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The opposition 'pact of steel' was built on seven lies, and it has failed Print E-mail
Written by Link Byfield   
Saturday, 06 December 2008
Link Byfield

Canada changed this past week. We grew up a little.

The political crisis is over. It ended yesterday, when two national polls showed that by a margin of two to one, Canadians want Harper to govern, and will give him a majority if he is defeated.

The coup failed.

The proposed parliamentary coalition of Liberals, NDP and Bloc was made possible and driven forward by a longstanding assumption among many, many Liberals that they – and they alone – have the right to rule Canada.

It was this assumption of divine right that drew the Liberals into the deadly embrace of the NDP and the Bloc, neither of which they think threatens them, and this assumption that puts heat but not light into their endless demonizing of Prime Minister Harper, and which (in their minds at least) justifies all their lies.

Yes, lies. The coalition was built on a whole series of whoppers that were so obvious even Canadians could see them.

The first and most obvious was that the Bloc Quebecois was not part of the coalition. If it wasn’t, why was Gilles Duceppe (literally) in the picture?

The second was that the Bloc is not really a separatist party – or that if it is, it doesn’t matter. Most Canadians could see that a Quebec-first, Quebec-only party would have a chokehold on national affairs for as long as this new government wanted to survive.

The third whopper was that two-thirds of Canadians had voted for the coalition. No, they didn’t. Nobody did. In fact Dion promised in the campaign he would never coalesce with the NDP, much less the Bloc.

The fourth was that the Canadian economy is in a “tailspin.” It isn’t. The fifth was that Harper had “no plan.” He does, and they already know what it is. The sixth was that Harper would not compromise or co-operate; he was doing both, and they were refusing. The seventh was that their new government would be more stable than the present one; it wouldn’t.

Dion, the putative prime minister, is not just a political lame duck, he is a dead duck. The two strongest contenders to replace him hate each other, threatening to split the party. The putative deputy prime minister, Layton, leads a party that has for seventy years mocked and reviled the Liberals as sell-outs. And the Bloc could be counted on to sink the government the moment any new prime minister showed signs of popularity in Quebec.

And how did Canadians react to all this?

Pollster Ipsos Reid found that 72% of Canadians were genuinely alarmed by what was happening in Parliament, 68% supported the decision of the Governor General to prorogue Parliament until January 26, and 62% said they were “angry” about the coalition destabilizing the government. Ipsos, supported by almost identical numbers from Ekos, found that if an election were held now, 46% would vote Tory, 23% Liberal and 13% NDP. This puts the Tories up 8 points, the Liberals down 3 and the NDP down 5 from the October election, and would deliver a large majority to the Conservatives.

Moreover, 59% told Ipsos they consider Harper a better economic leader than Dion and the coalition, 60% said they opposed changing the government, and 56% said they would prefer a second election. As for Harper’s unforgivable sin of proposing to terminate Chretien’s direct government funding of political parties, 61% of Canadians agree with it. (Details of the Ipsos Reid poll at

All of which fully vindicates the prime minister. His only mistake – one I’m sure he will never repeat – was to believe a Liberal promise that they would never join with others to take power. Live and learn. The danger now is less that Harper will lose the government, it’s that he will start imagining he’s bullet-proof.

In any case, barring a political lightening strike somewhere, the insurrection is over. Even if the opposition coalition survives long enough to defeat the budget in January, the chances of which now appear remote, I’d give even odds the Governor General would dissolve Parliament and call an election.

Should we be surprised? Well, I am. The opposition pressed all the usual hot and cold buttons – liberal compassion, co-operation and unity, as against harsh conservative hostility, divisiveness and Quebec-bashing – and for once, most Canadians aren’t buying it.

In a way, it reminds me of the Charlottetown referendum in 1992. You may recall how almost everyone with any power or prestige, from politicians to pundits to entertainers, berated Canadians to vote in favour of a constitutional deal, and they didn’t. They voted no.

This was another of those moments.

Like Charlottetown, it was a painful crash course in constitutionalism – and we passed.

As Harper once liked to say, God bless Canada.

Link Byfield is an Alberta senator-elect and chairman of the Citizens Centre. The Centre promotes the principles of personal freedom and responsible government.

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