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Federal election kicks off with talk of coalitions and contempt

By in 2011 Federal Election/Opinions

Opinions Writer

Even before the official announcement of the election, Stephen Harper had been fear-mongering, dubbing an election “unnecessary” and labeling the possible coalition “reckless.”

Mind you, when the Conservatives were the official opposition in 2004, a coalition seemed far from “reckless” — as Harper attempted to form one with the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois to topple the ruling Liberals.

The 156-145 vote in favour of the Liberal motion of non-confidence found that “the government is in contempt of Parliament, which is unprecedented in Canada parliamentary history.” The motion contains a straightforward statement of contempt and was approved by the Commons, so the vote stands as a punctilious finding of contempt against the “Harper Government.”

It would seem that Prime Minister Harper is of the opinion that Canadians do not care about what happens in the House of Commons.

But when the result of the blatant disrespect this government has had for Parliament and Canadians results in an unprecedented finding of contempt, I think Canadians do indeed start to take a specific interest in what happens in the House of Commons.

Despite having only just begun, each of the major parties’ election campaigns have been interesting for their own unique reasons. The Conservative stance has been that voters have two options: a Conservative majority or a coalition. Regarding the latter, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff said, “I want to completely rule out a coalition.” NDP leader Jack Layton, on the other hand, has explicitly stated the willingness of his party to work with others.

Whether or not a coalition does form after the election, starting off the federal campaign with conversations of spooky coalitions subtracts attention from legitimate campaign concerns.

Ignatieff insisted that the way the Conservatives regulate their spending on things such as building more prisons, fighter jets and corporate tax cuts will leave Canadians with a lot less pocket money by 2014. This came in light of Stephen Harper’s promise for a $2.5 billion tax break for two parent families, a promise that would not be implemented until 2015 when the Conservatives believe Canada’s deficit will be eradicated — a deficit they ran Canada into.

The Liberal party intends to introduce a financial assistance program for low income students, in contrast to the fiscal policies of the current government. Ignatieff pointed out that the Conservative’s March 22 budget “spends 1,000 times more on fighter jets than post-secondary students, 1,000 times more on prisons than on crime prevention, more for a single day of the G20 than in a year for seniors, three times more on partisan advertising than on family care and nothing for child care.”

Prime Minister Harper has not been especially vocal about his government being found in contempt of Parliament, a glaring evasion of responsibility which opposition parties have begun to concentrate on. Last week, Harper failed to even address that his government was found in contempt. Ignatieff addressed this troubling glossing-over and declared that there is no better reason for an election than the protection of democracy.

When at last he addressed the issue of the statement of contempt, Harper said it “obviously disappoints me [and] will, I suspect, disappoint most Canadians.”

Harper carried on, suggesting that the opposition parties had already decided before the budget that they wanted to force an election. The issue of upholding Canada’s democratic principles will remain a point of interest throughout this election campaign.

Canada’s 41st election, the fourth election in seven years, will definitely be one to watch. Whatever your political stance, I encourage you to hit the campaign trail and support your local candidate as we approach May 2.

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image: Flickr

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