Monday, December 01, 2008

I'm so embarrassed....

Listening/reading/viewing the commentary on current developments in parliament, I am left banging my head against the wall at the apparent total ignorance of the vast majority of Canadians about how a parliamentary system works. Every time I hear/read/see someone calling the coming change of government/Prime Minister a "coup" or "undemocratic" or whatever, I can't help but thinking it an indictment not of the opposition parties, but of Social Studies teachers everywhere who failed to teach their students the fundamentals of how democracy works in this country.

I'm fully sympathetic to Conservative supporters who say, "darn, I never saw that coming!", just as they were understanding that I was disappointed that the Conservatives managed to hang on to another minority government (for a while anyway). We all have to put up with it when the majority vote against what we think is the obvious best policy. But to characterize current developments as undemocratic, or as a 'coup' or 'treason' is just, well, embarrassing.

The majority of us did not vote for Harper. He did NOT get the mandate from the people for a majority government that he had hoped for. Even then, he got his chance to form a minority government, but any minority government has to win over at least a few of the opposition MPs/parties each time to survive. Harper's mistaken belief that he could introduce any legislation he liked and that there was nothing anyone could do about it (because the other parties could not dare force another election) strongly suggests both an undemocratic stance (i.e., not valuing the fundamental Canadian value of compromise) and a dangerously arrogant/naive understanding of Canadian parliamentary procedure. But parliament is working exactly as intended. The majority of MPs, representing the majority of Canadians, are ousting a Prime Minister and cabinet that no longer hold the confidence of the House. This is how the system works, and has worked stretching back to before there was a Canada to British parliamentary precedents. How could anyone in this country graduate high school and not understand this?

It's embarrassing.

They don't have to like the way things have played out, but they should at least be able to understand it.

January I get a new crop of Social Studies student teachers -- and they had better, by god, be ready to demonstrate that they take Social Studies seriously, not just a way to kill an hour between English and Mathematics. They had better be prepared to stand up and say, "No, you can't cancel Social Studies this week for school assembly because Social Studies is important. Can we cancel Phys Ed instead?" Or words to that effect. Because right now, it doesn't look like the previous crops have been doing their job.

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