Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Charles the First moment

Next week, the Speaker of the House, Peter Milliken, will rule on whether Stephen Harper was in contempt of parliament when he refused to hand over unredacted papers to the parliamentary committee investigating allegations of torture of Afghan prisoners handed over to Afghan authorities.

From The Hill Times:

House Speaker to rule on historic confrontation between PM, opposition parties

"House of Commons Speaker Peter Milliken will rule this week on the historic confrontation between the opposition parties and the government over Prime Minister Stephen Harper's refusal to hand over secret information about potential detainee torture in Afghanistan, sources say. "

Attorney General Nicholson maintains that it is his right to refuse access for national security reasons. Others maintain that the power of governance is in the hands of the elected members of parliament, most of whom are not members of the minority Conservative Party now in power.

I hate to think what may actually be in those papers if they are trying so hard to cover them up. The truth will out, I'm sure. Harper just hopes he can stall long enough that the whole thing will just go away.

"Liberal MP Derek Lee (Scarborough-Rouge River, Ont.) launched the Commons legal attack against the government nearly two months ago, after Prime Minister Harper suspended Parliament for a month to delay the government's reaction to a Dec. 10 opposition motion ordering production of the uncensored documents...'[I]t is only among the uninformed and the negligently ignorant that the power to send for persons, papers and records would appear unclear,' Mr. Lee told the Commons in his rebuttal to Mr. Nicholson. 'Those powers and authorities are all part of Canada's Constitution. How desperately embarrassing it is that the attorney general of Canada could stand in this place and say these things.'"

The uninformed and negligently ignorant. That's what we're stuck with at the moment.

The Globe and Mail on April 21 quoted Errol Mendes, University of Ottawa law professor and constitutional expert, on the importance of Peter Milliken's decision.

“It’s huge,” said Errol Mendes...[C]enturies of precedent dictate that Parliament is supreme in holding the government to account, he observed.

“If the Speaker rules against the opposition motions, it would not be too hyperbolic to say we have changed our system of governance,” he maintained. “The executive would no longer be accountable to the House of Commons.”

But then again, Stephen Harper never wanted to "first among equals" or to share power with anybody. He doesn't even have a deputy prime minister. I suppose that would be as alien to him as the idea of a deputy dictator.

In 2006, Shortly after Stephen Harper was elected as PM, D.L. McCracken brought together this trio of quotes by and about Stephen Harper.

"Three ads in particular stand out - Stephen Harper is quoted in the first ad as saying, "America, and particularly your conservative movement, is a light and an inspiration to people in this country and across the world"; from an article in the Washington Post in late 2005, "Canada may elect the most pro-American leader in the western world. Harper is pro-Iraq war, anti-Kyoto and socially conservative. Bush's new best friend is the poster boy for his ideal foreign leader. A Harper victory will put a smile on George W. Bush's face."; and finally this little gem, "Canada is content to become a second-tier socialist country boasting ever more loudly about its economy and social services to mask its second-rate status. You won't recognize Canada when I get through with it". "

It must be working. I don't recognize Canada. I'm a stranger in a strange land. What we need at all these hearings and inquiries is a Fair Witness.


  1. This guy is living in a fantasy world of Neoconism long gone. How much longer are you guys stuck with this wacko?

  2. Therein lies a tale, RZ.

    Stephen Harper, as one of his "reforms" brought in a fixed election date law in 2006 that set the date and duration of the governments - third Monday in October every four years. The first fixed election was set for October 19th, 2009. This was supposed to stop the practice of calling snap elections when the indications looked good for the ruling party.

    Then Harper changed his mind.

    He was tired of minority governments and decided to pull the plug early, in September 2008. That made three elections in four years - 2004, 2006 and 2008.

    Usually an election can be called on a non-confidence vote, when the parliament loses confidence in the government. Harper seems to call elections when he wants to cover something up - bribery scandals, campaign financing questions, who knows what else?

    Harper prorogued parliament (good word, eh?) before Christmas this year and we were essentially without representation for three months. (Harper and his buddies went to the Olympics and tried to forget about the Afghanistan torture thing.)

    As for our next election - you know, I don't know when it is. The law "experts" say that the fixed date law only limits the maximum term of a government to four years. It used to be a max of five but generally shorter than that. So it depends whether you base it on the last election in 2008 or the supposed fixed date of 2009.

    We are in such a mess here.

    The 2008 election had the lowest turnout since we became a country. The Cons actually got fewer votes than the 2006 election but 29 more seats. They mobilized their "base" I guess.

    Either that or they completely demoblilized (and demoralized) the rest of us.

    The other 60+% of voters in the country - the ones that can be bothered to vote, that is - are split among Liberals, New Democrats, Bloc Qu├ębecois, Greens and a few independents.

    Why does mobilizing your base sound a little disreputable, I wonder?

  3. RE: "As for our next election - you know, I don't know when it is."
    Oh man, that is funny and sad at the same time. I am all for having a recall, or a vote of no confidence. But this system of "whenever" is nuts.

  4. Anonymous4:50 a.m.

    Can I correct you on some of your misinformation? Parliament was prorogued from Jan.27th to Mar.4th,2010. ALL MP's agreed before Christmas for the House of Commons not to sit during the Olympics.
    Thus, parliament was prorogued for 22 days, NOT 3 months.
    The Globe & Mail lost it's credibility over a year ago for most Canadians. A good example is quoting Errol Mendes. I am saying that perhaps Mr. Mendes opinion has some merit, but neither himself, nor the Globe & Mail identified him as a Liberal supporter ( he gives regular political contributions) and an advisor to the previous Liberal gov't. under Paul Martin. It made me smile and it seemed a little ironic when you mentioned a "Fair Witness" after quoting Mr. Mendes.
    The issue of Afghan detainee torture is being reviewed by a qualified judge. I trust he is first reviewing the documents from 2001 through 2006, when the Liberals set policy for detainee transfers, which was finally modified by the Conservatives in 2007.
    What Canada needs is an "effective" opposition--one that offers alternate policies,that ocassionally supports policies that are good for Canada, not just
    themselves. At the moment, we are likely to have a majority gov't of ANY political stripe with the Bloc Quebecois ensuring that.

  5. Anonymous4:52 a.m.

    Sorry, I meant to say we AREN'T likely to have a majority gov't.

  6. Anon:

    From the Acting speaker Barry Devolin (Conservative) on December 10th, 2009

    Committees of the House
    Adjournment Proceedings

    December 10th, 2009 / 8 p.m.


    The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

    It being 8:03 p.m., pursuant to an order made earlier today, the House stands adjourned until Monday, January 25, 2010 at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Orders 28(2) and 24(1).

    (The House adjourned at 8:04 p.m.)

    The second session of the 40th Parliament was prorogued by royal proclamation on December 30, 2009.

    The house adjourned on December 10th then Harper prorogued on December 30th, 2010 while the house was adjourned. You think this was unplanned?

    The house was out of session for three months, 2 and a quarter of them due to proroguement.

    Last statement at the bottom of the page

    However, you are right. Harper prorogued parliament 6 days after Christmas.

  7. Anon:

    I referred to Errol Mendes as a constitutional law expert and his interpretation of whether or not the prime minister is in contempt of parliament by refusing to give it information it requests. If anybody would know the ins and outs of constitutional law, it would probably be someone like him.

    On a completely different matter:

    The retired judge who is reviewing the detainee abuse papers was appointed by the Prime Minister. Why should a retired judge have more right to see this information than our elected representatives?

    That being said, I hope he reviews everything from whatever era. But we have a problem now, and we need to know about it. If they fixed it, and subsequent reports indicate that they didn't, then why the desperate attempt at a cover-up?

    As for a Fair Witness, I was referring to neither Errol Mendes nor the retired judge, but to someone, somewhere who would be able to tell the facts as they are without being beholden to anyone of any party.

    Fair Witness

    "Fair Witness is a fictional profession invented for the novel [Stranger in a Strange Land]. A Fair Witness is an individual trained to observe events and report exactly what he or she sees and hears, making no extrapolations or assumptions. An eidetic memory is a prerequisite for the job, although this may be attainable with suitable training."

    As for irony, I think it's more likely to be found in this report from 2006.

    Harper promises "new era of accountability"

  8. Make that "Harper prorogued on December 30th, 2009."

    Don't want to make the little dear's unsavoury acts even worse than they already are.