If the Conservatives and Prime Minister Stephen Harper threaten to dissolve Parliament and force an election rather then be forced to turn documents over to Parliament (and having the spectacle of Parliament’s Sergeant-At-Arms seizing the documents/arresting Cabinet Ministers for contempt of Parliament), that’s their prerogative, and their problem. Nowhere in any of the motions of the opposition parties points of order do they state that the failure to produce documents would be considered a loss of confidence in the Conservative government.
The fact that the Conservative government would rather face an election then turn those documents over to either a public inquiry judge or a Parliamentary committee with proper national security safeguards in place would and does speak volumes. In effect, Harper would be asking Canadians to give him a majority government so he could shut down any investigations of the Afghan detainee issue that may cause his government political damage, or worse, may expose international law violations (as alleged by Professor Amir Attaran, who says he has seen some of the unredacted documents which indicate this).
If he and his government wants to run with THAT as an election issue, I say go nuts, and I agree with Steve V:
Would the Conservatives really want an election about accountability, transparency, democratic will, secrecy, “stonewalling”?..I can’t think of a better focus than one surrounding how this government operates, how they avoid responsibility, can’t “play well with others”, a buffet of negative narratives…If this issue leads to a confidence motion (I still don’t think it will), I don’t buy the fear mongering that the opposition will wear any election. Harper has the ultimate choice, and the opposition has provided sensible options that protect his supposed concerns. Should the Conservatives refuse, then ultimately they are raising the matter of confidence, they are arbitarily making a decision to force an election. At best, “blame” is a wash, at worst, we head off on the trail with Harper defending his refusal.
The opposition parties reaction to this election threat is very encouraging:
Bob Rae was asked yesterday how far the opposition was willing to go to obtain documents related to the Afghan detainee affair and, paraphrasing Pierre Trudeau, responded, “Just watch us.” Jack Harris was asked about the possibility that the government might declare any vote on the matter to be a confidence vote. His response: “Well, you know, the government and the Prime Minister can declare any motion a confidence motion. They may decide that this is a confidence motion. If so, so be it.”
Translation for me: the accountability of this government to Parliament on what their policy was vis-a-vis Afghan detainees, and the supremacy of Parliament overall vs the executive power – with a Prime Minister trying to cripple Parliament into irrelevancy - is an important enough principle that we will fight for it, and if that means Harper pulls the plug on parliament yet again to yet again avoid Parliamentary scrutiny, then as Jack Harris says, ‘so be it’. They obviously believe a strong case can be made to the Canadian electorate that their actions are right and the Conservatives and Harper aren’t.
A bit ironically, Harper probably has made their case easier to be made to the electorate because of his prorogation stunt. Everyone knew the real reason for it was to avoid/delay opposition enquiries into this, in the hopes it would fade away as an issue. It has definitely not done that – if anything, it alerted more people to Harper’s dislike of accountability, and making people wonder what exactly are in these documents that he is so desperate to hide.