Canada is, well, in political turmoil, again. Not because of the Quebec general election, mind you, but because the conservative government that was elected just a little more than a month ago is about to be overthrown by an uneasy coalition formed by the Liberal Party (centre-left federalist), the New Democratic Party (leftist federalist) and the Bloc Québécois (centre-left sovereingtist).
How did we get here? First, keep in mind the results in terms of seats from the election last October (155 needed for a majority):
The Tories won, but they fell short of a majority, mostly because of the Bloc's strength in Quebec. After the election and during his inaugural address, Mr. Harper pledged that he would govern for all Canadians, regardless of their party affiliation. But last week, in his economic address, he did the exact opposite: he antagonized all three opposition parties by trying to cut off public funding for political parties, eliminating the right to strike for government employees and announcing a total of zero measures to meet the current economic crisis. At the moment he uttered these words, all three opposition parties made clear that they would never vote for such an economic plan, therefore vowing to overthrow the government.
How could Mr. Harper, known for his strategic sense, not have realized that all three opposition parties would league against him? My only guess is that Mr. Harper's arrogance made him overreach. He tried to push the opposition too hard, and the chickens came home to roost. Within a few hours, the Tories backed off on the most controversial part of their plan, the one regarding public financing for parties. But it was too little, too late.
The Liberals and the NDP leaders, Stéphane Dion and Jack Layton, quickly met and put on paper an agreement to form a coalition in the event that the Harper government would be overthrown by a vote of no-confidence. Now that this vote, which is going to take place on December 8 (the same date as the Quebec elections), will almost surely be lost by the conservatives, we know for sure that the days of the Harper government are numbered.
But in order for this deal to be sealed, Dion and Layton negotiated for the support of the Bloc Québécois and its leader Gilles Duceppe, who has pledged not to vote against the coalition government for a period of 8 months. The Bloc, a sovereigntist party, wants no part in the coalition but is willing to cut a deal in order to make gains for Quebec. Effectively, Mr. Duceppe will hold the balance of power in the Canadian House of Commons.
This has led to mass hysteria in some parts of Canada, as in the most conservative newspapers such as the National Post. Some have called this coalition a "Deal with the Separatist (Bloc) and Socialist (NDP) Devils".
But whatever grievances western reactionaries may have against the Bloc or the NDP, they cannot get around the fact that their champion, Mr. Harper, made his worst mistake ever by pushing the opposition too hard. They say that the Bloc should have no say in the government of Canada because they advocate for an independent Quebec.
Let me just remind them that this author's vote went to the Bloc last October and that my vote is just as good as their vote. As long as Quebecers pay taxes in Ottawa, we will have our say in the affairs of Canada. The Tories tried pandering to Quebec soft nationalist voters and it got them absolutely nowhere - they did not make any gains in Quebec. The Bloc got the vote of almost 40% of Quebecers and 50% of the votes of Quebec Francophones.
My word to the Tories who lash out at us evil separatists is: we cast our vote, we wanted the Bloc to represent us in a minority government. Deal with it.
Obviously, the reactionary ideologues who seem to have taken over the Conservative Party do not understand what a minority government means: it means the government must cut deals with the opposition in order to survive. Mr. Harper remarkably failed at this job, and for that he will be shown the door by the majority of the House of Commons. This is very good news for the 62% of Canadians (that includes 78% of Quebecers) who did not vote for Mr. Harper's right-wing agenda.
As an observer of American politics, you know what this situation reminds me of? I believe Mr. Harper overreached in the same way that Newt Gingrich did when he tried to have President Clinton impeached. It hurt the GOP brand just like Mr. Harper is now hurting the Tory brand in Canada.