I've held off commenting upon the recent developments in the Torturegate scandal, which, like Grand-daddy Watergate, started with something minor and is now busting out all over. But reading Kady O'Malley's excellent colour commentary last Friday and now today, taken together with a curious press release from Democracy Watch more than a month ago, I'm starting to worry about the resolve of the Official Opposition.
Duff Conacher called for a reference case to the Supreme Court of Canada; now Michael Ignatieff wants a keek at the terms of reference for retired judge Frank Iacobucci, and Derek Lee is holding off on his motion of privilege. The NDP, meanwhile, obviously made of sterner stuff, is giving the government until March 19 to comply with the demand to produce the documents, or it will raise its own privilege motion at that time.
What on earth is going on? Can the Liberals say "Parliamentary supremacy?" For all of Ignatieff's tough talk, as O'Malley points out, the phrase just never comes up. With the greatest of respect to Iacobucci, now a private citizen, his opinion is as irrelevant as yours or mine. What is all this talk about terms of reference? Who cares what they contain or don't contain? And what is this side-issue of a public inquiry that Ignatieff is on about? Get the damn documents--then hold a public inquiry. It's not either-or.
Don't the Liberals understand what is at stake here? This isn't about Afghanistan any more, or torture, or our direct complicity in it, or the involvement of CSIS. It's about who's in charge. It's about who gets the last word in our House of Commons--Parliament or Stephen Harper.
Why should Iacobucci, bless him, be inserted into a question of pure principle? And a reference case to the Supreme Court? The Court that just ruled in the case of Omar Khadr that they didn't think it proper to interfere with Executive powers? Why, if that's the case, should they get a crack at legislative ones?
The way things are going (but there are more rapid twists and turns than a luge course in this affair, and I hope I may quickly be proven wrong), this utterly crucial issue is being sidestepped and may never get resolved. If that's the case, the consequences for Canadian democracy, already creaking at its foundations, will be dire.
Come on, Official Opposition. Force the issue, demand what it is your right to receive, and if the government continues to resist, exert your ancient Parliamentary authority with the other opposition parties. Place the Prime Minister under arrest if you have to. At this present historical juncture, a decisive exercise of political will is called for. Don't you have it in you?