Monday, January 11, 2010

But ... But ... The Liberals Did It!

So, the latest talking point to come out the PMO is that the Liberals have prorogued parliament before, so why is this prorogation such a big deal?

Let's consider this for a moment. Superficially, it almost sounds like a reasonable argument. Except for a couple of things that differentiate Harper's use of prorogation from every Prime Minister before him that I can remember.

First of all, we have to consider timing. In September 2008, Harper called a snap election in September - in direct contravention of the stated principle of his own government's fixed election date law. (I won't argue that he broke his own law - the law itself was fundamentally pointless in the first place)

Then we come along in November of that same year, and Harper has his government table a budget that was designed to provoke the opposition. As soon as talk of a coalition to replace the HarperCon$ popped up, Harper went running to the Governor General for a prorogation - knowing full well that he would likely lose the confidence vote on the budget his newly minted government had just tabled. We are talking about prorogation of the parliament before the government had even begun to execute its stated legislative agenda as set out in the Throne Speech.

This year, Stephen Harper once agains runs behind the skirts of the Governor General - this time to side step having his government held accountable for its role - direct or otherwise - in the mistreatment of detainees in Afghanistan. Public ire was growing, and the attempts to dismiss and marginalize the testimony of people like Richard Colvin were backfiring.

For the most part, I think the Afghan issue is a minor issue in the long run - it will no doubt seriously damage the government's credibility, and hurts Canada's image on the world stage. But, in terms of politics, it is an issue that most people will move beyond fairly easily - as long as they are satisfied that the government has taken steps to resolve the problem.

The pattern is unmistakable - Harper is proroguing parliament not when he has substantially completed his legislative agenda, but instead he is using it as a political tool to avoid precisely what parliament is there for - to hold the government to account - and to hang onto power as long as he possibly can. He certainly cannot claim that he has substantially completed his government's agenda - in fact he's torpedoed it multiple times. This is quite different from past prorogations I can recall.

When this article was brought to my attention, it scared the heck out of me.

In fact, he said it's when Parliament is sitting that Canada's stability comes into question. That's when "the games begin," he said, and his minority Conservative government faces the constant threat of defeat and an election.

"As soon as parliament comes back, we're in a minority Parliament situation and the first thing that happens is a vote of confidence and there will be votes of confidence and election speculation for every single week after that for the rest of the year," he said.

"That's the kind of instability I think that markets are actually worried about. But you know the government will be well-prepared and I think Canadians want to see us focus on the economy. So that's what we're going to be doing."

Uh - wait a second. Harper's missing the entire point and purpose of a parliament - namely to hold the very machinery of government accountable to the people. Here's a Prime Minister arguing that Parliament should be suspended because "it creates instability"? Wrong, Mr. Harper. Very Wrong.

It is Mr. Harper who creates the instability himself. He has not learned the fundamental rule of politics - namely that it is the art of compromise. This is especially true when we are talking about a minority parliament.

But Mr. Harper has never taken responsibility for his own failings as a leader. Instead, it is a constant barrage of blame levelled at the other parties in the house. Never mind that he has his ministers write legislation that is deliberately provocative; or that is so rooted in ideology that it is simply bad legislation.

This is the kind of logic that comes out of third world dictators trying to justify abusing their own countries laws. We should be very careful with Mr. Harper at this time - he appears to be setting up the bed of lies to justify extending the suspension of parliament indefinitely so that he can govern without being accountable at all.

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