A couple of weeks ago we here in Canada and a nice little political dust-up. If you are interested in a great summary of the events, Macleans has a fantastic piece, linked to the title, detailing the timeline and the people pulling the strings.
What's missing is a detailed account of what was said in the 2 and 1/2 hours that Prime Minister Steven Harper met with Governor General Michelle Jean. Fortunately, I was able to get a transcript of their conversation and have, gentle readers, included it here. (For purposes of full disclosure, I submitted it to the Edmonton Journal but they have - thus far - declined to publish it :-))
When Steven met Michelle – by Douglas McLachlan
Governor-General Michelle Jean: Prime Minister Harper, please come in. I was asked to cut my European trip short, you wouldn’t happen to know why?
Prime Minister Harper: Yes your Excellency, I need to you to prorogue Parliament.
GG: Really, didn’t I just deliver a Throne Speech two weeks ago?
PM: Well, yes, but…
GG: All that stuff about working together must have really struck a chord. I misjudged you Mr. Harper. I always took you as a partisan and inflexible man. I was wrong. To get so much done so quickly must have taken real statesmanship, I’m impressed.
PM: Actually, there’s been a bit of a crisis brewing while you have been away.
GG: I know, I know. This economic situation is a global concern. My trip took me to four former Soviet dictatorships with no history of political compromise all governed by multi-party coalitions that, in spite of all their differences and disputes, are stable, effective, focused on the economic... Oh, just listen to me. What do they know? You were able to get our economic response ready in two weeks! That sort of effort puts their messy new democracies to shame. So tell me what is the plan to stimulate the economy that you and your colleagues settled on?
PM: Well, actually, we haven’t got that worked out yet. I sort of provoked the Opposition by threatening to take their funding away. You see I acted like they wouldn’t mind so much if I included a plan to strip civil servants of their right to strike; deny women on the federal payroll pay equity; and change the name of Calgary to the City of Champions. I mean I did say that we would have a government surplus this year – even though we most certainly won’t – so it’s not like I didn’t mention the economy.
GG: Your government actually said all that? In Parliament?
PM: Well everything except the City of Champions stuff, I was talked out of that by Day. That man won’t stand up for anything.
GG: How did the Opposition react?
PM: They threatened to vote it down, which was sort of the plan, but they tricked me. I figured that they would bluff me. I would bluff back. Tensions build. Tempers fly. In feigned exasperation at the brinksmanship I come to you and get you to call another election.
GG: Like this fall when you told me we needed an election because Parliament wasn’t working even though nobody would vote against your government no matter what you did?
PM: Exactly. So I could get a majority.
GG: I can’t say I’m pleased to hear this but…
PM: Oh, it gets better. The Opposition actually got together and agreed on an alternative Government, a Coalition. The Liberals and the NDP put aside their differences and said they would work together for 30 months! I can’t work with my own staff for that long – its nonsense! They had a signing ceremony and everything.
GG: So why am I still talking to you again?
PM: Here’s the kicker. They even get the Bloc to say that they won’t defeat this Coalition!
GG: Come to think of it I thought I saw a letter amongst all these Canadian Tire flyers…
PM: Working with the Bloc?!? That’s my thing! Dion and Layton, they took my thing! I’ve spent years being nice to them and this is how they treat me. I’ve changed my tune now. As of last week the Bloc are a bunch of separatist traitors hell-bent on destroying the country. Well at least in English. In French I’ve been calling them sellouts to the nationalist cause. National Unity politics is a hobby of mine, it’s all about putting the right accent on the firewall…
GG: So you didn’t see this coalition plan coming?
PM: No. Which surprises me a little, given that I’m always taping their meetings, but that Dion is a tricky one. Have you ever looked at him, I mean really looked at him?
GG: Umm. No.
PM: He’s blurry. Strangest thing I’ve ever seen.
GG: When did you last get any sleep?
PM: Anyhow, they are threatening to vote non-confidence in my government and ask you to give their Coalition a chance. The vote has been put off once already but they really seem intent on defeating me. It’s right before Christmas and we just put up the tree. So, as I said in the beginning, I really would appreciate it if you could prorogue Parliament.
GG: Let me see if I have this straight. In the midst of a historic global economic crisis you intentionally created a political crisis and now are coming to me so we can have a constitutional crisis. Do you have any friends?
PM: Not really, they get in the way of the scheming. If I get through this I might want to get to know that Layton better. I think this was all his idea. You hardly notice him down there with the moustache. He’s shorter than he looks on television, you know.
GG: People will say I am giving you a free pass.
PM: Call it a cooling off period. A time-out, like in a hockey game, Canadians will understand that.
GG: Ok, I’ll give you your time-out. Think of it as an early Christmas Present.
PM: Thanks. You really are the best. I hope you can forget all the things I said and had others say about your French citizenship and your husband’s separatist dinner parties.
GG: Sure. There is one thing you should remember.
PM: What’s that?
GG: When they call a time-out in hockey, the clock stops running but it doesn’t reset. You are still down a goal. Your caucus colleagues might want to think about pulling the goalie.
Douglas McLachlan is an Edmonton lawyer, former Federal Candidate and father of a three and a half year-old girl who gets a time-out when she acts like she’s in Question Period.