Harper outboxes the opposition

With the three opposition parties attempting to override the plurality of Conservatives in Parliament, Canadian Prime Minister fought back by forcing an adjournment of Parliament until the end of January.  Governor-General Michaelle Jean approved Harper’s request to adjourn in advance of any confidence motion, keeping the government in Conservative control and essentially locking the three parties out of policy for the next two months:

Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean has approved Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s request to suspend Parliament, agreeing to put the government on hold until the end of January.

Harper addressed the media at just before noon after about two-and-a-half hours of meetings at Rideau Hall.

“Following my advice, the Governor General has agreed to prorogue Parliament,” Harper told reporters from the front steps of the building. …

Harper also said that when Parliament resumes, the first item on the agenda will be the presentation of the federal budget and he will spend his time working almost exclusively between now and then on the fiscal blueprint.

That was not Harper’s final card, either.  Had Jean refused his request, Harper could have applied to the Queen of Great Britain, Canada’s nominal head of state, to replace Jean with another Governor-General.  Jean avoided that national crisis and at the same time avoided another national election less than two months after Canada’s last election gave the Conservatives a greater plurality but just short of a majority.

The big issue in this supposedly centers on the lack of a government stimulus/bailout package, but may cut closer to home among politicians.  Harper wants to end government subsidies for political parties, forcing them to rely on private donations alone.  The Conservatives excel at fundraising, while the other parties rely more heavily on the subsidies.  Harper’s new economic package was expected to include that change, which is why the Liberals, NDP, and Bloc Quebecois tried to act in advance of its submission.

The opposition alliance may be glad it won’t have to face the voters in any case.  They gave a demonstration of their competence yesterday:

The Liberals have apologized for Liberal Leader Stephane Dion’s taped televised address, after it was delivered to Canadian networks almost an hour past deadline and in near-cellphone quality.

“I apologize for what happened tonight. I apologize for the poor quality and the lateness. I am livid and am doing an investigation as to how this happened,” Johanne Senecal, Dion’s Chief of Staff, said to CTV News tonight.

Dion was supposed to deliver the networks a pre-taped statement to the nation Wednesday between 6:15 p.m. and 6:30 ET. It was to air after Prime Minister Stephen Harper addressed the country at 7 p.m. ET about the political crisis on Parliament Hill.

CTV, along with other major Canadian networks, pre-empted regularly scheduled programming to deliver the addresses. Harper went to air shortly after 7 p.m. but networks were left scrambling to fill airspace when Dion’s tape was nowhere to be found.

No wonder they need public subsidies.

Update: My friend and thoughtful liberal Michael Stickings, who blogs in Canada at The Reaction, thinks Jean took the easy way out:

I hesitate to call the governor general, Michaëlle Jean, a coward, but her decision, I think, was a poor one. Either she should have dissolved Parliament and called an election, or she should have given the coalition, which holds a majority of the seats in the House, the chance to govern. Instead, in granting Harper’s request, she has gone along with what the Conservatives want, parliamentary democracy be damned, and given them the upper hand in terms of the campaign to come. Basically, she has saved Harper’s sorry bacon, evidently putting his interests before the interests of the country.

It is a sad day for Canada.

I don’t entirely disagree here, but part of that is the opposition’s fault.  The proper way to have proceeded is to use the no-confidence motion to proceed to a new election.  The last election was just seven weeks ago, though, and the three opposition parties had a difficult time coming up with a good reason for another one now when the voters made their intent plain less than two months ago.  Instead, they wanted to take an (almost) unprecendented step to force the plurality party into opposition.  Under those circumstances, Jean acted in the most rational way possible.