Crisis in Ottawa: The view from the West

What the pundits are saying

Roger Gibbins, president and CEO of the Canada West Foundation, writing in the Vancouver Sun, argues the Governor-General should pull a Nancy Regan and Just Say No to all the shenanigans. To suggest that the Governor General has no choice in the matter “ignores that the beauty of her position, and also the difficulty of her choice, stems from the fact that she has discretion.” The Constitution, Gibbins says, recognizes that there are times when “intelligence and judgment must be brought into play. There is no question that this is one of those times.”

Todd Babiak notes in the Edmonton Journal that the Alberta capital has been largely ignored by the Harper Tories and finds no reason to fear the coalition. “Attempting to cripple the opposition [by proposing to revoke campaign subsidies], and therefore debate and criticism, is a much more profound assault against democracy. As the national portrait gallery debacle demonstrated so fluently, conditions have not improved for Edmonton since 2006, when the Conservatives swept Alberta and took control of Ottawa. Why would they? According to the Conservative war room, we’re a strategic void.”

The Calgary Sun’s shamanic Rick Bell says it’s one thing to hate the idea of a crippled Stéphane Dion and inexperienced Jack Layton teaming up to govern the country while relying on the Bloc Québécois to act as a crutch. It’s just not all that useful right now: “We know everything is spinning out of control. Premier Ed yesterday urges all parties to ‘put Canada first and stop the nonsense’ and deal with a financial meltdown he calls ‘the biggest elephant in the room.’ Unfortunately, it’s tough to hunt an elephant when you’ve got the guns squarely pointed at each other.”

Neil Waugh of the Edmonton Sun fears Alberta’s cash cow might be destined for the slaughterhouse if NDP members are invited to sit at the Cabinet table. “[Layton] will now be able to be judge and executioner of Fort McMurray for real, especially after Dion revealed the deal maker with Duceppe.” But he holds out hope that a rumoured “Coalition West [might] fight off the eastern invaders. Saskatchewan’s solid Premier Brad Wall is contacted. So is B.C.’s flaky Gordon Campbell.”

Murray Mandryk, writing in the Regina Leader-Post, takes up Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall’s lament that none of this coalition talk would have happened had it not been for the misplaced “gamesmanship” included in the Harper government’s economic statement. “If it was about leadership, we wouldn’t be here,” says the premier. Still, the solution the Liberals and NDP are proposing is simply unpalatable to Wall. “If any coalition requires formal support from separatists, it’s wrong,” he says—even when it involves the Conservatives, who appear to have conveniently forgotten that Harper was every bit as eager to get in bed with separatists and form a coalition to bring down Paul Martin’s minority Liberal government.

In Saskatoon, StarPhoenix columnist Randy Burton compares Harper to disgraced former Saskatchewan premier Grant Devine, a Progressive Conservative who prorogued the provincial legislature in 1991 after it became clear his own MLAs might vote down his government’s budget. “Devine’s government staggered on to the fall of that year, but the early prorogation only underlined the image of a government no longer in control of its own agenda.” Burton adds that if Harper’s successful and prorogues the House, he will be “a hunted man who will no longer be able to throw around the phrase ‘weak leader.’”

Tom Brodbeck, of the Winnipeg Sun, calls the prospect of a coalition government in Ottawa “one of the greatest threats to our country” since its foundation 141 years ago. “Not only would we have a prime minister who was not elected by the people and whose platform was categorically rejected by Canadian voters just six weeks ago, we would for the first time in history have separatists in Parliament with their hands on the levers of power.”

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