Worst Case Scenario
We live in interesting times.
The last few days have been unprecedented in Canadian history. A minority government talks about conciliation and pragmatism, then fails to win the confidence of the house with its fiscal update and its bully tactics. A seeming lame-duck opposition leader suddenly cobbles together a coalition and strives to become Prime Minister and form the government, even after he has announced his resignation as the leader of his party. The coalition is supported by a regional separatist party.
As of now, there is a non-Confidence motion before the house, delayed until December 8th, that would replace the recently re-elected Conservative minority with a Liberal-NDP coalition government, supported by the Bloc. All perfectly legal under out parliamentary system.
As others have noted (like Paul Wells), delaying the vote for a week will give the Conservative 7 days in which to pull out all the stops to paint this as some kind of "coup d'etat", as an undemocratic take over and a partisan move to ensure the Liberals have $7 million in taxpayer funds. They will pull out all the stops, spare no smear in order to stay in power. Indeed, have a read of any of the Blogging Tories for a taste.
On the other side, supporters of the Liberals and NDP, as well as other progressives, will be salivating at the certain defeat of the Harper government. They will be fighting back tooth and nail, excited to finally get power back from the Conservatives.
All of this is to be expected after the last 5 years of highly polarized, partisan politics this country has been indulging in (mostly at the instigation of the Conservative machine).
So I need to temper my progressive friends excitement and anticipation - we are in very dangerous territory. Imagine this:
The Conservative machine whips its base into a frenzy calling the Opposition a "junta" call their actions a "coup d'etat", claiming their actions are a power grab for nefarious reasons. After one solid week of question period and press scrums, accusations and debates, the country is even more polarized. A few provincial leaders have entered the fray, either pledging to work with the impending coalition or flat out stating they will refuse to recognize it.
During this week, the market plunges, the Canadian dollar sinks and investment in general dries up due to instability. The economic crisis deepens even more quickly.
On December 8th, as expected, the motion passes. Liberal Leader Stephane Dion announces his cabinet, and calls on the Governor General to allow him to form a government with the confidence of the house. Prime Minister Stephen Harper refuses to resign and implores the GG to ignore the result. The Conservative Party goes to the Federal Court of Canada asking for an injunction to prevent the Coalition from taking office and a ruling on the legality of the vote.
The Federal Court refuses to rule.
On December 12th, the GG grants Dion's request and asks the coalition to form a government.
Many Conservatives, including Harper, refuse to leave their offices and refuse to recognize the new government as legitimate. Alberta and Saskatchewan refuse to recognize the coalition and refuse to cooperate in any way. Newfoundland, Ontario and Quebec pledge any support the new government needs.
There are demonstrations in Edmonton, Calgary and Saskatoon in support of the Conservatives hold up in Parliament Hill. The Coalition government has the former Conservative government physically removed from the hill, sparking more protests across the country, mostly in the West. There are counter protest in support in Toronto and on the lawn of the Hill.
On December 16th, Linda Duncan, the lone NDP MP in Alberta, is shot outside her constituency office in Edmonton. The next morning, the offices of Pierre Poilievre, John Baird and Gordon O'Connor are fire bombed. One office worker is killed and two others seriously burned. Baird is beaten unconscious by unknown assailants a few hours later.
That afternoon, a protest on Parliament Hill turns into a full blown riot. The RCMP refuses to intervene when ordered to by the Justice Minster and the Ottawa Police step in. The RCMP Commissioner is fired.
On December 19th, Harper announces that the Conservative government is the legitimate government and will operate from Calgary. Police across the country report a surge in politically motivated violence and vandalism.
The Bush Administration refuses to recognize the new Coalition government and deals with Harper in Calgary. Obama refuses to support either, stating it is the internal affair of Canada and he is not yet President. Britain and the EU recognize the Coalition.
On December 23, portions of the RCR from Petawawa, acting on orders from the Harper government, launch and attack on Parliament Hill to capture and arrest Dion and the coalition cabinet. The Governor General Foot Guard, a few Mounties, and hundreds of civilians line up to defend the Coalition and fight back. Spontaneous skirmishes flare up in Toronto and Halifax as Coalition supporters storm local armouries to get weapons and ensure the local militias are not loyal to Harper.
From that point we have civil war...
Outrageous, right? Far-fetched?
Perhaps, but given how polarized we are now, and how far the Conservatives will go in the coming weeks to stop the vote, it is possible. If you look at each of the steps I outlined, they aren't so far fetched nor unprecedented in Canadian history. We are in a situation once seen by people in Yugoslavia or in Spain.
This scenario - the worst case scenario - is still possible. Or something similar. Or perhaps only some of this. The seeds of this kind of thing - the partisanship, the polarization and the demonization of ones political enemies - have been planted and are growing in our political culture.
This scenario is more likely than I think people want to admit.
Are we prepared for this? Have you picked a side?