Canada cannot be both a parliamentary and a populist democracy.
Parliamentary Democracy In Crisis, an explosive new book analyzing December's constitutional showdown, written by 15 of Canada's leading parliamentary experts, says Canada must bridge its two largely irreconcilable democratic cultures or face an uncertain future.
Canada's two solitudes are no longer Quebec and English Canada. Today, the two solitudes are Historic Canada and The West.
Polls taken during the crisis found that Historic Canada -- Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes -- backed parliamentary democracy and the Liberal-NDP coalition supported by the Bloc Quebecois. Under parliamentary democracy, the government of the day must win and maintain the confidence of a majority of the members of parliament to retain power.
The West overwhelmingly supported the populist outcome -- a two-month prorogation allowing the minority Conservative government to avoid defeat on a confidence vote. Populist democracy, as promulgated by Reform Party leader Preston Manning, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his former chief strategist Tom Flanagan, favours the American presidential model of one directly elected leader not responsible to the legislature but answerable only to the people.
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Simon Fraser University professor Andrew Heard says Harper's prorogation was "unconstitutional... (T)his type of manoeuvre is simply unheard of among modern established democracies. It is a fundamental abuse of power to shut down a newly elected parliament at the moment when it is poised to vote non-confidence in the incumbent government."
The University of Toronto's Peter Russell says the crisis has "left a legacy that could be the basis of a serious constitutional crisis in the near future: a country dangerously divided over the fundamental principles and the rules of its parliamentary democracy."
The most damning indictment comes from David Cameron, chair of the University of Toronto's political science department. "Stephen Harper demonstrated that there was no bridge he would not burn, no low road he would not take, to stay in power. Beyond the deceit and the intentional obfuscation, what could not be forgiven was the prime minister's willingness to conjure up our national-unity demons...
"Successive prime ministers have seen it as their duty to manage the national unity file with prudence and care; to light a match near a can of gasoline -- to set east against west... simply for the sake of personal political survival was to scatter this primordial leadership obligation to the four winds."
Read the Winnipeg Free Press column here.