Friday, December 10, 2010

Conservatives, Liberals and NDP: Coalition of the C-12 unwilling

There are times when all our politicians fail Canadians, and even the most partisan among us have to admit it they’re all behaving like fools. And the actions of the major three parties when it comes to Bill C-12 is one of those times.

C-12 is a government bill that the Conservatives have been in no big hurry to pass, and the opposition parties have shown no particular desire to push them on. It’s been languishing on the order paper for some time. It would expand the size of the House of Commons from 308 seats to 338, giving additional representation to fast-growing and under-represented regions of Ontario (+18 seats), British Columbia (+7 seats) and Alberta (+5 seats).

It wouldn’t go all the way to fixing the severe regional inequalities in the HoC, but it would be an important step. To illustrate the problem, in the recent by-elections there were 120,864 eligible voters in Vaughan versus just 51,198 in Winnipeg-North.

The recent all-around nonsense on C-12 began last week with this story by the Globe’s John Ibbitson:
The Harper government and the opposition parties have agreed to quietly sink legislation that would have given Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta more seats in the House of Commons. As a result, urban and visible-minority voters will continue to be discriminated against in Parliament.

Conservative, Liberal and New Democratic MPs and party strategists, speaking on condition that they not be named, stated this week that the bill has no chance of passage. Although all three national parties remain committed to the principle of equal representation for all Canadians in the House of Commons, in practice, the legislation that would advance that cause has virtually no hope of becoming law.

The Liberals and Conservatives especially feared that passing the bill could harm the electoral prospects of their Quebec MPs.

Facing caucus revolts and potential electoral losses, the government shelved the bill.
Ibbitson’s story was quickly denied by all concerned. First up to bat were the Conservatives, who said it was all nonsense, they totally want to get this bill passed (at some undetermined point in time) and blamed it all on the scary opposition coalition.
This story is completely false.

Today the Prime Minister confirmed that our Government will continue to move forward with our representation by population bill.
The Liberals and NDP both denied any deal, blaming the Conservatives for stalling the legislation as it’s up to them to bring the bill forward for study and debate and they’re not opposed to the bill in principle, although they do want to study it in committee.

While all involved are denying there’s any kind of a deal, Ibbitson’s story does have a ring of truth. The fact is, the Conservatives have been going no where with the bill and the Liberals and the NDP don’t seem to have minded. It wasn’t until they were called out by the Ibbitson story that they started doth protesting muchly.

And I’m still not impressed with any of the reactions. Reading between the lines, I think nothing has changed. It’s all sound and fury for the appearance of action, symbolizing nothing. Take the comments of Carolyn Bennett, Liberal critic for democratic reform, which echo what I’ve heard as the Liberal line on C-12, post-Ibbitson:

No deal exists between federal parties to shelve Bill C-12 on Parliament’s seat redistribution (Federal Parties Agree To Scrap Bill – Dec. 3). On the contrary, Liberals have stated clearly that we will send the bill to committee to give it the thorough consideration it demands and allow an opportunity for consultation that has been sorely missing, particularly with the provinces. Stephen Harper has, as usual, failed to properly consult on this issue with Canadians, and with the provinces in particular. A Parliamentary committee is the appropriate forum to ensure that this consultation occurs and that as parliamentarians, we can be assured that the bill offers fair representation of all Canadians in the House of Commons.
There’s one line that stands out for me here: “and with the provinces in particular.” I like and respect Dr. Bennett, and I know she’s committed to democratic reform and engagement. But she’s off-base here. There is absolutely no reason to consult the provinces on the HoC re-distribution. It’s a completely federal issue that has nothing to do with provincial governments. We have MPs elected from every province and territory to represent their constituents; this is their job.

I can’t help but see the “consult the provinces” line as a stalling-tactic by a Liberal Party that doesn’t want to deal with this issue until after an election. Just like the NDP and Conservatives, who are all professing to support the principle while doing nothing to advance it and are blaming the others for the lack of forward progress on C-12.

They all want the thing stalled because they’re all afraid passing it will lose them support in Quebec (and to a lesser extent, the Maritimes) which, frankly, is a pathetic abdication of responsibility by all involved. But of course they can’t say that, for fear of pissing of Ontario, B.C. and Alberta, who they're screwing-over in their pursuit of gold in Quebec. It’s ridiculous. What’s right is right; these regional inequalities need to be addressed. It’s time to step up and lead. Get the dammed bill to committee, give it the proper study it deserves, get the dammed thing passed, and stop making excuses.

I’ll leave the other parties to their own devices, but to my Liberals, my plea would be this: stop hiding in the corner meekly playing pass the buck on this issue. There is an opportunity to seize some momentum and demonstrate leadership. There is a thirst and a hunger in this country for democratic reform and re-distribution, while a small step, could be important symbolically. So step up and commit strongly to the principle. Demand the government bring C-12 to committee. Bring visibility and prominence to the issue. Outline your own proposals; if you want amendments, what are they? And stop stalling, because your meek protests aren’t fooling anyone.

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1 comment:

CanadianSense said...

Exactly you nailed. For the sake of pandering to QC.

Can you imagine if the Liberals+CPC agreed to run only one candidate in 25 ridings against the Bloc that were vulnerable for a Federal gain?

I believe the Liberals have made a mistake trying to get the Bloc onside. A political party to qualify for funding must run in at least 200 ridings.