Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Harper government: cooperate or else

The Speaker of the House of Commons, Peter Milliken, has spoken. Responsible government--the fundamental structure of our democracy--has been upheld.

The government of Stephen Harper has been given two weeks to work out a mechanism with the Opposition parties to disclose the Afghan detainee documents as requested. Otherwise, a final ruling on privilege--which is not likely, given the tenor of the Speaker's address, to favour the government--will be delivered.

More shortly.

UPDATE: Check out Kady O'Malley's liveblog. She will have the transcript of the ruling up at some point.

UPPERDATE: Maclean's magazine's Anton Wherry has posted the transcript. [H/t reader Holly Stick]

Given the frantic spin that government spokespeople are already placing on this ruling, the following excerpt is salient:

As has been noted earlier, the procedural authorities are categorical in repeatedly asserting the powers of the House in ordering the production of documents. No exceptions are made for any category of Government documents, even those related to national security. Therefore, the Chair must conclude that it is perfectly within the existing privileges of the House to order production of the documents in question. Bearing in mind that the fundamental role of Parliament is to hold the Government to account, as the servant of the House, and the protector of its privileges, I cannot agree with the Government’s interpretation that ordering these documents transgresses the separation of powers, and interferes with the spheres of activity of the executive branch. [emphases added]

UPPESTDATE: And here's Liberal MP Derek Lee, an acknowledged expert on the powers of Parliament to "send for persons, papers and records."

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