WESTON: Majority rules — just about everything
Canadians wondering what Stephen Harper will do with a majority government are about to get their answer — namely, just about anything he wants.
The Conservatives will now have the ability to pass whatever legislation they want — their comfortable majority win gives them complete control over the Commons, and they already dominate the Senate.
Parliamentary committees trying to pry into government spending, secrecy and ethical lapses likely won’t get very far – the Conservatives now have majority control of those, too.
The Prime Minister’s Office already uses cabinet orders to fill the more than 3,500 patronage jobs on federal courts, agencies and boards.
But the Conservative majority will likely embolden Harper to put a conservative stamp on the Supreme Court as well, three members of which are due to retire in the next four years.
One of the prime minister’s first jobs in the coming weeks will be to appoint the most important watchdog in government — a replacement for taxpayers’ best friend, Auditor General Sheila Fraser, whose term is up at the end of this month.
With the opposition unable to block his choice, will the PM appoint a lapdog?
While Harper’s power becomes akin to what has been dubbed a friendly dictatorship, the opposition parties have been all but neutered, their practical powers limited mainly to public persuasion.
Indeed, the irony of Jack Layton’s astounding success at the polls is that it helped to elect a Conservative majority that renders the NDP and other opposition parties virtually powerless in Parliament.
Of course, it remains to be seen what Harper will actually do with his new-found legislative control of Parliament, untethered from the opposition parties, and no longer having to live under the constant threat of a possible election.
Will the Conservatives pass the same budget introduced just before the election? Not likely.
Will they take a buzz-saw to the bureaucracy? Good chance of that.
Will they use their majority to finally reward their right-wing core on social conservative issues such as abortion and capital punishment? Don’t count on it.
The one thing Harper wants more than anything else is to ensure the Liberal party is not only defeated, but decimated, a goal that will tend to keep the Conservatives close to the centre of the political spectrum.
The Conservatives have made a good start on obliterating the Liberals, reducing them to an historic third-place standing in Parliament in Monday’s election.
That alone puts the Grits perilously close to a death spiral.
The Liberals immediately lose the millions of dollars in cash, personnel and other perks that went with their being the official Opposition.
One of those advantages is prominence in the daily Commons question period which, despite its dubious value to ordinary Canadians, offers politically valuable daily television exposure.
Finally, if Harper is determined to drive a spike through the heart of Gritdom, he will use his majority in parliament to end public financing of political parties.
Out of money and out of sight in a majority Conservative Parliament, the Liberals will be struggling just to survive to the next election.