Canadian public opinion was outraged by both Meech and Charlottetown. Eventually, the politicians were forced to take the Charlottetown accord to the people in a 1992 national referendum, where it was massively defeated. Canadians didn't want constitutional change -- and they said so once they got a vote on the matter.Read the whole thing.
Sadly, instead of taking the lesson from this precedent that, in a modern democracy, the will of the people trumps Parliamentary deal-making, the architects of the 2008 coalition trotted out the same old assumptions about Parliamentary freedom, and how little the popular will matters. Their conceit has been that they can legally succeed in what millions of Canadians see as the overturning of the outcome of a democratic election, and do it without giving Canadians the ultimate say in the matter.
This is a huge error of both political and constitutional intelligence. Constitutions are living bodies of precedent, convention, comity and adaptation. Canada has evolved a long way since the era when Sir John A. Macdonald opposed universal suffrage and condemned democracy as an American disease. No constitutional expert -- certainly, no governor-general--can ignore the democratic conventions that have emerged and evolved throughout the 20th century. These conventions have been moving constantly in the direction of shifting sovereignty from Parliament to the people.
Just as it was finally realized that the Charlottetown Accord had to be taken to the people, so the Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition proposal would have to go to the Canadian people before it could be legitimately implemented. I am certain that if Mr. Harper loses the confidence of the House at the end of January, and chooses to request a dissolution of Parliament and an election to test voters' will, the Governor-General will grant it. The coalition-without-election idea, I believe, is as dead as the Charlottetown Accord, not least because, now as then, so many Canadians have been deeply angered by the arrogance and egos of parliamentarians whose understanding has failed to evolve beyond the pages of out-of-date constitutional textbooks.
Sunday, December 07, 2008
Voters should decide, not political parties
Distinguished historian Michael Bliss has an editorial in Saturday's National Post which perfectly and eloquently refutes the argument that the Coalition has legitimate parliamentary & constitutional powers to toss out the Conservative government. His article Ignoring our constitutional tradition should put to rest the canard that governments can be installed by the backroom machinations of MPs and political parties without seeking the approval of the people in an election: