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Martin has violated the most fundamental rule of Canadian democracy Print E-mail
Written by Link Byfield   
Monday, 23 May 2005

So here we are, glumly facing another year of empty Martin rhetoric and plump political handouts.

By bribing Tory glamour-girl Belinda Stronach with a post in the Liberal cabinet, the Martin government finally managed to survive a confidence vote, for the first time in nine days.

Anyone who thinks this government is now legitimate is dreaming.

We should have been in an election two weeks ago.

After the Liberals lost a vote of confidence on May 10, they were governing illegally. There's no other word for it.

The now ever-so-Liberal, ever-so-"Honorable" Belinda should not be in the cabinet. Martin had no legitimate power to appoint her.

The instant--the instant--a governing party loses a vote of confidence, it is constitutionally compelled to relinquish power and seek a valid mandate.

So when the government lost that vote on May 10, and then lost control of the House for days on end, Martin should have asked the Governor General for an election.

At the very least, his government should have presented its own motion of confidence to the House the very next day. It still would have lost.

The government must have--and be seen to have--the support of a Commons majority. That is the most important principle of Canadian democracy, the first and greatest commandment.

Otherwise, what entitles it to remain the government? Why not the general staff of the armed forces (aside from the fact they're not really armed)? Why not the Supreme Court, or the Canadian Chamber of Commerce?

What's most astonishing in all this is the stubborn disinterest of the Canadian people.

That goes double for Ontario, where Liberal strength is based and every Liberal crime is excused.

We shrug. We grumble. We get fobbed off with bafflegab. Basically, we don't care.

When Harper gets visibly angry about the government remaining illegally in office, on top of all its other criminal activities, the Tories immediately start to sink in the polls, especially in Ontario. Too negative. Too nasty.

In Canada, Liberals can get angry, but not Conservatives. Liberals can run ugly "American-style" attack ads during elections, but not Conservatives. Liberals can hold extreme positions on social issues, but not Conservatives. Liberals can jeopardize national unity for partisan purposes, but not Conservatives.

Calm down, people say, what's the rush? Martin called his own non-confidence vote after nine days. Isn't that good enough?

No, it's not. The parliamentary rule demands an immediate resignation, and for a reason. A clear line must be drawn, or soon no line exists.

As it was, Martin took more than a week to buy enough time to shore up his beaten government. His blind thirst for power mattered more to him than our time-honored right to choose a new government.

But if nine days hadn't sufficed, why not a month? Three months? A year? Why bother with an election at all?

The Liberals had a rule to follow, and they broke it. They violated the most fundamental rule of Canadian democracy.

Any country that lets its politicians get away with behavior so abusive and disgraceful does not deserve democracy, and will not long have it.
- Link Byfield

Link Byfield is chairman of the Edmonton-based Citizens Centre for Freedom and Democracy, and an Alberta senator-elect.
"Just Between Us" is a feature service of the Citizens Centre for Freedom and Democracy. The purpose of the Citizens Centre is to enhance freedom and democracy by enabling ordinary citizens to become active and effective on important issues outside the normal processes of party politics.

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