After much prodding by other bloggers, I set this up for my own writings. The name is in honour of the two women that mentored me throughout my life on politics and intelligence issues, as well as being wonderful family members, now alas deceased. I hope to live up to their standards at this site.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

PM Harper confuses Canadian and American Senates showing his poor understanding of Canadian government

Over the last day or so I have been watching CPAC, especially during Question Period. I have heard Harper dismissing the complaints from Liberals regarding the budget in the House of Commons as insincere and that it is all empty bluster UNLESS the Liberal controlled Senate defeats his budget by voting it down as well. Slight problem with this though, and anyone with a high school education should be able to see it, but for those that forgot their basic civics lessons I will spell it out for you. The Canadian Senate is NOT in the practice of rejecting ANY House of Commons budget because it does not have the Constitutional authority to be doing so, in no small part precisely because they are not an elected body. Every time there has been a majority of the Senate by the party currently in Opposition in the House the government has had its budgets passed by the Senate and not had the Senate ever defeat one that I have ever encountered in our history. I am of course more than willing to confess to being wrong *IF* someone is able to provide evidence to the contrary. This is a fact of life in our government that it is the House of Commons that has exclusive authority over money bills and not the Senate. They can vote down other bills submitted by a government but not money bills.

Now, if this was the US Senate then there could be a real possibility of the Senate voting down the government's budget, but this is not the USA. So I am left with one of two basic possible explanations for Harper's rhetoric. First, he mixed up the two Senates and demonstrated an appalling lack of basic understanding of the government he currently is the head of. Second, he knows the difference and is being deliberately dishonest and deceptive in creating a false opposition where none can let alone does exist. Personally I have a real hard time believing Harper is so ignorant and stupid that he does not understand exactly the limitations of the Canadian Senate where budgets are concerned, even budgets from a government controlled by a party the Senate majority party is opposed to. So that leaves explanation number two. Which is entirely consistent with his rhetoric in Afghanistan when he talked about how Canada would not "cut and run" from the mission, despite there being ZERO members of Parliament calling for anything that could even be remotely construed as such. However it sounds good, sounds decisive, and implies there really is such opposition to which he and his party are heroically preventing from getting their way. The fact that it is clearly a straw man argument/claim and therefore is inherently dishonest and clearly designed to mislead people, especially Canadian voters, only makes this that much more offensive.

We have seen this type of imaginary positions being ascribed to all opposition in another country by their political right recently, no doubt everyone can guess I mean the USA. We know for a fact that the CPC has prior to becoming this government sought help from their American counterparts in how to win elections and how to control message in the media, a problem the CPC had had since its inception. We know they favour painting their opposition in very stark terms, black and white even, quite binary and quite typical of American and not Canadian federal politics. So which is it Prime Minister Harper, are you that ignorant of the structure of the government that you are the head of, or is it that you prefer to lie about the options open to your political opposition, especially in regards to the Senate and its ability to do anything to stop this budget? In other words are you a liar or are you a fool, because those are the only options I can see you have to explain how you could repeatedly be making this argument regarding Liberal opposition to the budget being only bluster unless the Senate Liberals vote your budget down. If they actually voted that budget down we would have a major Constitutional crisis underway, and I simply refuse to accept the notion that any PM could be this ignorant of something so basic.

I find this kind of deliberate deception by any PM on something so obvious (indeed as I said basic Canadian civics) very disturbing for another reason. For this rhetoric to be effective it must presume that the average citizens that votes is unaware of this rather basic reality about how the Canadian federal government operates. This is just like when the CPC claimed the Finance Minister (Martin) HAD to know about the poorly and in some cases criminally spent money in the Sponsorship file. The reality is though the job of any finance Minister is to set the budget for the entire government, it is not to track it within each department and how well it is spent, something anyone that stayed awake in social studies/civics class in school would be aware of. It presupposed the public was too unaware of this to realize they were being sold a phony argument, and that the media would not bother taking the effort to educate the public to the contrary. Now I am seeing that banking on the ignorance/stupidity of the Canadian public on this piece of rhetoric by the PM yet again, and I find it very worrisome when any PM is willing to play the public for stupid. Especially when it is for unnecessary partisan political purposes since this budget is clearly not under threat of being voted down in the House (thanks to the BQ) and clearly cannot be so in the Senate. So why is Harper making clearly bogus claims with clear partisan intentions on something so easily refuted? The only explanation I have is that he assumes we are all this stupid except for hard core party partisans and that he can get away with it because no one will call him on it. Well I am calling him on it and I hope others do as well, it is quite offensive to watch any PM deliberately mislead the public on anything, let alone how their government actually works.

That is not accountability, not transparency, and most certainly not honesty. Just what I have come to expect from this PM and government since the first day they were sworn in and made their Minister of Public Works an un-appointed Senator at the same time giving him patronage/pork central and the department that actually had the Sponsorship file. While Emerson's buy-out got the real attention it was this, and I said so at the time that I found the really worrisome and disturbing decision by Harper. Yet one more piece of straw on the camel's back where he and his government's credibility is concerned, and sooner than the CPCers may believe possible that back could break, and they will not see it coming until after it is too late.


Anonymous john said...

Didn't the senate try to block Mulroney from passing the GST bill (a money bill) which forced Mulroney to add 8 temporary senators to get the bill through?
From the G&M "If the Senate amended the budget bill, it would have to be sent back to the House to verify whether MPs agree with the changes. If the budget were to be defeated in the Senate, it would die, but the government would not fall because votes in the Senate are not confidence votes as money bills are in the House." They seem to think that the budget can be defeated by the Senate as well.

Fri May 05, 02:35:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Scotian said...


Yes they did, and it triggered a Constitutional crisis which was resolved when Mulroney used the powers of his office to appoint enough Senators to change which side had the majority in the Senate. However, if you read carefully what I wrote I stated that no budget has ever been voted down, and you have not shown any differently.
I almost included the GST/Mulroney matter to underscore the point about how the Senate is not empowered to oppose budgets and that for it to try and block a money bill cannot actually be sustained precisely because of the supremacy of the HoC and the PM in this area.

If anything John the GWT/Mulroney example underscores my point and does not refute it. I did not know the Globe and Mail was the final authority on what the Senate can and cannot do btw, I was going by the actual precedents and history of the institution and not a media report. The government cannot be killed by such a vote in the Senate, the most they can do is try to amend and send back, but when push comes to shove it is the HoC and the PM which will have the final say, which in turn makes Harper's rhetoric about how it is automatically Liberal bluster in the House if the Senate does not vote down this budget complete and utter male bovine excrement as well as a false choice open to the Liberals.

Nice try John, and certainly better than most of your material as of late. This time you actually raised a good and reasonable point, which is why you got the response you just did. However your point does not change the reality that the Senate cannot bring a government down and de facto cannot prevent a government, even a minority government in the HoC from passing the budget it wants. As I said if anything it underscores my point that this is an empty threat for the CPC and for Harper to be acting like it is a serious one or should be taken as such demonstrates also my point about his making up opposition where either none exists or none can exist.

Good try John, but ultimately all you did was help make my point and not counter it.

Fri May 05, 04:32:00 PM 2006  
Anonymous john said...

Do you have any links to back up the claim that it is unconstitutional? I know it is never done, but I can't find anything that says whether it is legal or not.
Piece of advice to you: you don't have to "win" all the time. I am just trying to have a conversation here and expand my mind.

Fri May 05, 06:38:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Steve V said...

I think Harper knows the Senate won't block the budget, but merely uses the "unelected Liberals" for political gain. I'm sure this angle plays very well to his base, and helps Harper justify his short-sighted Senate reform package.

Sat May 06, 09:36:00 AM 2006  
Anonymous john said...

Hello, waiting for links here. Please provide.
Thanks muchly

Mon May 08, 04:16:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Dennis said...

john said...

Hello, waiting for links here. Please provide. Thanks muchly.

Don't hold your breth John, You're wasting your time it seems.

Fri May 12, 03:56:00 PM 2006  
Blogger kitt said...

Ever hear of google and doing your own research? Works every time and keeps one from sprouting unbelievable rhetoric, like Deceivin' Steve.

Thu Jun 14, 05:37:00 PM 2007  

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