, a betrayal of the best interests of our economy and a betrayal of the best interests of our country, and we will fight it with every means that we have.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
The Speaker: Order, please. The hon. Leader of the Opposition
Hon. Stéphane Dion (Leader of the Opposition, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister did not answer my question. I will help him. He himself spoke those words on May 3, 2005, when he was the Leader of the Opposition.
Let me repeat what the Prime Minister said: "This government now has the deliberate policy of avoiding a vote. This is a violation of the fundamental constitutional principles of our democracy."
Does the Prime Minister agree with himself?
I'm fascinated by the number of news articles that use the word "bully" to describe Harper.