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What should Stephen do?

This Magazine Staff

Well, well, well, this is quite the situation that Harper has gotten himself into. Though it’s definitely a nice example of how being a bully can backfire, it’s hardly the ideal situation for a country that currently has much more important issues to deal with.
So now that he’s here, fighting for his job while Dion, Layton and Duceppe busy themselves crafting a new Canadian government, what should he do?
I recommend a good hour or so in the gym with a punching bag followed by a national announcement about how he and his follow federal party leaders need to talk.
Now, I have to admit that a part of me wants to see the coalition go ahead and take control. I’m curious to see how it would do and what exactly it would do. Who knows, perhaps it could be the start of a wonderful transformation that would see Canada become the envy of the world (well, except for the weather).
But then another part of me, that pesky logical part, points out that now is not the best time for political experiments. Perhaps if we were in the middle of boom times, when the government, any government, could do no wrong, we could try this left-wing coalition thing out. But what the country needs now is strength, stability and someone who knows where to spend and where to save. In otherwise words, we need a government that’s currently not being offered to us in any shape or form.


And this is where Harper’s announcement would come in. With a tired body but clear mind, he’d declare that last week his party announced some proposals that weren’t really the best and that now having learned his lesson, he wants to work with the other federal party leaders to develop an economic plan for the country, one that would touch on everything from stimulus spending to what to do about the auto industry to minimizing (though not necessary avoiding) a deficit. With carefully selected words and sympathetic body language, he’d make it clear that he and his Conservatives realize that the country is on verge of heading into a very dark place and that because of that, they’re willing to set aside their ideological differences and work with the other parties for the good of the country.
In short, it would be the type of speech that most Canadians would understand and agree with and that would put Dion, Layton and Duceppe in one hell of a predicament. After an offer like that, going ahead with the coalition would simply look like a greedy power grab, a case of putting politics before country. To proceed with the coalition in that situation would be setting it and the parties involved with it up for an election disaster. This is how Harper could grab his majority, by having his olive branch thrown back in his face.
I like to hope that if Harper decides to do “the right thing” and offer to genuinely work with the other parties, they would put the coalition on hold and get down to the business of running this country, together with the Conservatives. Come the next election, the idea of a left-wing coalition could be re-visited but until then, let’s just have a “coalition of Canadian politicians working together to keep this country on track during uncertain economic times”.
After all, that’s what we elect the politicians to do, isn’t it? To run the country and create the conditions that let it and us thrive?
I realize that the idea of Harper stepping up and saying “let’s work together” sounds about as realistic as Duceppe deciding that Quebec is just fine as it is, but if Harper doesn’t step up to the plate, there’s always the Governor General.
This article over in the Toronto Star quotes former Reform MP Deborah Grey on how the GG could step in and sort things out, “I’d get those guys in a room, the four of them, and I’d say to them I’m not proroguing this, I’m not calling an election, I’m not naming this coalition. You four guys get yourself in a room and don’t come out of there until you decide that you’re going to run this government, and I am forcing you all to get back to work and make the economy the focus, stupid, rather than all of this inside baseball.”
Good advice; I hope someone follows it.

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