Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Going 'rogue

Stephen Harper keeps out-doing himself. With the connivance of a quaint relic of feudalism, in the person of a pliant Governor-General, the unfriendly dictator is preparing to wave away the inconvenience of Parliament once again. He'll shortly be sending the MPs packing, and stacking that other relic, an unelected Senate, with his political pals, thereby seizing control of the upper chamber and its working committees.

Harper's continuing assault on democracy is by now too obvious for anyone to ignore. On his watch, his MPs were issued instructions on how to subvert the work of Parliamentary committees. Last year he cut and ran when faced with a vote of non-confidence, effectively padlocking Parliament. More recently, he has openly defied Parliament by refusing to produce unredacted documents pertaining to the Afghanistan detainee issue. And with the new prorogation in the offing, that committee will be automatically stood down, its work nipped in the bud.

Under Harper we have seen what I have referred to before as a veritable war on watchdogs. Blatant political interference in the workings of supposedly independent agencies--the CNSC, the SSHRCC, Elections Canada--is almost the order of the day.
High-handed ministers of the Crown, acting more like princelings than representatives, have been actively involved in exiling Canadian citizens and more recently defaming and scapegoating an upstanding public employee and the respected charitable organization KAIROS-Canada.

Democracy in this country, always a stitched-together affair, is under increasingly serious threat
, all hyperbole aside. As I have noted recently, this downward slide did not begin with the Conservatives: Pierre "Just watch me" Trudeau set the tone, and Jean Chrétien centralized all meaningful power in the PMO, ruling the country with an iron fist and the odd burst of pepper-spray.

But Harper has taken this trend through a quantum leap in four short years. His contempt for democratic process is never far below the surface. And now, once again, Parliament--Canada's supreme elected body--is about to be flicked away like a mosquito.

We're watching political accountability and responsible government melt away before our unbelieving eyes. As one commentator noted not long ago, "The Prime Minister is now in such command that he can get away with pretty much anything. And he is lauded for his conquests."

But even Harper's fiercest supporters might want to take a sober second look about now, and put Canada before their party for once. At this point there should be no partisans--only outraged Canadians, of all political hues, who want their country back.

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