Thursday, December 4, 2008

Nov. 4: Woe, Canada

By Sylvia Gurinsky

Remember when Americans frustrated with the results of the 2000 election were talking about fleeing to Canada?

Don't be surprised if Canadians start moving in the opposite direction. The country is in as difficult a crisis of leadership as any free country can have.

It began in October, when Prime Minister Stephen Harper kept his post, but his Conservative Party did not win a majority in Parliament. Harper has proceeded to lose the confidence of members of Parliament with inaction on the economic crisis and a move to eliminate public funding of elections.

That last one, which Harper has since backed down on, was a breaking point for the leaders and many members of three parties: Liberal, New Democrat and Bloc Quebecois. They planned to give a no-confidence vote to Harper's government next Monday and form their own coalition, with Liberal leader Stephane Dion as the provisional head until the spring.

No action for now: With the permission of Canada's Governor General Michaelle Jean - the direct representative of Queen Elizabeth II to the Commonwealth country - Harper suspended Parliament for the next month and a half.

Jean did the right thing. Tensions need to cool.

The action shows signs of bringing an end to the Odd Trio that would have potentially governed Canada. Dion's party lost more than 30 seats in the October elections, he's not popular and he will step down from his Liberal leadership post in May. Bloc Quebecois advocates Quebec becoming a country, separate from Canada.

Harper has plenty of flaws, including his agreement with too many policies of U.S. President George W. Bush. But the coalition would have been potentially more disastrous for Canada, which needs one leader to work with U.S. President-Elect Barack Obama on relevant issues for North America. Harper, Dion and Canada's other political leaders need to take the next month-and-a-half to mend fences with the people of Canada, not continue to snipe at each other.

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