Sunday, November 27, 2005

Placing the blame

A common Conservative retort to the "forcing a Christmas election" line has been that, "The Liberals forced us into a Christmas election in 1979." It's a good line, especially if you're of the mind that a Christmas election is inherently bad. (I don't think it is, and in fact, I'm personally getting tired of hearing Liberals complain about it - it makes us look like we're afraid of losing or something.)

But it's been bothering me. I just have to clear this up.
The facts:

The NDP and Social Credit brought down Clark in 1979. If Clark had gotten one or the other onside, he would have won that vote. The Liberals voting against the budget was taken for granted - the official opposition ALWAYS votes against the budget unless they have a REALLY good reason not to. It was up to the NDP and/or Social Credit to support the budget.


Joe Clark brought down Joe Clark in 1979. He thought he'd have enough MPs in the House to win the vote, for whatever reason - maybe he was figuring that the other parties would just let him have it? Well, that's not the way it worked out, and he lost. He didn't bother to deal with a third party, and he clearly wasn't prepared for an election. We'll probably never know why Clark had that massive error in judgment, but we got Trudeau Round II and a Charter out of it, so I'm not complaining. Much as I like Clark, I doubt he would have given us a Charter, but I must commend him for supporting Charter rights now.

My guess is that Clark and his advisors more than likely figured that the Liberals would just let the budget pass, even though they disagreed with it, by keeping about 10 Liberals out of the House, since Trudeau had already resigned as leader, and the Tories figured that the Liberals wouldn't want to have another election until they got a new leader. They were mostly right in that assmumption - the Liberals definitely did NOT want an election, as they had lost their Trudeau, and they knew they couldn't hold a leadership campaign without splitting the party during an election. In fact, 1980 would have been absolutely disastrous for them if they hadn't managed to convince Trudeau to return.

All in all, though, my point is that the 1980 election was completely unexpected on all sides, though in hindsight, it seems insane that no one knew it was coming.

And the key difference:

Clark lost on a budget vote. The Liberals are losing Monday on a non-confidence motion. The only times that has happened in Canadian history were 1963, when Pearson brought down Diefenbaker's government for gross incompetence, and in 1926, when King brought down Meighen by effectively saying that the government shouldn't even technically exist.

Losing a budget vote is one thing - it's mostly accidental and a matter of disagreement over an issue. Losing on a confidence motion is something else entirely - it is an explicitly worded expression of a lack of confidence in the government. Budget votes are necessary - confidence votes only happen if the opposition wants them to happen.

So, let's make no mistake about this. We're having a Christmas election. It's the opposition's prerogative. Let's just accept that and fight the election, so that the Liberals can win and we can get back to some semblance of stability.


At 11/29/2005 6:23 p.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with your reasoning on this one - It was the oppositions call and I think the Tories Bloc and the NDP should say "hey we were in election mode for months - without defeating the government we would have had them flying around the country campaigning at taxpayer expense - now they can fly around the country at their own expense".

The entire don't campaign at Christmas thing is a little tiring. All parties should spare us the self righteousness - we didn't want a Christmas election.
Gomery’s initial report was supposed to be release in December which would have had an election call in January - which is what the NDP Opposition motion called for. The Liberals rejected that and rightly so. There is either confidence or there isn’t and clearly there wasn’t.


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