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'So be it'

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.

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11 comments to ‘So be it’

  • Dis confrontation has been a long time coming. Mr. Harper does not seem to understand that government serves the people and that the people are represented by MPs in Parliament. Neither, it seems, does he understand that a Prime Minister is NOT a President;

  • Jordan – “After another Harper victory, the other parties might come to their senses and cooperate more. There might be more demonstrating in the streets, but we would still be able to look ourselves in the mirror, even if we had to agree that we are surrounded by morons.”

    I wish I could be convinced, Jordan. I really do. I hate to say it but it was not the CPC that broke my spirit during the 08 Democratic Crisis but my fellow Canadians. However, the NO Prorogation Rallies were a success and they really rejuvenated my faith in grassroots democracy. I’ve said all along that the Liberals won’t get any better polling numbers than a statistical tie going into any election, and that’s what we have now. I’m not worried about polling, I’m worried about the framing of an election. The Libs could be at 40% and an election fought over constitutional conventions and parliamentary institutions wouldn’t be in their best interest – at least not from where I’m sitting.

    Don’t get me wrong Jordan, I want to be proved wrong in the worst way. I usually ate the taste of crow, but in this case I’d be willing to eat the whole bird.

  • I just might be the only blogger on Pro Blogs to see the consequences of pushing this issue to an election: the Liberals won’t win. Harper may see a reduced minority, but a minority nonetheless.

    Of course this is an issue that OUGHT to be fought over an election, but we’re overestimating the concern of ordinary Canadians for our parliamentary tradition and institutions. We’d be hedging our bets that the simple “democracy card” would work – even though it is clear that everyday-Canadians know very little on the subject nor do they care to learn about it. They’ll question the legitimacy of the motion and this is the angle the Cons will play. The Harper government will lie, cheat, manipulate and flat-out deceive uncommitted voters in order to frame the discussion around national security, the integrity of our troops and other “untouchable” topics and persons.

    The Liberals will bring forth constitutional experts and legal scholars to defend their position. They’ll rely on sound reasoning and democratic principles. Harper and his army of Flying Monkey’s will call these people “elitists” and rally those who do not have a university education – and a few that do – to vote against this liberal “intelligentsia” threatening to hijack the country away from REAL Canadians – hockey loving, double-double gulping Joes like Flaherty and Baird.

    Some will speak up, many will tune out and we’ll be in no better position than we are now.

    • Jordan

      dylan – will the situation envisaged by you EVER be better and more in the Liberals’ favour? Better to go down fighting and with one’s self-respect intact than grovelling in front of bullies. After another Harper victory, the other parties might come to their senses and cooperate more. There might be more demonstrating in the streets, but we would still be able to look ourselves in the mirror, even if we had to agree that we are surrounded by morons. Canadians would be radicalized, but our meek and mild boyscout image has been largely a myth anyway.

  • TofKW

    Fred – my comment earlier and from Far & Wide, please tell me your thoughts. When exactly did conservatives become the anti-democracy and anti-openness party?

  • Fred from BC

    Big Winnie says :

    Friday, March 19th, 2010

    I say call the CONs bluff, see where it goes and if an election is called “so be it”.

    —————

    Absolutely. Don’t be afraid, Liberals…go for it!

    • Red Forever

      Fred from BC

      Be careful what you wish for.

      You just might get it.

      Personally I think Steve will look good on the opposition benches.

      I don’t think he will find many friends there.

  • TofKW

    I left a detailed reply to the CPofC supporters about the importance of parliamentary supremacy over on F&W. Basically for them to look at the bigger picture here and see that if the opposition backs down and gives Harper what he wants, there is a dangerous precedent set here for future governments.

    At some point the Liberals or (horror of horrors for the ultrarightwingnuts) a Lib-NDP coalition will be elected, and it’s most likely in our modern fractured, sectarian political scene to be a minority government (since majorities are very hard to win now). And even when they hold government without even 40% of the population voting for them; when so elected, they can begin to pass legislation that is opposed by the majority in the house, stonewall investigations, withhold information to committees citing ‘national security’, and pretty much thumb their noses at parliament – because that’s the precedent Harper has set for us.

    Or they can see the light and support the 400+ years of established limits of power as set within the Westminster-style parliamentary system, and that is the supremacy of parliament. If there is anything left of conservatism in this country, the conservation of our legal and political bodies should be paramount to their beliefs.

    Now I ask, are you really conservatives …or are you just a bunch of reckless, firebrand western populists who don’t give one shit about upholding the laws or traditions of our Westminster parliamentary system, so long as those pesky lefties are kept out of governing. If it is all about the later, then you are all materialistic, despicable, traitors of even worse depths than the Bloc Quebecois. Because at least the Bloc members are, when it comes down to it, responsible democrats; and I can not say the same of your lot.

    Indeed the supremacy of parliament is an election issue worth fighting for. And if Harper wants to run from a contempt charge, and into the home of the Governor General to dissolve parliament, and campaign AGAINST the supremacy of parliament …so be it.

  • Dan

    This confrontation has been a long time coming. Mr. Harper does not seem to understand that government serves the people and that the people are represented by MPs in Parliament. Neither, it seems, does he understand that a Prime Minister is NOT a President; that a PM is “first among equals” nor that he serves at the pleasure of the House. He has wrought destruction upon our Democracy and must be held to account. Let’s get to the election and make 2010 the year Canadians stood up for their freedoms!

  • bull caller

    Wholeheartedly agree. If an election call came in today it would be due to Harper’s own mishandlings, and nothing to do with anyone else. Having said this, the other parties have to be capable of stepping up to ensure the voters who won’t vote for Harper (the majority of Canadians), actually vote. Engage them and carry the narrative. We know what Harper’s election style is – hide, run, ignore, and under no circumstances have an unscripted moment. Ever.

    The only way to win with this guy is to keep the pressure on and knock off his toupee which I think is his source of strength.

  • Big Winnie

    I say call the CONs bluff, see where it goes and if an election is called “so be it“.

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