Friday, January 16, 2009

Would the Coalition Government Be a Good Thing?

by Hassan Reyes
Basics Issue #12 (Jan/Feb 2009)

So by now, it should be clear to most of us that the short-lived idea of a governing coalition of Liberals and New Democrats with the ‘support’ of the Bloc Quebecois is history.

Interestingly, many people, particularly here in Toronto, were quick to jump on the “Coalition YES” bandwagon. In their minds, taking down Harper was tantamount to ‘defeating’ his agenda – continued war in Afghanistan, continued support for imperialist foreign policy, continued starving of public services and handouts to the wealthy. To others, it was the logical next step in Canada’s ‘democracy, seeing as the coalition parties combined to achieve roughly 62% of the vote. To some, it even represented a political movement in the same way as some see Obamania in the US.

These sorts of conclusions forget or overlook a number of important details.

1. Canada is a Constitutional Monarchy

It should be clear that despite all of the claims of democracy, that there is still incredible concentration of political power in the representatives of the wealthy. In Canada’s case, it is the Governor General. The Governor General, the official representative of the British Crown, had full discretion to decide whether the opposition parties would be asked to form a government (as had been done as recently as 1979), whether to close parliament or whether to call an election.

As we know, this appointed representative to the British Monarchy decided that she would close down parliament. As difficult as it may be for many Canadians to recognize, we live under a constitutional monarchy.

2. The “Coalition”: political manoeuvring, not political movement

Despite the valid criticisms of his politics (or absence of them in many ways), it has to be acknowledged that Obama had a movement in support of him. Now people in Canada may be as thirsty for political change as our Southern neighbours; however this coalition cannot be seen as a movement.

This ‘coalition’ was concocted by a handful of frustrated politicians, not by people’s
organizations and masses of people fed up with the Conservatives. Indeed as much as working people must realize that Harper is our enemy, we should remember that these ‘opposition’ leaders only threatened to topple the government when their Party funds were threatened.

3. “Coalition” would still represent interests opposed to working people

Who began the war in Afghanistan? The Liberals. Who began the cuts to social services such as health care and education federally? The Liberals. Who failed to act on any measures to address environmental degradation for 12 years? The Liberals. Who began the campaign of mass deportation of undocumented workers? You guessed it, the Liberals. So why are they so much better than the Conservatives?

Indeed, there was very little in the four page document signed by Jack Layton and Stephane Dion that would have indicated a departure from the politics of Mulroney-Chretien- Martin-Harper. No talk about withdrawing from Afghanistan. Nothing about restoring our public services other than vague allusions to investment in transit.

There are simply no short cuts to abandoning this cynical politics that are leading us into war and depression. Workers need to build organizations that will represent our interests, not just try to sneak their way into office.