Saturday, December 14, 2013

Mr. Coyne's Flaccid Critique

Andrew Coyne's latest column starts off with a clear enough statement of how the Harper Government has engaged in tactics which prevent the engines of parliament from holding those in power accountable.
Not only was the House of Commons conveniently shuttered, but neither the minister responsible, Lisa Raitt, nor any Canada Post executives were on hand to answer questions regarding this drastic reduction in public services. But then, in this they were only following the example set by the prime minister, who has for months avoided answering questions about the scandal that is slowly destroying his government.
Then he promptly does the usual dodge that we have seen from conservative apologists ever since Harper become the leader of the new Conservative Party:  turn around and try to blame other parties for the sad state of affairs in Ottawa these days.
Ottawa is increasingly a town in lockdown — as often as not with all-party support. MPs of all parties have resisted having their expenses either audited or disclosed. All parties agreed to a plan to compel Hill staffers to sign lifetime gag orders (though the bad publicity may force a rethink), just as all parties colluded this spring to prevent Mark Warawa and other MPs from speaking their mind in Parliament.  
Seriously, Mr. Coyne?  Do you really think that Canadians have forgotten the ever so brilliant move of the Harper Government in its nascent years of publishing a manual for his MPs to disrupt parliamentary committees?  Or perhaps you think that we don't realize that Harper's MPs dominate the very committees and votes he is referring to?

Make no mistake, Mr. Coyne.  Parliament may have been in rough shape in 2006 when Harper took power.  He has since turned it into a shambles.  Harper has gone to unprecedented lengths to exert direct control over all aspects of Ottawa.  The cloak of secrecy that we are seeing today is very much the creation of one man:  Stephen Harper.

Past PMs may have violated some of the tenets of a Westminster Parliament, but none have abused its good name to such a degree.  Prime Ministers past have used prorogation to reset the legislative business of parliament when they have largely completed the work set out in the last Throne Speech.  Harper, on the other hand, has used that same tool to avoid being held accountable.  Harper is the only Prime Minister in Canadian history to be voted "In Contempt of Parliament" for his behaviour.

He has created omnibus bills to deliver a payload of Trojan Horse legislation which has little to do with the budget implementation, and then used closure to limit debate and ram this legislation through - unamended.  Under Harper, accepting an amendment to a bill is to admit error, and Harper will never admit to being wrong.  Perfectly legitimate amendments which would actually improve the quality of Harper's legislation have been rejected simply because they were proposed by another party.

Under Harper, Question Period has become a farce.  Past governments have been evasive in QP - Harper's approach is to simply fling verbal poo across the floor - often answering a question with talking points that have nothing to do with the question asked.

Let me be abundantly clear about this:  The responsibility and blame for the current sorry state of parliament in this nation rests at the feet of Stephen Harper.

Perhaps the grandest irony of all of this is that the Reform party that Harper comes from gained much of its support by promising to fix parliament and make it work once again as a democratic institution.  

1 comment:

Les Smith said...

... And you know what?
In the election he calls early (who says Harper has to follow a law he forced through?), he will run on his record of having restored the dignity of Parliament, and on having run the most open and accountable government in the history of Canada.

And there's every chance he'll get away with it.