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Letter to the Governor General

By Stuart Hertzog
October 14th, 2008

Four-colour maple leaf

Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean

Governor General of Canada

Rideau Hall, 1 Sussex Drive

Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A1

Telephone: (613) 993-8200

Toll-free: 1 (800) 465-6890

Fax: (613) 998-8760

Email: info@gg.ca

A Coalition Government for Canada

Canadians have voted not to give the Conservative Party an overall majority in this election. The result clearly shows that an overwhelming majority of the voting public do not support the Conservative Party, and therefore do not wish to see Stephen Harper continue as prime minister of Canada.

Mr. Harper may petition you to be allowed to continue as prime minister with a parliamentary minority. I beg you not to grant his request immediately. Instead, I respectfully request that you stay your official permission until the four opposition parties, or at least those whose candidates have been elected to sit as members of the 40th parliament of Canada, are given time to try to form a coalition government.

I believe that a coalition government holding a majority in parliament would be in the best interests of Canada at this time. To allow Mr. Harper to continue as prime minister would have many damaging consequences that could undermine the peaceful order and good government of this country.

Canadian sovereignty

A minority Conservative government would expose Canada to policies that the majority of Canadians clearly do not want. They could diminish Canadian sovereignity by integration into a continental union with the United States, and further undermine the supportive social programs and civil liberties that Canadians citizens have come to enjoy.

Another minority government would frustrate those Canadians who have rejected Mr. Harper’s platform and past policies, possibly leading to civil unrest.

The functioning of parliament would be undermined by a continued minority government. Without a majority, the government would not be able to pass contentious legislation, rendering any debate leading up to these failures a waste of time. Loss of a confidence motion would lead to another costly election soon after this one, which would exasperate and even anger many Canadians.

Same parliamentary situation

Mr. Harper has not been able to use this election to capture a majority of seats in parliament, and a third attempt is likely to produce the same situation. A coalition government would open up the possibility of negotiated agreement between the parties as to which legislation would be introduced and passed in parliament, making for efficient use of members’ parliamentary time. The resulting legislation likely would be acceptable to a wide range of Canadians.

Clearly, a coalition government is in the best interests of Canada at this time. I therefore humbly beg and beseech you to consider my request, and using your reserve powers, not agree to Mr. Harper’s request to continue at least until the other parliamentary parties have had time to negotiate a coalition.

Yours for a free and democratic Canada,

Stuart Hertzog

Victoria, BC

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16 Responses

  1. Mike Brock Says:

    Canada is a Westminster parliamentary system. Under the system, the Queen or her representative will invite the leader of the party with the most number of seats, by plurality, to form a government and meet the house.

    If she did not follow this rule, it would lead to a constitutional crisis. So I highly doubt she’ll listen to any petition, or letter to this regard, no matter how many people sign it.

    If the other parties do not wish to give Mr. Harper the confidence of the house, then that is their prerogative. They may, if they choose, deny him confidence, and then see if the Governor General is willing to invite them to seek the confidence of the house as a coalition.

    However, under our system, it is not very likely the Governor General would do this unless the opposition parties entered into a formal coalition. Failing this, she may simply act on the prime ministers advice, after having lost confidence, to drop another election writ.

  2. Stuart Hertzog Says:

    You are correct in that what is required is a formal submission by the parties who have agreed to form a coalition, requesting that the Governor General recognize them collectively as the government. If the Governor General feels that they could function as a coalition and that this would be preferable to any other alternative, their request could be granted.

    However, the Governor General does have what are called reserve powers that enable him or her to dismiss a Prime Minister; refuse to dissolve Parliament; or refuse or delay the Royal Assent to legislation. This was explained and linked to in a previous post.

    So the door is open just a crack for the Governor General to respond to the wishes of citizens — provided enough people write to her with the same request. One letter from a single citizen is unlikely to persuade the Governor General to act as that citizen may desire. But a massive response from many people would certainly jolt the politicians into action.

    So I’m asking everyone who cares about Canada to write to the party leaders and to the Governor General, and also to join the facebook group majoritycoalitionforcanada. We must create a massive response to this ongoing perversion of the democratic principle of the rule of the majority.

    Together, we CAN make a difference.

  3. Mike Brock Says:

    You clearly don’t understand much about constitutional politics, then. The last time the Governor General refused the request of the Prime Minister to dissolve parliament was the King-Byng affair back in 1926.

    Understand, under our Westminster system of government, Stephen Harper is still the Prime Minister today. He has not resigned as Prime Minister. He only asked for a writ of election, to dissolve the house and go the electorate. Under constitutional rules, Stephen Harper remains the Prime Minister under he asks the Governor General for his resignation.

    The other parties cannot simply got o the GG and ask her to fire the Prime Minister. If this happened, there would be a constitutional crisis, and the Supreme Court would get involved. It would be bad for everybody.

    She may technically have reserve powers, but all constitutional experts agree that she should basically never use them, except in a time or real or apprehended war. Otherwise, she should honor the requests of the PM and follow the rules of convention.

    The Westminster system is clear about who wins the election. It is the party with the most seats. The Conservatives won the election. Stephen Harper is still Prime Minister. The GG will not invite him to become PM again, because he already is. She will now, as a matter of formality, ask him to form her a government and meet the house.

    Even if the parties formed a coalition today, under our system Stephen Harper would still be given a chance to meet the house and seek it’s confidence. Failing this, the PM would return to the GG and tell her that he could not obtain confidence and ask her for either dissolution or for his resignation.

    She will NOT use reserve powers. Trust me. You’re dreaming.

  4. Stuart Hertzog Says:

    Thank you, Mike, for your very important and precise explanation. I did understand that a government is not dissolved during an election, just parliament. Now you have clarified that according to convention, the Governor General is unlikely to use her reserve powers in anything short of a national emergency.

    However, that leaves me puzzled as to former Governor General Ed Schreyer’s opinion that the Governor General can respond positively to a formal letter from the opposition parties stating that they have the intent and ability to for a coalition government. If this is not an option, how can a coalition ever take over from a government that only wins a minority of votes, as in this election?

    Are you implying that our parliamentary system can transfer power only if one party wins a majority in an election? Or that a coalition can only take power if it enters an election as a coalition?

    Suppose the ideal of many Canadians is realised and miraculously, the four opposition parties decide to put their antipathies aside and form a coalition. Must they win a non-confidence vote in parliament and then approach the Governor General? How then would they take power if the Governor General cannot use her reserve power?

    Isn’t that option, as former Governor general Ed Schreyer suggests, open to her?

  5. Mike Brock Says:

    No, you misunderstand. A coalition could form a government. But Mr. Harper would have to resign after losing confidence of the house. It must happen in this order:

    1. Mr. Harper forms a new government.

    2. He meets the house, and tables a throne speech. The throne speech is a motion of confidence.

    3. The opposition parties defeat the throne speech, and the government has no confidence.

    4. at this point, Mr. Harper has two options:

    a. He may ask the GG for his resignation, stating he cannot get the confidence of the house.

    b. He may ask the GG for a new writ of election, stating he cannot get the confidence of the house.

    c. He can sit on his hands, do nothing, and let a constitutional crisis emerge.

    This is where it gets more murky, and there is a lot of contention among constitutional experts over what could happen if Mr. Harper chose the 4b path. The rules of convention state that the Governor General should follow the advice of the Prime Minister. And as such, he is still acting in that capacity when he returns to the GG after having lost the confidence of the house.

    You see, these rules we have are all based on everybody following the convention. In theory, if Stephen Harper refused to resign, it’s unclear what power the GG would actually have. He must voluntarily resign.

    So you have to understand the complexities here. It’s not just a matter of the GG saying “oh, a majority voted for the other parties, so you can’t be PM”. It doesn’t work that way. It’s never worked that way.

    The reality is, the ball is most likely in Stephen Harper’s court. It will be more up to him to read the tea leaves and decide whether he wants to accept an opposition coalition, or plunge the country into another election if the opposition defeats him.

  6. Stuart Hertzog Says:

    That may be the generally accepted protocol, but it conveniently ignores the option offered by former Governor General Ed Schreyer that a decision to allow a coalition government can be made based on a formal letter from the coalition parties.

    If this option is indeed available — and perhaps we need more definite confirmation that it is — it would dispute your described sequence, and especially refute the last paragraph that leaves the power to allow a coalition government in the hands of the leader of the minority government, which to me and many others, would be undemocratic.

    Thank you for your input, Mr. Brock. On this topic, we differ.

  7. Jean Sansum Says:

    It is obvious from the vote that the majority of Canadians does not support the Conservatives for all the reasons with which we are familiar.

    In the last parliament the opposition parties supported many unsavoury bills, always designated as money bills, in order to thwart Harper’s efforts to “force” him to call an unwanted election. Unable to put the opposition in this position, Harper eventually had to call the election himself, breaking the Conservatives’implied promise to govern for a four-year term.

    Will Harper continue the same tactics in the coming months? I believe he will, but perhaps he will be more subtle about it. I do not credit him with the desire to do what is best for Canada – only with his desire to impose his vision of us as being an integral part of a huge consortium of big business covering North America.

    This is not the vision of the majority of Canadians, and not, I would venture to say, of all those people who voted for the Conservatives. I believe they were scared, and thought that Harper would best navigate the coming storm. How? By “staying the course,” and “buying low” while the economy is in free fall.

    What course? Privatizing more government services? Giving more grants to oil companies and banks? Deregulating businesses in the professed belief they can be trusted to protect consumers? Cutting down on national treasury income by lowering the GST two points, which benefited affluent buyers but not people who could not afford to buy large items? Spending more money on military operations in Afghanistan, already at $18 billion plus? Operating our business behind closed doors?

    Perhaps Harper envisions a building boom in constructing more prisons, hiring more guards and cooks and cleaners and paper-pushers to guard a much-expanded prison population. That would put more of our tax dollars into circulation, solve the problem of unemployment, and get rid of all those felons who turn to crime because they can’t earn a living wage. Perhaps those prisoners could be put to work on our faltering infrastructure?

    Someday we will catch up with progressive countries which have abandoned first-past-the-post elections, but obviously that is not going to happen under this government. In the meantime, how do we cope with the present situation of having the tail wag the dog?

    We need to engage our best minds in this urgent question. We know they are not on the government benches, so where are they?

    Help!

  8. Rick Says:

    Do you really think a majority of Canadians would have voted for the unholy coalition of the Liberals, NDP and Bloc? If so, then convince those party leaders to consolidate into a single party, defeat the Government, and take this new combined party to the Canadian pulic in an election. Don’t play this sore loser game of saying a majority of Canadians didn’t pick Harper because obviously even less wanted any of the other alternatives and putting 3 losers together doesn’t make a winner.

  9. Lillian Christie Says:

    I, for one, will Never vote again in a Federal election. What’s the use?

    If the Liberal party (almost decimated in the election) can just take over with Stephen Dion as P.M., aided and abetted by Jack Layton (who really wants to become P.M.) and assisted by the Bloc (who wants to tear apart Canada)can be jettisoned into power without even trying to work with the current government, then I repeat, what’s the use in voting?

    I hope the Governor General tells them all to grow up and work together before our economy goes further into the sewer system.

  10. Jerry Rutherford Says:

    Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister, was properly elected by the people of Canada in a democratic way. These others were not voted in and so have no right to wrest power from a legally governing party. I am appalled that we would even be talking about this at all. It is not what the other party leaders want, but what the people want. This can only be decided by the election process. If the opposition succeeds in a no-confidence vote, then a election must be called no matter what the cost. Otherwise this would be nothing more than a coup which puts us on par with Third World countries. This is nothing more than a power struggle by those who want to be in power without going through Canada’s election process!!!

  11. Peter Bagley Says:

    Bravo Jerry you hit the nail on the head ! these idiots couldn’t do it by themselves , now they act like school yard bullies to gang up on the conservative’s i don’t think the three stooges can agree on any issue to form a good government for any country. Now is not the time to jump to conclusions and try hair brain ideas just on an impulse but to have a cool head and make the right decisions as needed. The people have spoken at the poles! if these sore losers are aloud to take over then i feel our electoral system would be a farce!

  12. Stuart Hertzog Says:

    Unfortunately, the prime minister of Canada is not elected by popular vote, but by parliamentary tradition he or she is the leader of the party that wins the most seats in a general election. You must be confusing the Canadian parliamentary system with the US presidential system, which is easy to do if your gaze is focussed south of the 49th parallel. So although the notion of the Coalition forming the government may be anathema to your ideas of how Canada operates, in fact it is perfectly within the parliamentary traditions of this country.

    You may be interested to read a review of professor Donald Savoie’s book Court Government and the Collapse of Accountability in Canada and the United Kingdom, recently published on our sister site Majority Coalition Canada. It could remove some of your ignorance about Canadian politics and explain just how Stephen Harper gets away with governing this country with just 22% support of the eligible electorate.

  13. Linda C. Arnold Says:

    STOP THE MADNESS ! A coalition government headed by DION ? I don’t want the Bloc looking after my needs They have their own AGENDA !! If another election is called then Stephen Harper gets my vote ALL THE WAY and I hope more Canadians vote the same way and give him a majority so this B.S. doesn’t ever happen again. These POWER HUNGRY IDIOTS must be taken down !

  14. Stuart Hertzog Says:

    The use of CAPITAL LETTERS online is comparable to SHOUTING and is generally frowned upon due to its ASSOCIATION WITH FANATICISM.

  15. R Borghese Says:

    Stuart – You are about to destroy Canada and ruin many lives.

    The Conservatives have been providing Fiscal Stimulus for several years – that’s why Canada is # 1 in the world.

    2 % cut on GST on Mortgage, Cars etc …. $10,000 for some

    $100/month per child $3,600 with 3 kids

    $300 on Ecopass – no need for second car

    Tax credits for kid’s hockey

    Tax credits for kid’s music

    $5,000 tax free savings accounts.

    Not de-regulating banks that wanted to get in on Credit Default swaps and Derivatives like the rest of the World

    Now Britain is following Harper – cut in their GST

    Now USA is following – buying up Mortages (like Canada did already)

    Harper has provided BILLIONS of stimulus into the Economy. Paul Martin’s surplus was Canadian’s being OVER-TAXED.

    Luckily the Conservatives paid down on our debt.

    Do you realize how much the Bloc will steal from Canada in this process ? Please search your conscience and see what is happening here. I pray that this can be stopped.

  16. Stuart Hertzog Says:

    Thank you for recognising that I alone am responsible to the spiritual, moral, and economic quagmire in which we currently find ourselves. I had suspected that I in fact had Supreme Power but was puzzled as to how an impoverished writer and activist such as myself was actually about to destroy Canada and ruin many lives. Now I know why — thank you!

    And incidentally, since you have kindly provided the facts about the Conservative’s economic stimulus program, I have decided to demote Canada down the league of nations, in accordance with other published evidence. So please cancel that #1 designation, it no longer applies.


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