Friday, March 07, 2014

Attacking Democracy: Adler's Bill C-520

Just as Bills C-23 and C-24 interact with each other in some very concerning ways, Mark Adler's bill C-520 can be seen as part of the Harper Party's active undermining of Canada's democracy.
6. (1) Every agent of Parliament who intends to occupy a politically partisan position while holding his or her position as an agent of Parliament must make a written declaration of their intention to do so as soon as possible and before starting in the politically partisan position. The declaration must indicate the nature of the position, as well as the period of time during which the agent intends to occupy it.
So, someone who is leaving a position as an "agent of parliament" has to declare what they are moving on to?  This is ridiculous indeed.  More disturbing is the broad, and ill-defined term "politically partisan position".

“politically partisan position” means any of the following positions:(a) electoral candidate;(b) electoral district association officer;(c) member of a ministerial staff;(d) member of a parliamentary staff; or(e) member of a political staff.
Wait a second ... that basically means that anyone who chooses to participate in Canada's political system is effectively being constrained from becoming an "agent of parliament" (which is basically anybody on the staff of the parliamentary oversight bodies such as the Auditor General).

What this declaration would do is essentially enable MPs to dismiss as "partisan" the work of anybody who leaves a job as an agent of parliament to work in a "partisan" role.
7. (1) Every applicant for a position in the office of an agent of Parliament must, as soon as possible in the selection process, provide the relevant agent of Parliament with a written declaration stating whether or not, at any time in the 10 years before applying for the position, they occupied a politically partisan position. The declaration must indicate the nature of any such position, as well as the period of time during which the person occupied it. 
This is more than a little bit extreme, and given that the hiring of "Agents of Parliament" is inherently somewhat political in nature, you can bank that this information will be used to determine who is going to be be receiving these appointments - not based on their capabilities and qualifications, but on their political stripe.
9. On written request to the office of an agent of Parliament by any member of the Senate or House of Commons that alleges that a person who occupies a position in that office has conducted their duties and responsibilities in a partisan manner, the agent of Parliament may examine the matter and take such steps as they consider necessary.
In itself, one might find it somewhat ironic that the most extremely partisan government in Canada's history is suddenly worried about the agents of parliament becoming "partisan".  Of course, the Harper Party has long held a persecution complex, claiming that the courts, bureaucracy and everybody else is "biased against them".  There is no doubt that the Harper Party has been more willing to accuse others of being "partisan" than any governing party before them, and views anyone who dares challenge their assumptions as being "partisan".  

The reality is that we have a government that is so self-absorbed in the "rightness" of its mission that they perceive themselves as under siege at every turn.

This bill is ultimately about accomplishing several goals at once:

1.  To make someone's political history part of the hiring decision process for a position in any of the parliamentary oversight bodies.  In short, the governing party suddenly has a sledgehammer it can use  to suppress the hiring of otherwise qualified candidates into senior positions in the parliamentary apparatus.

2.  It acts as a suppression tool to inhibit people who worked on campaigns or for MPs who didn't win the last election from applying for these positions.

3.  It gives the governing party the ability the ability to be dismissive of reports from these various entities that are "inconvenient" by accusing them of being partisan.

4.  It will make some people more cautious about being involved in election campaigns or riding level politics if they belong to parties other than the dominant political party of the day, thereby subtly hamstringing the efforts of those parties to compete for votes.

Think about this in light of the various aspects of Bill C-23 that I have discussed elsewhere on this blog, and suddenly Bill C-520 looks like it is another part of a larger tapestry of legislative initiatives that the Harper Party is pushing forward to undermine our electoral system and parliamentary accountability.  

No comments: