Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Damned Autocrats

It's been quite a revealing few days in Ottawa. It's rare that a government and its leader reveal their strips so clearly in such a compressed timeframe.

We start the week off with Gwynn Morgan's rejection by the parliamentary committee setting up the Conservative's committee responsible for government appointments. Complaining that this is some kind of partisan assassination, Harper goes into a sulk:

The show of opposition muscle sparked an angry response from the Prime Minister.

Mr. Harper said he would not put forward another candidate until his party holds a majority of seats in Parliament and can control the process of fulfilling the Tories' promise to change how appointments are made.

"The opposition parties don't want to do that, so what that tells us is we won't be able to clean up the process in this minority Parliament," he told reporters.

The first stripe: "I can't get it all my way, so I'm going to go sulk" - kind of reminds me of the grade school squabbles over a game of marbles. In other words, Harper doesn't have a clue what compromise looks like. He could easily achieve this goal by putting someone else forward after working with the other parties to identify a candidate that is agreeable. So what if the person isn't a long time party fundraiser.

The second stripe: "It's not my fault - it was those other bullies" - expect to see this card played a lot - every time the CPC loses a vote on something it

Moving along, we are introduced to the slow evisceration of the Federal Gun Registry, starting with removing so-called long-guns (rifles, shotguns etc.) from the list of weapons that must be registered. Knowing that getting the registry decomissioned by an act of Parliament would be difficult, if not impossible, the CPC has chosen to undermine it by "government policy" instead.

The classic argument is that the Gun Registry does nothing to stop criminals from using an illegal gun. What people who make this argument forget is that the Gun Registry stems from the actions of Marc Lepine in the late 1980s. Registered firearms have more to do with domestic violence than crime. The requirement to register the gun, as well as ensure it is stored appropriately dramatically reduces the chance that someone will try to use a gun "in the heat of the moment" during a dispute. Similarly, the act of registering a car dramatically increases the odds that someone in an accident will actually have valid insurance. Of course a registered firearm is less likely to be used in a crime - that goes without saying. Domestic violence on the other hand is one of the worst crimes possible because it is often perpetrated in a fit of rage, rather than the cold desperation of someone trying to survive on the streets.

Stripe #3: When they know they can't get their own way in the House of Commons, Harper turns his party not to negotiation and settlement with the other parties, but instead to legislative subterfuge. He'll do more and more of this - he started the day he was sworn in as Prime Minister.

I don't know about you, but to me, this is little different than George W. Bush asserting that his spying programs are perfectly legal because of the powers granted to him after 9/11. While technically true, it is still an egregious abuse of the very notion of a democratically elected governance.

Then we move into today's debate on extending the Afghanistan Mission. I have a couple of problems with this particular little motion and the "debate" around it:

1. Harper announced today that regardless of what the house votes, he's going to extend the Canadian troop commitment in Afghanistan by at least a full year.

2. The situation in Afghanistan is clearly very dangerous, and it is arguable that we are getting sucked into a local civil war in the position of having to take sides.

3. 48 hours is not enough time to gather domain knowledge as to the practicality of Canada's involvement in such a situation, much less actually debate it reasonably. Few MPs have actual military experience, much less an appreciation for the costs, risks and limitations of military intervention in such a situation.

Stripe #4: Harper the Autocrat. Again, today's announcement is a signal to the rest of Canada - do it Harper's Way, because he's not going to pay one iota of attention to anything he didn't think of himself. (classic micro management tactics)

[Update: 18/05/06 06:45]:

We are treated to yet another insight into Harper's cheezy tactics - if you vote with him, you are voting on "principle", but if you vote against him, you must be just "playing partisan political games":

Mr. Harper acknowledged that he was worried throughout the day. He accused the Bloc Québécois of playing political games over the issue, and attributed his narrow victory to Conservatives and "certain Liberals who acted on principle." He said the Bloc was flip-flopping in response to polls.

What utter crap - as if he's the only politician with "principles" (which mostly seem to be Mulroney-esque lies and deceit so far)

[End Update]

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