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January 13, 2010

Sneaky Steve, a danger to democracy

The Canadian Charger

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Prime Minster Stephen Harper in power is a danger to democracy. The Americans had "Tricky Dick" Nixon and Canada has "Sneaky Steve" Harper.

Sneaky StevePrime Minster Stephen Harper in power is a danger to democracy. The Americans had "Tricky Dick" Nixon and Canada has "Sneaky Steve" Harper.

You have to give Harper credit.  He may be a control freak, but his political instincts have proven to be pretty good. He has managed his political maneuvers effectively.  He has put the “rogue” back into “prorogue.”  He plays the piano, but he is not prepared to face the music.

In just over two years, Harper has gotten Governor General Michaëlle Jean to prorogue Parliament twice. 

While she can be faulted for consenting the first time, it is certainly a challenge for anyone to try to stand up to the bully.  You remember the earlier prorogation.  That was to prevent a Liberal-NDP coalition to take power with Bloc support.  Tory vitriol flowed freely at the time.

We were told that the other parties were trying to hijack the democratic system.  It was a coup d’état.  The people had chosen the Tories to govern.

Of course, these charges were just a bunch of hot air.  The country did not chose the Tories, who got only 38% of the vote.  The other parties, with 62%, had a right to govern if they could gain the confidence of the House with a coalition. 

Unfortunately, Harper’s game plan won, when Stéphan Dion was replaced by Michael Ignatieff. 

When Parliament came back into session, he withdrew the Liberals from the coalition agreement.  Ignatieff is the Hamlet of Canadian politics.  He snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.  Furthermore, he has declared that there will be no other coalition government strategy.  Stephen Harper is licking his lips.  Does Ignatieff really want to be Prime Minister?

Harper’s plea for the people’s will to be respected is phony as a Madoff investment tip. 

The Tories are the the ones who supplied all caucus members with a booklet on how to disrupt Parliamentary committee meetings.  They have not hesitated to use these tactics—making Parliament work? 

Most recently, Conservative members prevented a House committee hearing evidence on torture of Afghan prisoners from hearing evidence, by simply not showing up. 

It was, they explained, that the hearing was too close to Christmas.  Believe that and you may also believe in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. 

Harper has accused the Opposition of being soft on crime.  However, it is clear that he is soft on war crimes.  He is intent on covering them up.

Of course, the prorogation was called only as a last resort. 

The first approach was a multiform strategy: deprive the House committee and the Military Police Commission of the documents about the torture, remove the head of the Commission, and brand diplomat Richard Colvin as a dupe of the Taliban. 

Then, in the Christmas spirit and again in the spirit of making Parliament work, Harper once more called for prorogation. He wants to give himself time to let the Afghan torture file cool off.

Attacking faithful public servants is another strategy that the government has used. 

  1. And of course there was no apology.

Stephen Harper may be able to stay in power and even get re-elected, even if not with a majority government. 

The leader of the Opposition has made it clear that he is not seriously prepared to get in the way.  However, Harper in power is a danger to democracy.  His manipulation to avoid honest debate of the issues and his constant use of smear campaigns against political opponents and courageous public servants debase public discourse. 

His demand that everyone closely toe the line creates an inflexible situation.  An inflexible government will eventually crack. 

He may have gotten away with Canada’s role in torture in Afghanistan this time, but he can’t prorogue the House every time his government is in a tight spot, much as he might like. 

A government in which public servants and caucus members can only tell the leader what he wants to hear has a leader living in a fool’s paradise. 

He will be fed only pabulum, with which sound policy cannot be formulated.  Even MP’s are muzzled.  Some of the more extreme ones are forbidden to speak in public. 

Garth Turner, a former Conservative MP who was thrown out of the caucus and even out of the party for allegedly revealing caucus secrets on his web site, reported that members have to receive permission to speak in caucus.  As for the alleged caucus secrets, no specifics were ever given, but it is clear that he was seen as a pest for having ideas of his own. 

We can be proud of public servants who have stood up for the truth in spite of intimidation.  Here is a partial list: diplomat Richard Colvin; Peter Tinsley, former head of the Military Police Complaints Commission; Paul Kennedy, former chairman of the RCMP Police Complaints Commission; Linda Keen, former chairman of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission; Marc Myrand, Chief Electoral Officer; Kevin Page, Parliamentary Budget Officer. 

Can anyone remember such a roster of public servants all forced by conscience to stand up to the government of the day?

The solution is obvious.  Stephen Harper, Parliamentary Budget Officer; Stephen Harper, Chairman of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Committee; Stephen Harper, Stephen Harper, Stephen Harper.  Prorogue permanently.

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