Confidence Issue Moot If Governor General Advised to Dissolve Parliament
The Right Honourable Paul Martin
In recent days, a majority of Members of the House of Commons has voted in favour of two motions by Her Majesty's loyal opposition, the constitutional implications of which are controversial and contested. I am speaking, of course, of the May 10, 2005 motion "to recommend that the government resign because of its failure to address deficiencies in governance of the public service", and the May 12, 2005 motion to adjourn the House early in the day. It is clear that opinion is split primarily on the issue of whether those motions constituted motions of no confidence. Whereas it is most arguably true that neither motion was a de jure (i.e., "in law") motion of no confidence, it would appear equally true that both motions were de facto (i.e., "in fact") motions of no confidence.
That said, this is no time for academic debate. The controversy concerning the constitutional implications of such motions (and it would appear that more will be brought) is not a healthy one. With each such motion, disgrace is brought upon all political parties in the House: the Canadian people are not well served by increased cynicism about those who run for public office, or about the important organizations that endorse them. With each such motion, the respectability of constitutional conventions is undermined as the peoples' common sense clashes with constitutional lawyers' technical correctness: largely unwritten, our constitutional laws - and our form of government - are mocked and thusly imperiled. With each such motion, the Her Excellency the Governor General must, in accordance with Her responsibilities in protecting the integrity of our system of governance, contemplate whether the importance of fact surpasses that of law in the triggering of unilateral action. And, with each day of governmental paralysis, combined with inaction by the Governor General, the message of the anti-monarchist forces of secession is given increased, if undue, weight.
Prime Minister, as you know, there are times to fight, times to concede defeat, and times to declare a draw. I respectfully submit that, in the interest of all Canadians, this is a time in which to declare a draw. Should you advise Her Excellency the Governor General to dissolve Parliament and drop the election writ, the issue of whether or not Canada's government has the confidence of Parliament will be rendered a moot point; in tomorrow's history books, the issue of whether the government truly had the confidence of Parliament will be reduced to a footnote; and, in the politically significant weeks to come, the issue of confidence will be an issue finding importance only in the minds of a handful of academics. At this point in time, a Prime Ministerial advice to the Governor General that Parliament be dissolved would constitute neither an admission nor an implication that the government lacks the confidence of the House. In the current circumstances, such Prime Ministerial advice most clearly and fairly could be interpreted not as the only remedy for a constitutional crisis, but as a generous, responsible and practical solution to a political stalemate, indicative of self-confidence and sound judgment. In short, such Prime Ministerial action would be the legitimate and appropriate result of an agreement to disagree on the issue of Parliament's confidence.
Prime Minister, no matter how this matter is resolved, there can be no winners, and no losers, amongst Members of Parliament and their respective political parties. Only the people, governmental institutions, and reputation of Canada will suffer from an ongoing battle within the walls of the lower House. I trust that you will give my words fair consideration, and that you will do what is in the best interests of Canada, the monarchy and, most importantly of all, Canadians.
Paul McKeever, B.Sc.(Hons), M.A., LL.B.
c.c. Her Excellency the Governor
General, Hon. Stephen Harper, Mr. Gilles Duceppe, Mr. Jack Layton
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