A Note From Chuck Strahl, MP From Chilliwack/Fraser-Canyon

Last modified on December 2nd, 2008

Someone back home just forwarded me this email that was recently sent out by Chilliwack’s member of Parliament, Chuck Strahl. In it, he talks about his views with regards to what is happening in Ottawa right now. I’m posting this for informational purposes, not because I agree with everything he’s saying in it.

Last week I sent around an update on Canada’s economic situation, with the observation that it wasn’t a very enjoyable subject to write about. Unfortunately, this week it appears that our economic woes are morphing into a political crisis of sorts, at a time when we can least afford it. What’s happening in Ottawa is bordering on the absurd, but its impact would be felt most harshly by Canadians, not political parties. It is potentially a shame of historic proportions.

The Throne Speech I wrote about last week has now been passed. The Opposition Parties apparently had no trouble supporting the direction of the Conservative government, and in fact, they let it pass “on division”, which meas they didn’t even want a stand up vote! When the Finance Minister tabled his economic update, though, things got ugly, mostly because of the speech made reference to politicians and political parties receiving less from the government coffers. Suddenly, the Liberals and NDP want to form an alternative government, apparently by joining forces in a coalition, and supported by the separatist Bloc Quebecois.

This unholy alliance is trying to paint a different picture, of course. They say they simply want to spend more money to stimulate the economy, but when asked for details, it’s pretty thin gruel. Apparently they’re prepared to take the ‘ready, shoot, aim’ approach to spending, and agree to some blank cheques without even knowing what will actually help specific industries, without know what Barak Obama has planned, and without working in concert with the other G-20 countries. It is a recipe for a fiscal disaster.

More importantly, it is a democratic disaster. During the campaign, Liberal leader Stephane Dion said he would not and could not have a coalition with the NDP, because their policies would destroy the economy. Apparently that principled position has now gone out the window. Now we have the prospect of the Liberals (with 77 seats) joining with the NDP 9with 37 seats) to unseat the democratically elected Conservatives (with 143 seats). Of course, the only way to do that would be with the support of the separatist Bloc Quebecois, who bring their votes to the table in exchange for their separatist agenda. It is almost beyond belief, but apparently the back room discussions amongst these parties are happening as I write this note.

As I said last week, our Conservative government has been preparing our economy for over a year to weather this world-wide economic storm as best we can. We have brought in almost $200 billion dollars in economic stimulus over a 5 year period, by lowering taxes across the board and in every category. We have freed up billions more by adopting Bank of Canada policies and mortgage protection that have increased the availability of credit and addressed liquidity issues, without costing the taxpayer to much and without risking our country’s core stability. The IMF, the World Economic Forum, the OECD and other international organizations are united in their opinions that Canada is in the best shape of any industrialized nation in the world. Now the left-leaning parties in Parliament are willing to risk it all in order to gain power through the back door, power that was denied to them in a general election.

In order to diffuse this crisis, our government has agreed to separate the political party financing issue from the confidence vote, and we’ll be bringing it back to Parliament in a stand-alone Bill for a vote next year. Whether a person believes the taxpayer should be forced to pay for political party finances will be debated and decided at another time. I’ll be supporting the Bill when it comes to a vote, and we’ll see what happens. For now, Canadians should be appalled that we could be thrown into a democratic and constitutional crisis by an attempt to gain power at any cost, to overthrow the democratically expressed will of the Canadian people, all at a critically important economic time for us all.

I’m uncertain where all of this is going, but it is entirely possible that the Conservatives could lose the confidence of Parliament and be forced into an election within days. You can’t run the government without revenue, and we simply must have the authority to pay the bills and stick to the agenda already approved in the Throne Speech. But it is also entirely possible that the Conservatives could be forced from government by the Liberal/NDP/Bloc coalition, if the Governor General agrees. Canada deserves better than either of these options, and we’ll be working hard to keep everyone focused on the economy, jobs, and a sound budgetary plan. We believe Canadians want us to get on with governing. But I just don’t know what will happen, and I share Canadians shock and anger that we’re teetering on this abyss at this critical time.

The vote to bring down the government will now take place on December 8th, so Canadians have a week or so to express themselves before that critical moment. I urge everyone to write a letter to the editor, call a radio talk show, circulate this article (or others) through their own email list, and contact political parties with their opinion. A strong grassroots reaction may be the only thing that stands between us and a Prime Minister Stephane Dion and Finance Minister Jack Layton.

I don’t want to get too deep into the content, but a few things stand out. First, he spelt Barack Obama’s name wrong, which is somewhat insulting to the new president elect.

I spent a good deal of time last night reading up on the Westminster system of government, which is basically what we have in Canada. When I originally heard about what is going on in Ottawa, I assumed it was completely undemocratic. But after reading everything last night, I’m leaning more towards the side that it’s just politics, albeit not typical politics.

In a Westminster form of government, the people elect the individuals they want to represent them in the government. From there on, it’s up to those members to form their own government, and put the person they want as Prime Minister (which is almost always the head of the party that occupies the most number of seats, but that is basically tradition, and not required). Given that the opposition voted no confidence, essentially it means that the government needs to be dissolved, or a new one formed. This can either happen by a re-election (which is what occurred recently in Canada), or by the governor general recognizing the newly formed coalition and letting them form the new government (which has actually happened before, although it was a long time ago).

The elected officials stay the same, simply the balance of power is shifting, and most assuredly the prime minister (who is typically the head of the party in power) will change. It’s entirely up to the governor general at this point, so it’ll be interesting to see what she does. But in terms of the media portraying this as a coup d’etat, I really don’t see it that way.

2 responses to “A Note From Chuck Strahl, MP From Chilliwack/Fraser-Canyon”

  1. Beth says:

    Good on ya for looking into this! It seems a lot of people believe the formation of this coalition to be undemocratic (based on a lot of Conservatives saying it is), but very few have taken the time to actually look into it.

    I loved the “we could be thrown into a democratic and constitutional crisis by an attempt to gain power at any cost, to overthrow the democratically expressed will of the Canadian people in this letter by Strahl. Scare tactics much? As you point out, no one is “overthrowing” the will of the people – the Conservatives have failed to maintain the confidence of the House and those democratically elected MPs can put their confidence behind a coalition – it’s how our democracy works!

    Another great scare tactic used there is the statement “with the support of the separatist Bloc Quebecois, who bring their votes to the table in exchange for their separatist agenda.” (Seriously, does he really need the word “separatist” in that sentence twice?) I haven’t seen any evidence that the Bloc are supporting the coalition “in exchange for” anything to do with separation – it’s about the Conservatives losing the confidence of the House due to their lack of an economic stimulus package. But this seems to be a big scare tactic being used by the Conservatives right now – saying that the “separatists” are now going to be in power!

  2. Duane Storey says:

    Yah, that whole statement is full of empty rhetoric to be honest. He’s obviously trying to appeal to emotion instead of intellect, which sort of represents the sad state of politics these days.

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