Is our Parliament without value?

Andrew Coyne, writing in the Globe and Mail, a few days ago, made a point that bears repeating: “The Liberal government,” his column is headlined, “is making a mockery of Canada’s parliamentary democracy.” That’s right: Justin Trudeau’s Liberals are, according to the Cambridge Dictionary, making parliamentary democracy in Canada “seem stupid or without value.” And I think that is exactly how Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and ministers like Ahmed Hussen, Bardish Chagger and Steven Guilbault …

… see our democracy and our democratic institutions: as stupid, worthless impediments to their plans. They believe that they, and they alone, know what’s right and they will not be deterred by pesky details like democracy, parliamentary conventions and accountability.

So,” Mr Coyne writes, “the government lives, the motion is defeated, the WE cover-up continues, Parliament is a laughingstock … [and he asks, will it be the] … Same time next week?” That appears possible if the opposition finds a way to get closer to the secrets that Prime Minister Trudeau is covering up. And let’s be very, very clear: it is a coverup. There is no other word for it. “This,” Andrew Coyne says, very correctly, “is not because of “partisan wrangling.” It is not because the parties are “deadlocked” or can’t agree to “make Parliament work.” It is because the government has gone to quite extraordinary lengths – censoring documents, proroguing Parliament, filibustering committees, now threatening dissolution – to prevent MPs from doing their jobs.” The MP’s jobs include getting to the bottom of issues like multi-hundred million dollar contracts that are awarded, without competition to a private agency that has close personal and financial ties to the prime minister and his wife and his mother and his brother. That he does not want parliamentary committees to see the documents that might shed further light on the issue is the very definition of a coverup.

As I have said before, it is a Watergate level coverup and it leads me to wonder if it is not trying to conceal Watergate level misconduct. “The only question,” Mr Coyne says, “is what happened in between: whether the Prime Minister, besides signing off on the contract – a serious ethical breach in itself – was in fact behind it, directly or indirectly, from the start … [which might lead someone to wonder if §121 of the Criminal Code might need to be examined ~ that would be a Watergate level problem] … “or whether, as he maintains, the whole dubious enterprise was at the behest of senior civil servants, whose advice he was powerless to resist. Anyone with any familiarity with how Ottawa works, not least under this government, scoffs at the suggestion. But the evidence, if it exists, will be in the documents the government refuses to uncover.

The important issue here, Andrew Coyne says, “is the inability of Parliament to assert its authority – or rather, it is the easy self-assurance with which the government defies its authority. It is often said that “it’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up” but in this case, the government can’t even be bothered to cover up the cover-up. It is going on right in front of us, day after day, week after week, month after month. That is the issue … [but, he adds, perhaps] … it’s not even that. It’s the fatuous defences the government offers for its behaviour, so palpably flimsy that they seem almost intended to advertise its disdain. Ministers haven’t time to answer questions in committee because they’re too busy fighting the pandemic? Demanding to know what payments the Prime Minister’s family members might have received from an organization in receipt of public funds is an invasion of privacy? Do they take us for children?” Well, put simply, “Yes, they do.” They take us for children because, politically, we ~ 20 to 40% of us, anyway ~ act like children: we react to cheap advertising and lies. We are, at election time, just like the kids in the supermarket lineups …

… we want all the treats, and the Liberals promise all the treats but they know that we, being childlike, will not notice when they, almost always, fail to keep their promises. So, yes, they take us for children because 30±% of us act like children.

By comparison to their accurate view of a large minority of the electorate, Mr Coyne says, “the government’s narrow procedural argument – that striking a committee to look into these questions amounts to a declaration of non-confidence in the government – looks positively Aristotelian. But, persuasive as it may seem – “if you think the government is corrupt, surely you have no confidence in it” – it’s nonsense. The opposition exists to oppose. Its job is to offer criticism, demand answers, suggest alternatives. It is its nature to be dissatisfied with the government, and to prefer that it were in power and the government in opposition.” Justin Trudeau and his Liberal Party campaign managers share Pierre Trudeau’s obvious disdain for and discomfort with parliament. In fact, Paul Wells, writing in MacLean’s magazine, says that the House of Commons is a place that Justin Trudeau has “never liked” and where he has never “felt at ease.” The Trudeau’s, père et fils, both would have preferred/prefer a French style of presidential system when a compliant national assembly rubber stamps executive decisions. “But,” Andrew Coyne explains, maybe hoping that Prime Minister Trudeau actually reads anything, “to vote non-confidence in a government is to express something much more specific than mere dissatisfaction, or even strident opposition. It is to say that things have reached such a pass the government may not remain in power for even another day. It must resign at once, making way either for another party to govern or for a general election. If the opposition intended a motion to create a committee to be a matter of confidence in the government, it would have said so; in fact, it was explicit in rejecting the suggestion.” So Justin Trudeau had no reason to threaten an election … except, as Donald Trump does, to bully those who dare to oppose him.

Andrew Coyne wonders if the Trudeau regime, given its propensity to confuse its own partisan (even personal) interests with the national interest and to misuse parliamentary tools and to engage in unethical activities, ought to have those powers. Clearly the answer, in so far as it refers to this regime, is No. But our Westminster model of responsible parliamentary government is a masterpiece of political evolution. It is superior to the representative republican models like those found in America and France. But it needs decent, honourable, honest men and women to make it work properly and it is our fault ~ the fault of 33.1 to 39.4% of us, anyway ~ that Justin Trudeau has the power to continue to make “a mockery of Canada’s parliamentary democracy.” We have the power to fix that. I know that something like 18% of Canadians will vote Liberal no matter what, and that’s their right, and I also know that many of those Liberal voters are fine people who want to reform their party from within … and I wish them well. But about 20% of Canadians, for Canada’s sake, for the sake of their children and grandchildren, need to switch their vote to Erin O’Toole’s Conservative Party in order to restore a decent respect for democracy to Canada:

Published by Ted Campbell

Old, retired Canadian soldier, Conservative ~ socially moderate, but a fiscal hawk. A husband, father and grandfather. Published material is posted under the "Fair Dealing" provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act for the purposes of research, private study and education.

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