Stéphane Dion

Response to PM Stephen Harper on Opposition Coalition

delivered 3 December 2008, Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Ontario

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[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]

My dear fellow Canadians:

Canada is facing the impacts of the global economic crisis. Our economy is on the verge of a recession. Canadians are worried about losing their jobs, their homes, their savings. Every economist in the country is predicting increased job losses and deficits for the next few years. The federal government has a duty to act and help Canadians weather this storm.

Stephen Harper still refuses to propose measures to stimulate the Canadian economy. His mini-budget last week demonstrated that his priority is partisanship and settling ideological scores. The Harper Conservatives have lost the confidence of the majority of Members of the House of Commons. In our democracy, in our parliamentary system, in our Constitution, this means that they have lost the right to govern.

Canadians don’t want another election. They want Parliamentarians to work together. That’s our job. Canadians want their MPs to put aside partisanship and focus on the economy. The Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party are ready to do this. Jack Layton and I have agreed to form a coalition -- a coalition government to address the impact of the global economic crisis. The Bloc has agreed to support this government on matters of confidence. The Green Party has also -- has also agreed to support it.

Our system of government was not born with Canada. It is ancient. There are rules that govern it and conventions that guide it.

Coalitions are normal and current practice in many parts of the world, and are able to work very successfully. They work with simple ingredients: consensus, goodwill, and cooperation. Consensus is a great Canadian value. In this spirit, we Liberals have joined in a coalition with the NDP. We have done so because we believe we can achieve more for Canadians through cooperation than through conflict. We believe we can better solve the challenges facing Canada through teamwork and collaboration, rather than blind partisan feuding and hostility.

Our coalition is a consensus, a consensus to govern with a well-defined program to address the most important issues facing the country: the economy. It is a program to preserve and create jobs and to stimulate the economy in all regions of the country. The elements of the program need to be spelled out and this is what we will do if we are allowed to present it to the House of Commons -- your House of Commons.

We share the frustration Canadians have about the political crisis that has been allowed to take prominence over the more important economic challenges we face. Elsewhere in the world, leaders are working to cope with the recession, to bring forward the kinds of investments that will help their people and their economies. Politicians are working together elsewhere in the world. Rivals are working together. Why not in Canada?

Mr. Harper’s solution is to extend that crisis by avoiding a simple vote. By suspending Parliament and continuing the confusion. We offer a better way. We say settle it now; and let’s get to work on the people’s business. A vote is scheduled for next Monday. Let it proceed. And let us all show maturity in accepting the result with grace and the larger task of serving Canadians in mind.

Within one week, a new direction will be established, a tone and focus will be set. We will gather with leaders of industry and labor, and provinces and territories, to work, unlike the Conservatives, in a collaborative, but urgent manner to protect jobs.

To stimulate the economy and create good well-paying -- well-paid jobs, we will not only accelerate already planned investments, but we will invest significantly -- significantly more in our country’s infrastructure, helping our cities like Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Montreal, Halifax and many others build modern, efficient public transit system[s]. Investing in our rural communities so that cherished ways of lifes [sic] are protected for future generations. We can stimulate our economy through investments in clean energy, clean water, and our gateways.

We will invest in our manufacturing, forestry, and automotive sectors to protect and create jobs. We believe that in these tough economic times government has a role to play -- your government has a role to play -- to ensure that those who are doing their share for the prosperity of our country can continue to provide for the wellbeing of their families.

In times like this, our compassion as a country is tested. We believe it is imperative that the government offers Canadians who have already lost their job, whether in the factories of South Western Ontario or the forests of Eastern Quebec and British Columbia, the support they need to live in dignity and develop new skills. That is precisely what we intend to provide.

Earlier today, I wrote Her Excellency the Governor General. I respectfully asked her to refuse any request by the Prime Minister to suspend Parliament until he has demonstrated to her that he still commands the confidence of the House. If Mr. Harper wants to suspend Parliament he must first face a vote of confidence. In our Canada, the government is accountable for its decisions and actions in Parliament -- your Parliament. In our Canada, the government derives its legitimacy from an elected Parliament -- elected by you.

Allow me to end tonight on a personal note. If I am entrusted with the role of Prime Minister for the next months that I have left to serve, I will work day and nights [sic]to combat this economic crisis, to do what it takes to minimize its effects on Canadians -- my fellow Canadians -- to protect jobs and to create jobs.

Good night. Thank you so much. Good night.


Book/CDs by Michael E. Eidenmuller, Published by McGraw-Hill (2008)

Also in this Database: PM Stephen Harper: Address to the Nation On Separatist Opposition to Elected Government

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