Thursday, January 26, 2006

Aboriginals and the New Government

New governments make their hearts known by the first things they do. Like all good stories, the introduction sets the stage; unfortunately in politics, the conclusion of each party’s story in power is generally the same – either corruption or weariness creates a demand for change. But for the first part of their story, they do have a chance to be different and try to create positive change.

And change is what Canadians voted for on January 23rd, 2006. Or was it? Stephen Harper’s minority government was given a very very short leash and the Liberal Party of Canada was given a time out – exactly what Canadians wanted. However, small ‘l’ liberals hold the majority of seats in parliament and a super majority of the popular votes went anywhere left of Harper’s Conservatives. So, how will Canada’s so-called far right respond to the voters' call for moderate, status quo, and centrist politics?

How will Stephen Harper begin his first chapter of the story of his conservative government?

Of note to minorities, and particularly Canada’s aboriginal communities, will be the question of how Harper will approach agreements such as the Kelowna accord. Harper stated ideological goal (since the mid-nineties and affirmed in the 2006 election) has been to divest Ottawa of power in favour of the provinces. In contrast, his prior party’s policy goal with aboriginals has been to divest aboriginals in favour of Ottawa.

Although Stephen Harper has no mandate to legislate without cross-party cooperation, the executive power of the Prime Minister’s office is great. Accordingly, his first real moves (beyond symbolic acts of parliament) will come through executive decisions. So, watch closely to see what kind of Prime Minister Canada has and how he chooses to use the only real power given to him by the People of Canada.

We are all interested in knowing what kind of story Stephen Harper wants to write, and we will know sooner rather than later by what he does, and does not do, in chapter one of the new conservative story.

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