Friday, December 5, 2008

What should the Govenor General do?

I'm no constitutional expert, but I believe the GG can do just about anything she wants, and the arguments are really about what she should do.

If the Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc defeat the govt in January, Harper will ask for a new election and Dion will ask for a chance to govern with a Liberal-NDP coalition propped up by the Bloc.

Some say she should order a new election because (a) it's her job to follow the prime minister's advice - an argument that doesn't persuade me - or (b) because it's traditional for Canadians to elect their govt. and we sure haven't elected this coalition - an argument I find far more persuasive.

Others say the GG should give the coalition a chance because, while we elect our members of parliament, it's up to our MPs to elect the govt, and if Dion's coalition can command a majority among the MPs, the coalition deserves a chance to govern. I also find this argument persuasive.

However, the coalition isn't requesting just one chance - they're actually requesting two: a govt led by Dion until May and then a govt led by whoever replaces Dion after May. This is absurd.

In our system, when a new leader replaces a sitting Prime Minister, he must call an election to get a mandate from the people.

So I'm okay with the GG calling a new election should the govt fall in January. Personally, that's what I'd prefer. But I'm also okay with her giving the coalition a chance, but only provided they pledge to hold an election within six months of getting a new leader, as convention demands.

Could the GG require such an undertaking? Absolutely. At this point, she holds all the cards. For the sake of our democracy, she should play them.


  1. Sorry Brian you are wrong a trip to the Parlement Buildings will show that in some early sessions of Parelement we had a number of PMs without an election.

    When Martin took over he called the election at his convenience, same for Campbell & Turner to name a few in recent memory.

    Mike from Kingston

  2. Mike,
    I don't know my ancient history well, but Turner called an election soon after succeeding Trudeau; Campbell faced an election soon after succeeding Mulroney, and Martin soon after succeeding Chretien.

    These examples all prove my point. When a party leader succeeds a sitting Prime Minister (and thus becomes PM) he or she is obliged to seek a mandate from the people.

    "AT his convenience," sure - so long as his convenience is within a few months.

    To my knowledge, the longest any new PM has waited is six months.

    The Liberals are proposing to install a new leader and to have him govern for 2 years without a mandate.

    This dumps our democratic traditions overboard, and the GG is in a position to stop them from getting away with it. And so she should.

    If the Liberal-NDP coalition proposes to govern for years without a mandate from the people, she should just say no and she should set an election in motion.

    But I'm suggesting she could give the Liberals an alternative - take over if they wish, but seek a mandate within a reasonable time frame as our conventions require.

    - Brian from Toronto

  3. No, no, Brian. You have it all wrong. All our un-elected Prime Ministers may have called elections to try to get a mandate to govern, but the didn't *have* to.

    The Parliamentary system means that once they're elected, our Members of Parliament can do whtever they damn well please. If that means giving us a government and Prime Minister we didn't elect, tough titty for the Canadian people.

    Our MPs know best (especially if they're Liberals).

    from Mississauga