Friday, October 01, 2010

Librocons: we're being played

This is a story about political and moral corruption, contempt of Parliament, asbestos, human rights and our declining democracy. It's nothing but loose ends. I can't help it. That's all I have, at least for the moment.

The tale, or at least part of it, begins in August. Here's John Baird, refusing to disclose emails from one Sebastien Togneri (ministerial aide to asbestos shill Christian Paradis)
to the Commons committee on access to information, privacy and ethics:

"By long-standing convention, such communications are protected from disclosure," Mr. Baird wrote. "Ministers are responsible to Parliament for decisions and actions taken. Political communication that may or may not be related to those decision and actions does not affect the ministerial responsibility for them and, according to parliamentary and constitutional convention, is never disclosed."

Finally, Mr. Baird wrote, Parliament’s "power to call for persons and papers has never been exercised to give a parliamentary majority access to such records and the internal communication of a parliamentary minority. Such interference would be unprecedented and abusive."

This is, of course, another slap in the face to Parliament, delivered scant months after Speaker Peter Milliken's historic ruling confirming parliamentary supremacy:

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]

The aide in question, Sebastien Togneri, has now resigned. He was quite a busy little bee, it seems, meddling in four separate Access to Information requests, including one on the asbestos issue.

Meanwhile his Minister, Christian Paradis, has been paying the Chrysotile Institute, the PR group responsible for pushing a deadly poison to Third World countries, to lobby his own department. Wouldn't that seem to be a conflict of interest?

Not to the Librocons: both wings of the Librocon Party voted against an NDP motion earlier this year to stop funding the Institute. Asbestos is worth a few votes in Quebec, and the people dying from our annual exports of this cancer-causing mineral are brown and foreign, and don't cast ballots in Canadian federal elections.

The red wing of the Librocon Party, led by former human rights advocate Michael Ignatieff, has been silent on Baird's August letter since Parliament resumed. Fresh from a bus tour across Canada that nobody but local party hacks even noticed, he was a towering figure, wasn't he, during the long gun registry brouhaha? The defeat of the private member's bill, however, was not a defeat for the government at all. It handed the latter a possible wedge issue for the next election. Some would call that a victory in disguise.

And while we rubes were being mesmerized by the registry debate and a thumping great battle of bright, shiny talking-points, the Librocons were smuggling "anti-terrorist" legislation through second reading. Bill C-17 constitutes a major restriction of the civil liberties and privacy of Canadian citizens. The media didn't even notice. Most Canadians didn't either.

The two wings of the Party do put on a splendid show--lots of sound and fury, especially during Question Period and at drunken establishment luncheons. But they are perfect friends and colleagues when no one is looking. In the last session of Parliament, for example, the Librocons pushed through a free-trade agreement with the murderous narco-state of Columbia.

Indeed, it was a member of the red wing, Scott Brison, who contemptuously dismissed the concerns of the few human rights activists permitted to appear on Parliament Hill to speak against the agreement. Canadian mining interests are worth more, after all, than a few million displaced people, troublesome union activists and a bunch of dirty Indios.

The red wing has always worked well with the blue wing. Here's just the most recent example of how it's done. And note the continuing silence on the Baird stonewall.

What is happening is nothing new. There are real politics, and then there is the political theatre before which the Canadian audience sits enthralled or, more likely at this point, asleep. For political aficionados, though, it's been a wonderful performance of late, with heroes and villains, suspense, quick turns of plot, and the media playing its role as a Greek chorus. Its slightly comic-opera feel hasn't managed to arouse any suspicions.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, or in another building altogether, the Librocons huddle, slipping the big stuff through undetected, trampling on human rights and democracy, scratching each other's backs, working deals and toasting the hicks who keep returning them to power. Mining companies flourish, toxic exports continue, ministers use our money to lobby themselves, Parliamentary privilege is a fading dream, and our civil liberties are curtailed.

But hey, we kept the long gun registry. That was something to tell the grandchildren about, eh?

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