As The Globe and Mail’s John Ibbitson has noted, “Mr. Singh was speaking nonsense.”
At this point, if the prime minister asks for an election, the governor general will have no realistic choice but to grant his request.
If you don’t believe Ibbitson (or me), take a look at these two blogs (here and here) by the expert on this issue, Carleton University’s Philippe Lagassé.
And if that isn’t good enough for you, try Lagassé’s 18-page academic explanation, complete with 80 footnotes.
Like Ibbitson and others, I suspect that Lagassé is disappointed in Singh’s actions.
Such letters, he suggests in an earlier blog, “are mostly performative. The writers know it’s not going to happen, but it helps draw attention to their cause. But it also feeds ignorance about our constitution and undermines our democratic principles. That doesn’t help anybody.”
Put another way, Singh is deliberately spreading misinformation, and for that he should be ashamed.
It seems to me, however, that such criticism lets the NDP leader off too easily.
In this particular case, Singh’s hypocrisy is absolutely breath-taking.
Less than a year ago, the NDP premier of British Columbia, John Horgan, approached BC’s lieutenant governor, Janet Austin, to request a snap election.
At the time, just like Prime Minister Trudeau, Horgan held a minority of the seats in the BC legislature.
But, again like Trudeau, his grasp on power, and consequent ability to run the business of government, was secure – in this case thanks to a signed confidence and supply agreement with the BC Green Party.
Horgan’s decision was widely criticized at the time as a cynical attempt at a power grab by a leader who the polls suggested was well-positioned to secure a majority.
But I don’t recall Singh or his party having any problem with it.
Personally, I was disappointed by Horgan’s actions, and if Prime Minister Trudeau takes us to an election prior to October 2023, I will find his move similarly upsetting.
I don’t see a compelling public policy reason to force an election right now, especially given the likelihood of a fourth wave of COVID-19 this fall.
I was also less than impressed in 2010 when Prime Minister Stephen Harper suggested that “losers don’t get to form coalitions” under the Westminster-style system.
His statement was both crass and untrue (any combination of political parties that can secure the confidence of the House can form a government, no matter whether any of them won the most seats in the previous election), and he knew it.
His close ally, Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, had done exactly that one year earlier, and Mr. Harper certainly didn’t object then.
Some readers might counter that politics has always been ugly, and that it is naïve to expect better of our elected representatives.
I understand the sentiment, but Mr. Singh has been appealing to Canadian youth by suggesting that he’s a different sort of politician.
His letter to Mary Simon suggests otherwise.
And that is a shame.
I suspect that you will find a more sympathetic take on Mr. Singh’s thinking about political life in his memoir, Love & Courage: My Story of Family, Resilience, and Overcoming the Unexpected.
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