Canada's right-wing, minority Conservative government is preparing to cling to power illegally. Led by the neo-conservative ideologue Stephen Harper, the Conservatives are threatening to unleash a constitutional crisis and incite anti-Quebec chauvinism rather than allow the parliamentary opposition parties to form an alternate government.
"We will use all legal means to resist this undemocratic seizure of power," declared Harper on Monday, after the opposition parties—the Liberals, New Democratic Party (NDP), and Bloc Québécois (BQ)—announced an accord to form a Liberal-NDP coalition government supported by the BQ.
The Conservatives, who won the votes of barely one in five Canadians in the federal election held October 14, are accusing the opposition parties of attempting a "putsch" and thwarting the will of the electorate.
This is reactionary rot. It is the Conservatives who are acting undemocratically, and in manifold ways.
• Under Canada's parliamentary system, the opposition parties have every right to form an alternate government, since they won a majority of the seats in the House of Commons in a general election held just seven weeks ago.
If one includes the votes of the Green Party, which announced Tuesday that it too backs the Liberal-NDP coalition, 61.2 percent of voters cast their ballots October 14 for parties supportive of the coalition.
• So as to avoid defeat in a parliamentary non-confidence vote scheduled for next Monday, the Conservatives are reportedly preparing to prorogue or shut down parliament, which reconvened only on November 17, until late January,
• The Conservatives have announced that should they lose a non-confidence vote, Harper will "advise" the Governor-General to dissolve parliament. In effect, the Conservatives are demanding that Canada's unelected head of state deprive the opposition of its constitutional right to form a government. And should Governor-General Michaëlle Jean not capitulate to their anti-democratic demand, the Conservatives are threatening to unleash a wider political and constitutional crisis by attacking the democratic legitimacy of the Liberal-NDP coalition.
• With the support of much of the corporate media, the Conservatives have launched an aggressive drive to mobilize reactionary forces, denouncing the Liberals for aligning with "socialists" and "separatists," references respectively to the NDP and BQ, against "Canada's government."
To oppose the coming to power of a "socialist-separatist driven coalition," the Conservatives have called "Rallies for Canada" in the country's major cities this coming Saturday. Their not so veiled purpose is to intimidate the Governor-General.
In the last parliament the Conservatives repeatedly depended on the votes of the BQ to remain in office. Yet, in a transparent attempt to whip up anti-Quebec chauvinism, especially in western Canada, the Conservatives are implying that the proposed coalition government is all but treasonous, because it would put Canada's government "at the mercy of people committed to destroying our confederation."
• Whatever Governor-General Jean ultimately decides, the very fact that the Conservatives are intent on making her demonstrably choose Canada's government has the effect of giving greater legitimacy to, and expanding the power, of this reactionary office.
Under Canada's constitutional monarchy, the monarch's representative, the Governor-General, is almost always legally required to follow the "advice" of the Prime Minister—the head of the party or multi-party alliance with majority support in parliament—but wields, although this is not generally known, virtually unlimited "reserve" powers. Through this archaic mechanism, the Canadian ruling class has given itself a means of short-circuiting parliamentary democracy in a period of acute crisis.
Any use by the Governor-General of these powers establishes a reactionary precedent that can and will be invoked against working people in future political crises.
• The current crisis was precipitated by the fiscal and economic update the government tabled in parliament last Thursday. The update was chock full of right-wing and flagrantly anti-democratic measures. These included the abolition of a $1.95 per vote, annual subsidy to federal political parties—an action universally condemned in the corporate media as a brazen Conservative attempt to cripple the opposition by bankrupting them. The Conservatives also suspended the collective bargaining rights of federal workers, removing their right to strike until 2011. Last but not least, under conditions of a financial crisis and world recession that threaten working peoples' jobs and pensions, the Conservatives spurned calls for increased support to the unemployed and expanded public works initiatives, choosing instead to slash public spending.
If a putsch is afoot in Ottawa, it is manifestly a right-wing putsch being carried out by Harper and his Conservatives.