By Adrian Duyzer
Published December 04, 2008
In a cynical speech last night, Prime Minister Stephen Harper crossed the line from partisan into more dangerous territory as he implied that the Liberal-NDP coalition was an attack on Canada's democracy:
Canadians take pride in our history as one of the world's oldest continuous democracies. During the past 141 years, political parties have emerged and disappeared, leaders have come and gone, and governments have changed.
Constant in every case, however, is the principle that Canada's government has always been chosen by the people.
What he's saying here is clear: the coalition is illegitimate and undemocratic. It is, as some are calling it, a "coup", an assault not on the ruling party, but on the country's system of government itself.
This is dangerous language, the sort of language we're accustomed to hearing from rulers like Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, who use it as a blunt weapon to cast political opponents as enemies of the state. Simply put, Harper veered towards calling the coalition treasonous.
That's utter nonsense, of course. Canadians don't choose a prime minister, they elect a Parliament. The prime minister is appointed based on the confidence of Parliament, which Harper no longer has.
Coalition governments are a fact of life in most parliamentary democracies and Harper knows it. His appeal to Canadians rests on the assumption that most Canadians are not familiar with their own system of government and believe it works something like the American system (it doesn't).
This is worse than mere cynicism. This is an attempt to mislead Canadians into believing that they are at risk of a coup.
In other countries, this is a recipe for violence. I don't think that's a risk here, but I do believe that it is destructive to national unity. For that, Harper should apologize. For this entire mess, he ought to resign.