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Two cheers for minority governments

The most recent polls show Mr. Harper and his Tories slipping especially in Quebec where, if he’s to have a majority government, he must succeed. This means that a hung parliament will be with us again. But is that such a bad thing?

Is it a bad thing, for example, to force the Minister of Finance to actually ask for money for his budget instead of just telling parliament that, like it or lump it, the Commons will go through the usual saber dance before it’s all passed, just like the government wanted? This is a crucial area, one I suggest that public doesn’t pay much attention to.

The principal reason for having a parliament in the first place was to control the King’s spending. Now there is no King and he’s been replaced by a Prime Minister. Unlike the King, a PM, with a majority government, spends the public’s money as he wishes.

Technically, of course, the House of Commons can deny even a PM with a majority his monetary demands but as we all know, that doesn’t happen. Remember Liberal John Nunziata who, in 1993, along with all Liberal candidates promised to dump the GST. When the Minister of Finance in the new Liberal government, did not scrap the GST Nunziata voted against the budget? For this egregious sin he was fired out of the Liberal caucus and denied the right to run under the Liberal banner.

Which, then, is the democratic way; a majority government, spending what they choose or a parliament that can supervise and, if necessary, constrain the Minister of Finance?

I say, emphatically, that it’s the latter.

Rafe Mair is a former B.C. Socred cabinet minister. His column appears Mondays in The Tyee.

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