Politics of fear

ANDREW COYNE: No wonder nothing gets done in Ottawa. Everyone is scared.

Politics of fear

Photograph by Chris Wattie/Reuters

This Parliament began, a little more than a year ago, with a short-lived attempt at forming a coalition government. In its place has emerged something much more enduring: a coalition non-government. The government pretends to govern, and the opposition pretends to oppose it, and both sides seem quite content with their appointed roles. Because everyone’s too afraid to do anything else. Fear is the order of the day in today’s Parliament, and it has paralyzed the place.

I had thought, and written, that the return of Parliament, after all the controversy over prorogation, would see “a ferocious battle of narratives” between a government determined to use the dual occasion of the Throne Speech and budget to shift the agenda on to its preferred ground of the economy, and an opposition equally determined to keep the heat on the government over its handling of the Afghan detainees file, and its refusal to hand over the documents Parliament had demanded in this regard.

Boy, was I wrong. When the proposal to change the wording of O Canada first excited controversy, conspiracy theorists saw it as an attempt to distract public attention from the rest of the government’s agenda. There are several flaws with this theory, but chief among them is the notion that there exists some sort of “agenda” to be distracted from. It’s difficult to say, of course: Throne Speeches are notoriously enigmatic documents. But what had appeared at first blush to be signs of a revival of economic conservatism has not survived closer scrutiny.

The speech’s most startling departure, a proposal to liberalize foreign investment in “key sectors” including, but not limited to, telecommunications, now appears to mean not very much: far from the sweeping away of Canada’s remaining investment barriers that the speech seemed to promise, by the next day’s budget this had been reduced to one comparatively minor sector (satellites), plus a vague nod toward the 2008 report of the federal competition policy review panel, whose proposals were watery enough to begin with.

The cold light of budget day was equally unkind to the Throne Speech’s other major policy thrust: a freeze on departmental operating budgets. Not only was there rather less to the freeze than it first seemed—it applies for two years only, and holds spending only to the lofty base established in fiscal 2011, that is, at the very height of the stimulus frenzy—but, far from signalling a broader program of restraint, it appears to be the extent of it.

For all the “austerity” chatter in the national media, it remains the case that spending, already at an all-time record high, will be $11 billion higher in the next fiscal year than the last, and $12 billion higher than forecast in last year’s budget; that the budget’s spending projection for the next five years is essentially identical to that set out in last September’s fiscal update; and that, in fiscal 2015, nine years after the Tories took office (assuming they are still there), spending would still be higher than it was under the Liberals, by any measure.

A distraction from the government’s agenda? As far as I can tell, the anthem was the agenda. Or at any rate: if you want to know why Stephen Harper now considers $54-billion deficits the benchmark of fiscal responsibility, it helps to know that he is taking policy advice from the likes of Sen. Nancy Ruth. It was Sen. Ruth who prevailed upon the Prime Minister to alter “in all thy sons” to “thou dost in us” (her reaction to the proposal’s demise: “this is another example, for me, of hatred against women”). But it was the Prime Minister who thought this a capital idea. One supposes he is not so far gone as actually to have believed in it. It was just another clever tactical manoeuvre, from a Prime Minister for whom tactical manoeuvres have become a substitute for forward movement.

Talk to Conservative backbenchers, at least among the shrinking numbers of conservatives in the party, and you find a glum lot, embarrassed at what their government has become: the drift, the cynicism, the total absence of ambition or purpose. So why don’t they do something about it? For the same reason that the Prime Minister declines to offer an agenda: fear. The Prime Minister is afraid the public does not share his views, and so refuses to share his views with the public. His MPs are afraid of the Prime Minister, and so shrink from offering any firmer resistance to his right. Unwilling to prod him to do more, they make it easy for him to do nothing.

But Conservatives are lionhearts next to the opposition. Recall again Parliament’s last act before it was prorogued. It was to pass an extraordinary motion ordering the government to hand over all papers related to the Afghan detainees affair, citing Parliament’s “undisputed privileges” under the Constitution, “including the absolute power to require the government to produce uncensored documents when requested.” The motion could not have been clearer; neither could the stakes. Either the government of the day is obliged to bend to the will of Parliament, or it is not. Either we live in a parliamentary system—in a democracy—or not.

And so, the government having thumbed its nose at Parliament in the most forceful way, one should naturally expect opposition MPs to back up these stirring words with actions. As Maclean’s went to press, a week after Parliament’s return, they had done nothing, other than to repeat their demand. “Stop, or we’ll shout ‘stop’ again.”

To be sure, the Liberal MP Derek Lee, who as it happens has particular expertise on this subject (see his seminal 1999 work, The Power of Parliamentary Houses to Send for Persons, Papers and Records) has been pressing the issue. Lee has been seeking leave from the Speaker to raise a question of privilege, which if granted would allow him to put forward a motion finding the government in contempt of Parliament, and instructing the sergeant-at-arms to seize the documents in question.

(By the time this appears, he may even have done so. It will depend on whether the government shows any inclination to hand over the papers on its own, for example in the terms of reference given to former Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci, whom it has asked to advise it on the matter. At press time these remained murky.)

But it’s far from clear whether, if it does come to a vote, his party will back him. You can tell when the opposition isn’t serious about an issue: they get hysterical about it. A media report quoting a lefty prof’s uncorroborated claims about the documents’ contents set them baying like hounds one day. Another report, revealing that—horrors—Canadian intelligence officers had questioned Afghan prisoners (isn’t that what we hire them for? to gather intelligence?), led to even more exaggerated outbursts, as if this in itself proved complicity in torture.

No. There is only one way to resolve this question, and that is for the appropriate authority to have a look at the documents. The appropriate authority in this case is Parliament, “the grand inquest of the nation.” MPs needn’t speculate about the contents of the documents; they have the power to demand them, if only they will use it. If they are serious, they will do so, with whatever special arrangements are needed to allay national security concerns.

But: the opposition is full of buts. Maybe it’s a trap. Maybe the government will declare this a confidence motion. Maybe we’ll be forced into an election we’re not ready for. There are a thousand reasons not to act, and the opposition shows every sign of looking for one. As the government fears the public, so the opposition fears the government.

It’s a funny thing. Minority parliaments are supposed to be unstable. Yet such is the pusillanimity on both sides that this one looks set to run and run. So long as he doesn’t actually do anything, Harper can govern as long as he likes.


Politics of fear

  1. The phenomenon may manifest as fear, but at it's core, is this not just a more extreme parliament-wide plague of politicians acting in their own, best, short-term interests to the exclusion of virtually all else?

    • while it's a factual statement to say that politicians are self-interested cowards, the larger issue is that the political parties and the backroom fixers who are at the bottom of the swamp.

      Removing political parties from the public teat is the first step to liberation from our kleptocracy.

  2. Excellent piece Coyne. This nonsense from both the Tories and the Libs is disheartening to say the least…

    • The key issue here is groupthink. There are MPs on all sides who are simply conforming, thereby contributing to poor decision-making or lack thereof. Yes, its about fear and intimidation, but some people have to self-empower and speak their views here to help our country move forward on this. Come on your people, take a risk for us!

      • Do they have a choice?

        • I agree they may not have a choice during QP Claudia; but during their caucus' or other times they may have time for discussion, they should speak their mind.

          • I agree with that!

  3. This is all well and good, but as long as Canadians continue to insist that they do not want an election and will 'punish' the party that forces one, the politicians on all sides are left to do the best they can with what they have. It's one of those messy quirks of democracy – the power ultimately does rest with the people. When almost half of eligible voters stay home on voting day, the only reasonable conclusion must be that they're content with things staying the way they are now.

    • but knick, who says the Canadian public are actually insist anything or would actually punish anybody if there was an actual election?

      • I would be very surprised if the desire to punish the party that causes an election actually swings any more than just a few votes either way. It's one of those things that is easy to say when focusing on just that question, but once at the polling station and then in the voting booth it is hard for me to believe that other factors won't overwhelm that desire.

        • I don't think is about punishing a party. I think, that most Canadians don't believe is an alternative out there and we will have the same result, Harper as PM and perhaps a majority (doesn't look like that will be the case) but we all know Ignatieff is not going to be elected, look at his personal numbers, they suck!

        • exactly Phil. and further, i think there is a big difference in asking Canadians if they want an election in a poll and what happens when a party/parties actually forces one and makes the actual case as to why they did so i think the whole punish parties at the polls thing is an old saw whose merits are dubious at best.

          • I share your skepticism about the validity of polling results, but there's more than one way for voters to punish a party that forces an election – staying home on voting day is one of them. The party that forces an election that fails to get more than about half of eligible voters to show up on voting day and produces the same situation would, I think, lose some credibility.

          • The 'stay at home which amounts to punishment' theory seems very plausible to me..I like it; not quite an explicit punishment, but close.

            Just thinking a bit more about voter turnout and punishing parties by staying at home and so on…..I would be interested to see some numbers. Specifically, how many swing voters are there, really? And I'm thinking of two types of swing voters: those who may or may not cast a ballot at all, and then those who routinely move their vote from one party to the other. I suppose that there be some overlap between those two swing groups.

            Mostly just interested……

      • I can only base my comment on what polls have shown, but I'm guessing that the absence of any kind of public agitation for an election, as there was to oppose prorogation, would seem to confirm.

        • i guess what i am suggesting is more that people might say any one of a number of things in a poll, but i don't that those things necessarily actually are followed through when the reality materializes (ie an election is called).

          so for instance, polling may well indicate that Canadians do not want an election now on the issues of contempt for parliament and detainees, but if the opposition moved Lee's motion forward and the PM interpreted it as a matter of confidence, I don't beleive they would actually straightaway punish the opposition in any manner as conventional wisdom would suggest. I do believe that the public would listen to all parties (more or less on the issue) and if a coherent, convincing case was put forward as to why they did what they did citizens would be willing to consider. in short, Canadians views are not that stagnant from poll to election and there are too many issues and other intervening variables.

  4. Our politicians are as capable and praiseworthy as the media that interprets. Lies, and liars abound.

    Media and politicians deserve each other.

    • So we fix it. Vote for people who act differently, and tell them so. Buy magazines and papers that act differently, and tell them so. And tell your friends and family. If things improve, we win. If they don't, we deserve it too.


      • "Buy magazines and papers that act differently"

        Here in Canada???? Surely you jest!
        The NP excluded, they print the same toilet paper that you read from Coyne!

    • And we deserve both of them.

  5. I am in two minds on this: the only thing worse than an inactive government may be an active one. After all, do you really want the government legislating away like crazy, dreaming up new ways to entangle our lives and spend our money? I would be happier if they would spend less and do less, but this is not politically acceptable. Harper may have settled for not acting as a way to relatively reduce the impact of government in our lives.

  6. What utter nonsense. Harper is succeeding not because everyone is "scared" (which says something about the durability of this "scary Harper" meme) but because he is providing the exact kind of Government Canadians want.

    He is the middle class manager of a middle class country. Home reno tax credit, pension-income splitting, GST cuts, interest in hockey, these are signs that he understands the middle class. He understands "it's the economy, stupid", and "jobs, jobs, jobs" that gets you elected or unelected.

    Detainees and prorogation "scandals" are trifles. Just because our host continues to want to ride the "Parliament will fight!" horse doesn't mean we all want to go along with him. People outside Ottawa simply do not care about Parliamentary privilege, or prorogation. They are very proud of our military, and will be happy when Canada leaves Afghanistan in 2011. If anyone accuses our troops of war crimes, they better have proof.

    In short Harper is succeeding for the same reasons Chretien succeeded: an intuitive grasp of what Canadians want, think and feel (what some in the media call "political instincts"); and excellent political self-discipline and leadership. The very qualities both Dion and Ignatieff lack.

    • Orval, you are right on the money. Now if Mr Harper can get his majority, Canadians can revert to that wonderfully benign state that PM King created and ran oh so long ago, wherein he commented at the end of his only real parliamentary row, "Conscription if necessary, but not necessarily conscription". Now that was good Canadian politics. Surely, if Mr Harper has a role model, it is PM King.

      • The CPC already has a majority government in ROC = CPC 134; Opposition parties 99 (Lib 63, NDP 36).

        The key to the future of Federal politics is therefore Quebec, i.e., to whom the Bloc voters go if and when BQ fades.

        • Toujours le Quebec. l'Histoire de mon pays.

          • what do you expect from Jesuit priests – aka: the Soldiers of God. Their influence is profound

        • Lots of frustrated Conservatives would love to see Quebec leave, but that's because they don't seem to be able to digest the fact that Quebec represents a quarter of the population, existed BEFORE the ROC (rest of Canada, so called) and is the heart of most of what passes for creative in this country. Leaders in pharmaceuticals, animation, new media and video game development, high-speed rail (which this country is too backward to even use itself), aerospace, live performance, etc. What Napolean said about England applies to the (so-called) ROC … it's a "nation of shopkeepers". No ideas, no vision. Just beer and popcorn.

          • My comment in French was not anti-Quebec. It is a fact of political life in Canada that there is one and only one power block – Quebec.

          • The real traitors to a united Canada are those Montreal and West Island voters who always vote Liberal as their "federalist" vote. What their vote really represents is a proxy vote supporting the Quebec-only BQ separatists. Those who vote Liberal/NDP in Quebec are denying a uniting Conservative majority gov't that would neuter the BQ separatists in the Canadian HoCs.

            Those who continue to vote Liberal in Quebec and claiming it's a "federalist" vote are liars and traitors to a united Canada.

          • That's the way to win them over, call them traitors. I'm sure Parazeau would second your oinion. Did you have a hand in the Tories last Quebeec campaign by any chance?

          • What do you want me to tell them when they are stuck in their Liberal mire, and stab the RoC in the back with their support of a separated Quebec .. They are crypto-separatists by voting Liberal when the RoC elects 133 CPC MPs out of an available 233 ridings or a 57% MAJORITY …!!!!

            If Montreal voters were truly "federalist", they would be voting Conservative rather than clinging to their Adscam-tainted Liberal MPs. They are truly "traitors" to a united Canada. So obvious..!!!

          • Perhaps their idea of a united Canada isn't the same as yours. Judging by your self righteous tone i can't say i blame them. But take your ideas to Montreal by all means, bon chance!

          • No, the real traitors to a united Canada are those Alberta and Saskatchewan voters who always vote Conservative as their "federalist" vote. What their vote really represents is a proxy vote supporting the Quebec-only BQ separatists. Those who vote Conservative in Alberta are denying a uniting Liberal majority gov't that would neuter the BQ separatists in the Canadian HoCs.

            Those who continue to vote Conservative in Alberta and claiming it's a "federalist" vote are liars and traitors to a united Canada.

            Hey wow! Look, the logic is exactly the same — that is, completely without merit.

          • Thanks for stating what I would have stated in your absence.
            Sometimes, I wish I knew where the stash of Kool-aid is kept…..

          • and miners; just wait to see what happens with Vale-Inco strike

      • You forgot the word "as" between "PM" and "King".

    • The irony being of course that many conservatives [chief among them Harper] were appalled at Chretien's formulae of you can't go wrong if you don't do anything. I'm not sure i buy any of this. chretien did get some worthwhile things done [particularly from a liberal perspective, ie., responsibility to protect] And Harper is quietly srabbling away in the corners attempting to change the country in ways that many do, and i suspect even more don't like.

    • Orval, you are totally delusional.
      Harper is the most polarizing character I've ever seen. If Harper is trying to sell his image on "it's the economy, stupid", well he has a tough job. He is running the largest spending government in the history of Canada, which was running headlong into a deficit long before the global recession. He is not acting like a fiscal conservative and his "base" is weakening because of it. Those on the centre and left can't stand the guy for reasons too lengthy to post here.
      The only reason Harper is suceeding, if you consider 32 per cent support, success, is because the Liberal Opposition can't seem to get their act together and the Greens/NDP split the vote on the centre left enough to ensure anything but a very strong Liberal Opposition won't go over 30 per cent or so.
      So, go ahead and tell yourself Harper is succeeding because he's a good manager. He's succeeding in spite of being a terrible manager.

      • Actually I don't even imagine the prime minister believes he is succeeding.

      • You appear to buy into the media-driven delusion of "most-polarizing,autocratic, bully, ideologue, shuts down democracy, blah, blah blah". I am quite happy with Canada's economic situation and prospects, compared to, let's say, Greece or USA. The recent Nanos poll had 78% of Canadians believing that Canada was the best placed country to come out of the global recession – a triumph of Government message discipline over the hysterical naysayers in the media.

        For from his base weakening, the CPC has taken in record amounts of money from its supporters in every year, which tells you what the real "base" thinks. PM Harper leads in a significant way all leadership polling "who is best PM?" He already has a sizable political majority in RoC, and is growing, not shrinking, his support.

        The fact of the matter is nobody believes the media anymore. The Government is right to ignore it.

        • Right on, Orval – autre fois. Mr Harper's Canada never looked so well managed and sane as it does now. Incidentally, you needn't have brought basket case Greece into the piece to support your thesis; try UK.

          You are also right on about the cess pit that is the media. What in the world are journalists up to? Or is it that they are just never going to abandon that finest hour when they graduated with their journalism degrees? Most of us have moved on by the age of 30, but these pompous know nothings seem to hang on to their sophomoric views forever.

        • The only triumph of this government on the economy was that they at least were able to recognize their mistake when it got played out in front of them in the US, that's why they reversed their previous decision to allow banks to give 40yr, no-down mortgages.

          The rest of it is Mark Carney for adapting our interest rates quickly and decisively, the Liberal government previous for having us set up in a very strong economic position to start with, and the Liberal governments previous to that for blocking the big bank mergers.

          As to how much they've received in donations, it makes sense they've received more money this year.. they've had more money to advertise with.. oh wait.. that's not their money they're advertising with.. it's ours.

          • Hey Mr Coyne how bout you address thwim's last point, since you favour doing away with public subs. How do you go about countering the temptation for an incumbent gov't to use the power of the public purse to leverage an unfair and unethical advantage in raising private donations?

  7. No wonder nothing gets done in Ottawa. Everyone is scared.

    Right on Andrew …

    Naturally the common people don't want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.” Hermann Goering

  8. I'm with Ron…its got more to do with the MSM then anything else. On Sunday's QP Craig Oliver twice refered to Rahim Jaffir as "a high profile MP'…now, how does Craig Oliver not know that Jaffir is a private citizen? Look at the Rabson column from Winnipeg last week wondering how the Federal Conservatives managed to reach an Ontario judge..even though the judge never ruled on the case. Look at the treatment of Stephane Dion in that famous CTV interview in which he was tired and confused with a very confusing question. In a CBC Olympic report a few weeks ago the female anchor questions who Michael Ignatief would be cheering for in the Canada/Russia game because he was born in Russia and is.."betwixed and between" of who to root for…how low and stupid can you go. It goes on and on and on and on. Dont have a story..hey…justs make one up with.."a liberal/conservative insider says..". And if you dont believe me read David Aikin from last weeks Jaffir affair….it was TMZ journalism and nothing more. We expect and deserve better Mr Coyne.

  9. Once again, Coyne, you have highlighted for all to see the brilliance of Harper. Kneel down and pay your respects at the feet of the Master, for he shall prevail.

  10. So the media is not able to set the agenda with Harper in the big chair,
    so we get the whining on how everyone is afraid to do something.
    Harper is evil and controlling, the Opps are whimps, there is nothing right about Canada.

    Well 'something' is getting done Mr Coyne,
    and it was illustrated in no uncertain terms during the Olympics.

    We like us.
    We don't agree that Canada was an embarrassment in Copenhagen,
    and a failure in Afghanistan……

    Perhaps the media should quit trying to lead, and let 'we Canadians' show YOU the way.
    You might learn something, if you would just listen to us instead of all those journalists in the Ottawa bubble.

    • Excellent Wilson.The media is always such a downer

      • The left wing media in this country should be denied oxygen!

        • Indeed, far better and easier to kill those who have an opinion you disagree with than actually attempt to use reason.

          That involves all sorts of messy facts and stuff that don't support your gut feelings, after all.

          • It was a figure of speach…………………but I guess you knew that with your superior reasoning skills!

    • "We like us.
      We don't agree that Canada was an embarrassment in Copenhagen,
      and a failure in Afghanistan…… '

      You got all that from one suceessful Olympics…you should beome a pundit – maybe you could write for Macleans?

      I suppose anyone who questions those assumptions is unCanadian or disloyal, or not supporting our troops or something?

  11. to quote a pretty good source: To Be or Not To Be, this is the Question. And we are not "being" these days. As to why? Keeps various elite groups and wealthy Canadians at the top of the food chain. Has the thought occurred to people that when Government Service and MPs were not renumerated so handsomely."democracy" worked? A nation that let's Wal-Mart Superstores trump just about anything else, including our major grocery and consumer purveyors gets the government it deserves. At least the Olympic mittens sold well even if they were Made in China. – fear and loathing somewhere in the fruit belt and oil patch

  12. I cannot understand what the issue is here. Canada and its citizens are are part of the wider family that control the world. The countriy's issues are not in Canada but everywhere else on the planet.

    Its people do not have a problem with its armed forces invading other countries and the consequences of this. I say this by its reaction to all this(Or lack of reaction). Its history is based on one of conquest(http://www.youtube.com/?v=Dgbrt7NJCtg, both internally and externally.

    The people of canada consider themselves fortunate to be in the membership of nations that dictate to others what they should to avoid invasion. Therefore, its a non issue what its political leaders do inside the country when they are allowed to act freely outside the country!

  13. Andrew, what do you propose Harper do differently?
    Please see my comments regarding your position on this here.

  14. …have only helped to fuel…

    • " . The diff in both the trudeau and Mulroney years was that neither man was afaid to try and sell his big ideas head on, despite media objections/bad press "

      There is the further possibility that no-ones actually has any worthwhile ideas to fire up the public, none the public likes anyway?

  15. Andrew Coyne ignores one very important issue, homosexual lobby in Canada has a firm grip on media, public opinion pooling, LPC and NDP.
    Homosexual lobby in Canada is at war with Conservative government and they use cooked results of public opinion pools to inflate popularity of Liberals in MSM reports. That causes quite idiotic sytuation for Liberals as true numbers show them that they cannot afford next federal election as they stand to lose more MPs and next election will most like result in Conservative majority. Homosexual propaganda that inflates popularity of Liberal Party makes all Liberal politicians in Ottawa look very weak as they do not behave bold enough in comparison to inflated popularity numbers that homo lobby produces for them.

    • WOW! With help like this, who needs enemys?
      No wonder us conservatives can't get over the hump!

    • Yer a goof !

  16. Firm grip that homo lobby has on MSM and a constant war that they wage thru MSM on Conservatives creates a sytuation where Canservatives have to use elaborate tactics in order to get their message thru to Canadian electorate.
    For Harper best tactics is to hold on to power and let conservative grassroots work on defeating homo lobby's iron grip on MSM. Other good tactics that is utilised lately is to provoke homo lobby into attacks on Conservatives on carefuly selected issues "Jason Kanney affair".
    Burdening LPC and NDP with "homo anchor" caues that more and more people get turned off on LPC and NDP for their very public pandering to homo lobby and homo agenda.

    • Man.. I never realized the milk board was so powerful.

      I think they support skim too though.

      • "Andrew Coyne ignores one very important issue, homosexual lobby in Canada has a firm grip on media, public opinion pooling, LPC and NDP."

        Look beyond the comfy parlor, and "they're" doing a good job of keeping a 'firm grip' on the Conservative Party too, but please – keep whatever delusions you need to get to sleep at night, Karol "one initial short" K.

      • My very generous take for the writer on the "homo" term was also homogenous; just meaning similar. Not sure if it fit.

    • Karol, I don't think you raise an unimportant point. I also believe that the gay lobby group inserts itself in each and every issue. But then, to openly say that much will mean that you are being accused of homophobia once again, which proves the point that they use "it' to make their lobbying position stronger. And they know it too. We know it too, of course, but how to change that catch 22 situation is another matter. Perhaps letting the "homo anchor" burden settle might be the best option available.

      I think your thoughts on this are interesting.

    • maybe another tactic would be to get more homosexual MPs in the Conservative Party …we had one run in Vancouver Centre last election

    • Good ol' Karol Karolak!

      Everyone misses you from the G&M boards since you've been banned

      Just for old time's sake, can you throw in a 'Librano Gang'? For me its like hearing Preston Manning say 'Refooooorm'!

    • Have you seen the movie "Blues Brothers" Karol_K?
      I quote this in honor of you and your "homo anchor"…

      "White men! White women! The flag is calling you. The sacred and ancient symbol of your race, since the beginning of time. The Jew is using The Black as muscle against you. And you are left there helpless. Well, what are you going to do about it, Whitey? Just sit there? Of course not! You are going to join with us. The members of the American, National Socialist, White Peoples' Party. An organization of decent, law abiding white folk. Just like you! "

      • you've had your turn. Now hear here, have a listen to how I see things:

        Ever since the aspect of individuality is held in higher regards than the collective instinct, homosexuality seems to be in an upsurge. Why would that be? Is homosexuality not an aspect one is born into? Yes, I won't deny that but the inheritance is not as direct as one might suspect, meaning it might not go quickly from one generation to the next. However, the increased emphasis on individualtiy gets stronger over generations. But a healthy sense of individuality means the individual knows and understands that the "other" or "opposite" is needed for safeguarding our collectivity. You see, individualism and collectivity can not be considered apart; they belong together or are not to be.

  17. How pleasant. The politicians are afraid. Afraid of the electorate!

    What would I really like to see? The CRA afraid to collect taxes.

    We can dream.


  18. Orval, Orval, Orval. Your blue knickers are showing below your skirt.

  19. ~ Canadian Classifieds ~
    Wanted: Democratic Renewal
    For Sale: Canada, a little bit at a time
    Lost: Confidence in our Prime Minister to be accountable
    Found: Patriotism and an end to apathy!

    Nationwide Rally April 2, 2010 1-3 p.m
    Location: Canada wide
    Make this Good Friday a Rally Good Friday for Canada!

    For all Canadian eyes that fall upon these words. We need you, Canada needs you now!
    Could it be a lot of bother or energy to organize/attend a rally in your area? Maybe, but then you ask yourself "Is the reason for doing it worth it? Is Canada's future as a strong, democratic, respected, peaceful nation worth it?"
    Get on board ~ You will be welcome with glowing hearts!

    • I support Stephen Harper … now reveal to us who you support as Canada's prime minister … that is if you will be transparent and accountable in a democratic sense. Go ahead … we are waiting …….

      • I have a few questions for you first dear Observant. Do you think Stephen Harper has kept his campaign promises of accountability and transparency? Do you believe he (or any leader) should be able to pose for photo ops and not give interviews and then when questions to the PM are allowed is it right to pre-screen them and only allow certain, hand picked journalists to pose them? Do you agree that we should be building more prisons when crime rates are down?
        Do you agree with U.S. officers having the extended permission to arrest Canadians on Canadian borders?
        [youtube YEHHnIXvRzM&feature=channel http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YEHHnIXvRzM&fe… youtube][polldaddy 2900439 http://answers.polldaddy.com/poll/2900439/ polldaddy][polldaddy 2900445 http://answers.polldaddy.com/poll/2900445/ polldaddy]

        • STOP with your obfuscating and Harper-hating propaganda..!!! I asked you a relevant question and you are dodging..!!!

          If you believe PM Harper is not deserving to lead Canada, then reveal who you would support as Canada's next PM??

          Saying: "Anybody but Harper" would be a cop out and devious … so fess up or you will be as unaccountable as Harper and your cause rendered suspect.

        • STOP with your obfuscating and Harper-hating propaganda..!!! I asked you a relevant question and you are dodging..!!!

          Either respond to my initial question or just withdraw … without asking the forum moderator to delete my valid request.

        • Michelle, I have all respect for young people trying to enter into the democratic dialogue. But what you should do first is to try out your ideas concerning arguments and counterarguments in a school-like setting, where you will learn the skills to participate fully within democracy. Whipping up the masses with half-baked insights does more damage to the democratic well being, not help it.

          Mr.Ignatieff might think it a good idea to have university students help him out concerning LPC directions, but not untill you've lived in the real world (outside of university) will reality be revealed and thus provide sufficient knowhow for finding real solutions to political problems. One day, he and you will come to understand that much!

          • Michelle is just a Liberal operative trying to demonize PM Harper because there may just be a reward for her if the Liberals seize power again … these types are political parasites who hide behind some silly anonymous facebook website doing their damage to Canadian democracy… so obvious.

          • "Liberal operative"?
            Agent training has really gone to the pooper. But forget all that.
            Spew MORE venom!!! Tell us how you really feel!
            Don't sugarcoat. Feel free to include "homo anchor" if necessary.
            Be "observant", and not obvious……

          • I would vote 'coalition' if you really need to know, which I find strange, that it is so important that you know this. For the record I'm not a liberal nor am I a university student!
            Harper and his minions are in contempt of Parliament, that's a fact and that's illegal, and God help us:
            This is a partial transcript of the interview of Law Professor Amir Attaran
            by the CBC's Carole MacNeil (starting just after the 4 minute mark of
            the almost 8 minute interview). The interview was broadcast on CBC News
            Network on the afternoon of Friday, 2010.03.05. The time stamps are
            indicated between square brackets (i.e …[0:00]) and are slightly
            approximate (they could be off by a few seconds).

            [Amir Attaran] You don't need an act of
            Parliament, this is a Constitutional power, it's in our Constitution.
            Let me be totally clear. What the government has done so far in failing
            to release the documents to Parliament uncensored, one hundred percent
            is illegal.[5:53] Mr Nicholson is acting without legal authority. He is
            violating, the government is violating the Constitution of Canada. Does
            that sound like a crisis? It should, because the Constitution is the
            highest law of the land, and in other democracies, more advanced than
            the present government, this is not even debated. It's absolutely taken
            as granted.
            Now 'OBSERVANT' ~ strange name for a mother to call her child, but whatever….Answer the questions I posed to you, if you can….bet you can't! And try and do your silly dance around the facts above you.
            It worries me to no end that people will still support this PM after all he's done and hasn't done! Bet you supported his half baked excuses for proroguing Parliament too ~ of course you did, you're cut from the same sick cloth!

  20. A media report quoting a lefty prof's uncorroborated claims about the documents' contents set them baying like hounds one day. Another report, revealing that—horrors—Canadian intelligence officers had questioned Afghan prisoners (isn't that what we hire them for? to gather intelligence?), led to even more exaggerated outbursts, as if this in itself proved complicity in torture.

    Finally, someone in the media has made these obvious points.

    MPs needn't speculate about the contents of the documents; they have the power to demand them, if only they will use it. If they are serious, they will do so, with whatever special arrangements are needed to allay national security concerns.

    This is correct – looks like Harper is waiting for them to go all-in, but they're too afraid to put their money where their mouths are.

  21. I love reading the mostly quality comments here compared to some other msm sites and I like the column Coyne offers here. But at times Coyne does seem to be part of the problem. Just a few days ago on TV Coyne chagrined the PM for days ago attempting a "jiggery video" on Youtube, which was just for "stunt value". He guffawed at the fabrication of so-called media filtering, and that somehow the Liberal inclined media were blocking (and countering) PM Harper's message continually. As example he said Harper had easily manipulated the media some time ago, by getting his own way with a piano performance!
    After laughing off the possibility of a Liberal friendly media existing, he said that a mediated populism is best when in fact there is a "proper mix", he hates to say it but , a filtering, a screening out of the yahoos and crazies is necessary.

    Well I read only one or two KKrazies on this thread and most of us quickly move on anyways, offering no traction.

    So expand on the need for filtering Andrew and how it doesn't exist, yet is a fabrication of some of us who are not Liberals at this point in time? Filtering but not necessarily filtering?

  22. The number one reason for the climate of fear is the incessant gotch-style media reporting. Every person on the Hill knows that little good they do will ever see the light of the press but one single word or action set wrong will result in days, if not weeks, of attacks, insults, accusations and screams of outrage from the media. Look at the reporting on the Jaffir affair – absolutly no evidence (actually outright denial from the Provincial Crown) of Conservative involvement in the dropping of charges but the media has attacked them and blamed them for the outcome. Jaffir was treated exactly as thousands of citizens every day in this country, having charges dropped, negotiated away and walking away from serious consequences – that is the core of Canadian "justice". Yet, attacks and insults abound. It isnt' fear of doing something that hobbles MP's – it is fear that should some lazy journalist catch an unscripted moment the MP's career could be over in a flurry of misinformation, slanted story telling, half-truths and innuendo. I don't blame them.

    • Perhaps? although gotcha journalism didn't seem to stop Mulroney fighting for free trade and the GST. It ididn't prevent Trudeau repatriating the constitution or bringing in bi-lingualism. I'm not at all sure gotcha style coverage is any worse now, although the media's attention span is noticeably shorter – but so is ours – so maybe i'm mistaken? Call me a cynic, but when the system hasn't undergone radical change, one can only conclude it is the quality of the men and women that has changed – and not for the better. It's all rather odd. In all likelihood the educational level of todays journo and or politician has never been higher, yet still the malaise. It's gotta be the fluoride in the water.

      • I'm not sure I'd agree that gotcha style coverage isn't worse now. Yes, the media has always liked a good scandal, and since Watergate it's been a prime way to sell papers and gain viewers. However, the advent of 24 hour news cycles and a multi-channel/internet universe has stepped up the pressure to deliver news quickly and in a way that attracts attention. I don't think Mulroney and Trudeau faced the same pressures, though both surely suffered at the hands of the media as public opinion turned against them. I guess the difference is that in their day it was the pursuit of big ideas that brought them down, while today politicians won't even consider big ideas because it's a ill-worded tweet alone that could bring them down.

      • One could argue that the 24 hour news cycle, the blogosphere, and media cutbacks have all led to less journalists seeking stories with more flash than substance. It's much easier to write a knee jerk column suggesting a prosecutor with sacrifice his career to help out a has been party-boy politician than it is digging through access to information requests. Suddenly media giants are failing, editors have no idea how to get readers back without going for the gutter, and journalists are just trying to save their jobs, integrity be damned.

        I'm both frustrated and sympathetic to the Government. I understand that shaky public opinion, a hostile press, and a parliamentary minority make bold policy objectives seen impossible, but too often the Government's agenda gets sidetracked by problems that were easily avoidable. Common sense would have dictated how monumentally stupid the O Canada flap was. Moreover, as a former junior staffer, it was painfully obvious that Jasmine MacDonnell and Helena Guergis, amongst others, were ticking time bombs.

        It's no surprise to conservatives how awful the media can be. It's just so disappointing to repeatedly see a Government you believe in get thrown off message by the basics.

        • I agree with you guys, the 24hr news cycle has only made things worse – even more of a fishbowl. But gov'ts [this one in particular] when they counter perceived gotcha coverage with armies of unelected spin doctors and sleazy ten percenters; this only helped to fuel public cynicism. The diff in both the trudeau and Mulroney years was that neither man was afaid to try and sell his big ideas head on, despite media objections/bad press ; which is kinda Ac's point here, no-one has the courage to really take a risk. To win you must not be afraid of failure. But it's likely true things are tougher now. But if the wells are poisioned i don't think it's entirely fair to just blame the media. Decades of big govt, big ideas/anti-intellectualism = bad propaganda has done its part too.

    • Ronnie, Ronnie, Ronnie. Your blue knickers are showing below your skirt.

  23. It's sad, but after Maher Arar's case, allegations of complicity in torture are far more believable.

  24. This fear you speak of, Andrew, shows us why your pet project on proportional representation will never work. Everyone is afraid of an election with the existing minority government. PR will only make matters worse.

    What we need right now is a strong majority government and I'll event take a Liberal one if I have to – at least that way we can get some substantive direction for the country.

    • PR won't make it worse, because PR would mean that minor swings in the electorate voting result in only minor changes in government, whereas right now a minor swing can change the entire makeup of government. So right now they're afraid to do anything because it might provoke a small swing which could be enough to give Conservatives a majority or knock them into the opposition seats.

      Under PR, a government has room to maneuver without feeling it'll lose them everything.

      • Why do i have the feeling we need remedial civics for all Canadians, badly?

      • PR is not the answer. If you look at a host of other countries which use PR, many small splinter groups appear within the House. Have a look at other countries and how often they hold elections as a result of spinter parties. And besides the fact that these splinter groups hang on one or two issues, within Canada we could see many regional parties emerge, something like the BQ is now. Why would that improve our federal politics? We already have provincial politics.

        • what small spinter groups? Other than Israel which doesn't have a threshold for entry to parliament, most PR systems that i'm aware of set at least a 5% threshold.

          • ok, you're trolling, right?

            But in any case, have a look at Dutch politics. The forth government has broken up in a time span of five years. They will go to the polls again on June 9. Now that will be an interesting election but not because of splinter groups.

            Did you know that the Dutch population comes in at about 16 million and that there are 10 political parties represented in the House? BTW, the size of Holland fits into Alberta about 17 times, so can you imagine how many political parties Canada could end up with?

            Have a look at New Zealand where they instituted partial PRm they have MP's as well as MMP's. Now there are the special interest group parties such as the Maori party (Natives of New Zealand) and the Green party (wanting no changes made to the NZ landscape.Period) and so forth. you think it will get easier with PR? Think again.

          • How is asking a question trolling? You don't like someone challenging your assertions you shouldn't make them. This is not your own assertion free zone.
            I know next to nothing about Holland. Still, i suspect that there would be some cultural factors in play re., the political diversity – you'd need a lot more data/context then that to prove your point. I have a friend who's involved in the green party in NZ. He claims they like their system fine – but i don't know. What's more the single issue parties, such as the Maori party still have to find a way to compromise and work with others, and as an added bonus Maoris feel they truly have someone advocating for them who care – not just providing lip service. It seems to be brokerage politics outside of the big parties, rather than inside like here. I'm not at all sure if that would work here or not. I'd be interested to hear ACs perspective on this point.

  25. There are two political parties in Canada, the Winners and Losers, but people don't acknowledge this and claim membership in imaginary parties instead, called the Conservatives and the Liberals.

  26. Perhaps a moot point, but by law, parliament is NOT supreme. In fact the law IS. The Constitution/Canada Act/BNA/Charter and appended legacy documents and traditions are the law. if parliament and/or the pmo/pco don't like it there is an ammending formula. Why is this such a difficult concept to understand?

    Our rights are protected FROM government by the the LAW. It is delusional to posit we need protection from what our entire system of goverenance was designed to protect us from…arbitrary government imposition on our lives and a tyranny of the financial/academic elite.

    • Releasing the document to Parliament is in no way covered by the Charter. It is the Charter that is supreme to Parliament. Why is that such a difficult concept to understand?

      • different issue, I should have been more clear. This issue you are addressing is only a symptom, not the disease. BUT, if there is any chance that any serving soldier could be exposed to any theoretical risk whatsoever by disclosing the "documents" (and I'm cetain there is) I support the CPC position. many spooks from many lands would be reading them at the same time as the committee.

        • Wow! You're arguing that these Top Secret level cleared committee members are traitors, you realize? You really should take that evidence to the Minister of Justice right away!

          Oh wait.. you don't have any evidence? You're just using your posterior as your communication device again? My mistake.

          • Never underestimate the power of paranoia.

          • Do I think any politician would jeapordize national security and the safety of our soldiers for temporary political advantage? Absolutely. BTW "the nobodies 50 feet from the Hill" are not given top security clearance. Ministers and staffers are on an as needed basis. NO ONE outside DND or Foreign Affairs (and pmo pco) has any need to know any of this. The pandering to populist- ill- informed-ignorant-partisan sentiment through a brain dead media by the LPC and NDP on this file has been a disgrace. (I don't tread french so I'll leave the Bloc out), but that said do you seriously think BQ Mps are loyal to Canada? If you do it explains much.

          • Never mind the brain dead media! There are plenty here, most notibly the two you are trying to school with your post above as per classified documents on a need to know basis!

          • Von Mises dubbed their malady the Fourier Complex, after the french socilaist…better we all live in poverty together than allow any to shine. But, cautioned that laboring for freedom was a lonley but noble task.

          • Right, we're talking about accountability, so we must be socialists. I got the link right away.

          • So.. if you don't trust any of the elected politicians, why do you trust the PMO PCO staff?
            Could it be because you're a hypocrite?

          • No-one is talking about letting all the mps see sensitive info; and leaking national security info has serious consequences – or certainly should have.
            I want the bloc gone as much as you, but whether you like it or not bloc members are still currently Canadians. When has one bloc or Quebec born mp even been accused of betraying this countrie's secrets, let alone convicted for it? You might want to remember Quebecer's have fought and died in Afghanistan too!

      • The Charter guarantees equality before the law. This means that if Canadians cannot see certain information because it is illegal to release under the Security of Information Act and the Canada Evidence Act, this means that Canadians who happen to MPs also cannot see it. Parliamentary privilege does NOT overcome the law of the land, period. MPs have an advantage over Canadians in that they can change the law, but unless they do so,the law applies to them as it applies to everyone else.

        • Under that reasoning, nothing can be secret ever. Brilliant.

          • sorry wrong. A House of Commons resolution is not law. To become law, a bill has to be debated and passed in both the House of Commons and the Senate, and then be given Royal Assent by the GG. An amendment to any existing Act has to go through the same process. So if the House wants to exempt itself from the Security of Information Act, it has a ways to go….

            When people talk about the will of Parliament, they often overlook the fact that Parliament has three components – The Crown; the Senate and the House of Commons. All three have to consent before a bill becomes law.

          • This is particularly interesting.

            Constitutional Principles

            "In Canada, the Constitution is the supreme law and any law that is inconsistent with it is of no force or effect. In other words, the Constitution trumps any law passed by the federal (or provincial) government. The Constitution includes the Charter of Rights as well as other rights that are specifically written in the text of the Constitution. There are also unwritten rules, or constitutional principles, which are also part of the Constitution and would also trump federal laws, such as the Canada Evidence Act.

    • Parliament determines law. It can rescind or amend any law it wishes, or introduce new laws, which is what it regularly does as the legislative branch of government. That said, the judiciary reviews the laws Parliament enacts to ensure their constitutionality. One checks the other in terms of law. I believe you mean to say that the Constitution is supreme. However, even then, the "notwithstanding" clause can be, and has been, invoked by legislators to subvert it (e.g. Quebec's language law). The more important issue, I believe, is not whether the "law" trumps all else but whether the executive branch of government in our democracy is accountable to Parliament and the courts. The Harper administration seems to be arguing that it knows best and the rest of us should simply accept that.

      • Don't forget the Stautory Instruments Act and the joint committee of the House and Senate, Scrutiny of Regulations. Since federal overreach has become the fashion S-regs is more a paper tiger that fails its mission every day than a the power house it should be in a nation that professes concern for the rule of law…but this is certainly not a Conservative only failing.

  27. It seems MPs believe that Canadians don't want an election. That provides a convenient cover for the politicians' real fear, which is loosing an election. Voter turnout in the last four elections was roughly 60%, with the exception of 2006 when the participation rate was closer to 65% (source: Elections Canada). The 40% of eligible voters who have not participated in recent national elections are grossly skewing opinion surveys on whether Canadians want another election now. Given actual voter turnout since 2000, it hardly seems surprising that pollsters are finding that Canadians generally prefer not to have an election. But why allow this to paralyze our democracy? Let the present Parliament be dissolved now so that the majority who actually cast ballots may exercise their franchise again and force MPs to confront their fears! The supremacy of Parliament over the executive seems an excellent issue to focus our minds and theirs.

  28. Liberals will have their Canada150 "thinkers" conference in Montreal on March 26-28, promising to provide Ignatieff with a new Liberal policy platform that he can take to Canadians this summer… a Donolo summer bus tour to every corner of Canada. This will be a vast departure from Iggy's lifestyle of taking the summer off from teaching and politics.

    The pressure will be on Ignatieff to pull the plug immediately, in April, and precipitate an election in April-May … rather than hesitate and struggle all summer to sell Canadians something that may be perceived as irrelevant to unreceptive Canadians. There is also the question of Iggy's personal credibility even though he is cloaked in Liberal drag.

    A leader who cannot convincingly deliver the message to the voting masses is not a viable leader. Will Iggy enhance his leadership by touring Canada trying to sell Canadians on new Liberal policy … or will he tank as the CPC runs effective attack ads to trip him up?

    I favour a snap election this April-May, before the G8-20 Summit conference … otherwise the Liberals will be perceived as being contradictory between their message and their actions. It's now or never for Iggy … believe it.

      • In any next election, Harper will be asking Canadians to elect a majority Conservative gov't to implement the Budget and necessary cuts to gov't spending… all unhindered by the opposition parties. Charest asked Quebecers for the same thing and got his majority in 2009.

        Canadians will get 4 years of electoral peace if they elect a majority gov't .. guaranteed. Ignatieff is not credible enough to ask for a Liberal majority gov't with him a PM of Canada. The only way Iggy can be PM is to form a pre-election coalition with the NDP and lead the coalition.

        If the new Liberal policy platform is a NDP-approved platform, we may see a strategic voting coalition in the next election. That's the only way the Left can knock off Harper. However, Iggy may not be acceptable to the NDP as the next PM of Canada … they may want Layton as the coalition leader and next PM. Dion has failed and Iggy is unacceptable… so that only leaves Layton.

        • I agree, but another coalition will never happen.I dont think Layton is well enough to even go there.

    • I favour an election soon, too!
      I'm only peripherally afraid.
      Yes, and get'er done before G8-20.
      Canada150 "thinkers" conference should include statespersons from all opposition parties past and present and the Opps should hammer out a feasible, transparent plan for a coalition government – once burned, don't be shy! Include Ed Broadbent, Stephen Lewis, et al those amazing people like Elizabeth May!

      Chantal Hebert's Star article pre-prorogation, Dec 28, 2009 lays on the outline, I can't post it enough. http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/742159

      Prepare, prepare, prepare! Make it clear to the voters how real representation is possible.

      This could be Canadians chance to try on Proportional Representation without the entrammelment of constitutional amendment. This could be the voters chance to truly participate in political change, eschewing the swing vote Fail, and pointedly helping to form a functional Parliament and national democratic renewal.

      • The liberal star. I didnt even want to read, or open the link.( lol)

        • Ignorance is bliss eh!

          • No, I'm sure he just has no time to wade through such rubbish on a daily basis. It really is painful to open anything emitted by that gang of wackjobs! Walkom, Travers et al really need to find real jobs!

          • Hebert is a wackjob??

          • She's the best of the worst is all I can muster. She gets it wrong……….alot!
            I take it you are in agreement of the rest?
            Bottom line…………..the paper is birdcage material!

          • I'm a westerner so it isn't really my cup of tea. I try and take the articles as they come. Hebert i find very perceptive, particularly on Quebec. Delacourt has her good days. I wouldn't dimiss the paper entirely out of hand, any more than i would the NP.

          • Nodding -yes.

          • You must be one of only half a dozen people in the country who think that – your clearly a genius. How bout you give a reason for why you disagree, Instead of voting down the person you're debating – that's real classy.

          • You would know – baa baa

      • Merry Ellen, Ms.Hebert expresses some common sense there. Of course, the Canadian political landscape has changed since the Conservatives have reunited and the BQ is fully participating within federal elections. But remember, both (the split within the Conservative party and the rise of the BQ) come out of the same time frame, and that particular time frame points in the direction that Canada itself, politically speaking, has changed and is changing.

        Ms.Heberts ideas are possibilites, certainly, but there are others. For instance, coming to grips with regional power shifts over the years, should also be taken into account. I firmly believe that part of Harper's problems to be understood is that he comes from the west. Canada is not yet willing to admit that yes, the west has grown up and has something to offer. The good old ways of Upper versus Lower Canada have disappeared although not all of the players are aware of this. Or why exactly is the CBC's At Issue panel filled with Torontonians, Ottawians, and Montrealers???? Does the west or east not count when it comes to points of view?? Would Andrew care to answer that one?

        • "Canada is not yet willing to admit that yes, the west has grown up and has something to offer"

          You mean other than big money…….right?

          • Right, but you knew that already. I'm not sure though, if the members of the BQ know this. Seriously. I am not joking about this. I think members of the BQ do not know the west at all. Nor do they care to know. They know about the money part, of course. They see evidence of that every day.

          • The BQ, they know alright!! They know that for the run of the mill Quebec resident, ignorance of the West is bliss. They are the downtrodden of Confederation, always on the wrong end of any deal, and are not afraid to tell all who will listen that they must leave to find their full potential. They have used this formula very well to extort money out of the ROC, and for whatever reason, Federal politicians (Harper is the latest to fall for the scam) seem all to willing to oblige. The Politics of fear thingy. Frankly, I could care less! LEAVE……..PLEASE! The only drawback to this Westerner is the ensuing land gulf between Ontario and the Atlantic Provinces that would make trade/travel more difficult and the fact that any tourism pamphlet would have to delete any reference to the "uniqueness" that Quebec is in a united Canada. The positives for the West in general and Alberta in particular is that there would be no more billions heading east (161 big B's since 1961) to pay for services that the run of the mill Albertan presently does not enjoy…………..even with all our petro dollars!

        • Allen Gregg – born and educated in Edmonton.
          Andrew coyne – raised in Winnipeg.
          Chanta Hebert – not from toronto

          Ignorance is bliss.

          • Francien Verhoeven – born, raised and educated in The Netherlands

            Does that mean that I have my pulse on the Dutch political dynamics? No. In order to understand the Dutch fully, I will need to live there. Because then you talk to the people, live with the people on a daily basis. Only then can one feel the true dynamics of a region.

          • Look, if Coyne, Hebert and Gregg have this earnest desire to improve the likes of our democracy, why would at least one of them not open up a permanent spot on At Issue for someone who lives in the East or West. You see, Harper may be accused of being all about personal power etc, but what about these three? Why can they not see that true representatives from all regions of this country are needed to put a weekly perspective forward. BTW, Mansbridge is in Toronto and his subjectivity is clear enough (look at his face when he taks about either the Libs or the Cons). Hebert is not from Toronto, I never said she was. She does, however, write for a Toronto newspaper and must talk to people in that region, no?

            "Ignorance is bliss" you state but what about regional representation on our tax funded CBC? I live in the west and pay taxes too. I want our region's view heard as well.

          • I 'd think a real western voice would be a fine idea. I'd be interested to hear who you think should speak for your west – i'm sure it would be my pick – i'm a westerner too!

            " Or why exactly is the CBC's At Issue panel filled with Torontonians, Ottawians, and Montrealers????"

            Seems pretty clear you couldn't be bothered to check your assertion – when two of the panelists actually grew up in the west i'd say they have at least some feeling for it – certainly not just smug eastern city folks as you implied.

          • I am safely assuming that Coyne, Gregg and Hebert are about my age. Like I said, I was born, raised and educated in The Netherlands and have not lived there for most of my adult life. The three mentioned above have not lived in the west since becoming adults. So no, they do not have an accurate view of the west. They think they have an accurate view of the west. In order to bring the western region into At Issue political debate we need to hear from someone who lives there.
            How would Torontonians like it if someone from Edmonton would speak on their behalf? I know some people who were born in Toronto but live in Edmonton. You think they know as much about Toronto as Coyne?

            I have some names of people I would like to see on At Issue. Lorne Gunther would be one. Gordon Gibson is another. But there are many, many western voices who could do the representation.

          • Why can't you just admit you didn't check your facts and move on? Or say you did check, but you still hold your opinion, which may be valid. I have no idea how much AC has spent in Winnipeg as an adult. And i wouldn't be surprised if Gregg doesn't/hasn't spent a good deal of time in the west. But i take your point – they don't live there continually.

            Lorne Gunter's a partisan idiot. Gibson i like. i don't share all his views, but i like how he thinks outside the box. some more please.

      • Ms Elizabeth May! Ye gods and little fishes! Consider what you are saying, Ms Scully. The participation of Ms May a certain way to trivialise what might be a useful conference.

  29. Thwim…Contrarily I believe Quebecers most certainly would instantly side with a Quebec-defending Bloc if they were to have decided to exercise more heft in the coalition agreement. Look how the threesome turtle every day in the HoC instead of forcing an election.

    And it you really believe "they were explicitly swearing to not use the veto", then you probably also believe that Ignatieff actually never signed the coalition letter to the GG.

    • Uh.. you do remember the press conference? With all three opposition leaders there. You remember them all signing a document? Do you remember, perhaps, what was in that document? Oh wait.. I'm sorry.. in order to remember something you would have actually had to look into it first.. what was I thinking.. that you might actually look into something you're talking about? My mistake.

      • All politicos have proven that agreements and promises are as solid as wet noodles.

        Chretian and GST
        Mckay and Orchard
        Trudeau and Wage and Price Freeze

        • Name one the Bloc has broken.

  30. A previous poster had it right. The MSM is so full of itself, Andrew included, that they can't understand why Canadians are luke warm at best to the totally media inspired, prorogation and detainee "outrage". The MSM keep looking at the politically brain dead in the GTA, and assume all Canadians think that way. Well Andrew, the fact is, nobody's "afraid", except perhaps Conservative politicians are afraid of the MSM, because they know from experience, the MSM is NOT friendly to Conservatives. Just watch the CBC, CTV and read the Star and Globe and Mail. Jaffer is taking more heat than Ruby Dalhai, and he's not even an MP anymore. Would you say a speeding ticket is worse than someone who tramples on human rights? According to the MSM, it depends on which party you're from. Pathetic really!

    • well you may complain about the msm but your grasp on the Dhalla and Jaffer stories show you don't actually read it.

      • Not true at all.

        The media tried to insinuate that the judge was influenced due to having a former Conservative MP Jaffer as defendant. But is was the prosecution (ie the Ontario government) that dropped all teh charges except for the speeding ticket. The judge had only one choice, convict him of the speeding or not, and he convicted him of the speeding ticket.

        The media reporting on that story was absolutely horrendously biased.

        • MSM was biased because it cared not for reporting in earnest. Also, why could the general public not see through this sculpted media affair? Are the comprehension shills of the average voter so low now that being able to set things straight on one's own account is not longer possible? And we want to improve the state of our democracy?? Tough assignment.

          (Note: please wach the exchange between John Tory and Warren Kinsella during CTV's Question Period yesterday. John Tory could not get his message across to the likes of Oliver, and the average viewer could not see this????)

  31. Of course Harper & co are fearful. I am terrified at the very real prospect of a Liberal/NDP coalition government and what they would do to this country. I think the modesty of the government's fiscal conservatism needs to be considered in this context. It's easy to say that they are power hungry and will do whatever it takes to hold on to power. I wonder if the reality might be that it is more about doing what is necessary to prevent the alternatives.

    Perhaps I am naive. With Harper I have always had the sense that being PM was a means to a policy end, where as with Paul Martin it seemed as if becoming PM was the end to his means. I feel Ignatieff is another Martin in this respect.

    • Keeping the other guy out, that'll work for what ails parliament. It seems to work nicely for the conservative base though.

    • You are aware that we had a Liberal-NDP coalition before, right (with a less pragmatic/more left wing NDP leader than Layton? Do you know what that got us? National Health Care. The nation did not implode, nor did the economy.

      I can't believe people just buy the coalition bogeyman crap that the CPC have put forward. It's called parliamentary democracy. Coalitions are part of the deal. If you don't like it, I think you may prefer politics south of the border.

      • Keep repeating the deceit enough times and you still believe people will finally swallow this guff.

        Enough Canadians intuitively knew that the coalition actually did include the 49 Bloc MP's. They would never have sat back and been compliant and not use a veto or whatever. Have we ever ever seen Quebec politicians NOT seize their rightful desserts. The NDP has only around 37 federal seats (Liberals 77) and could no more hold back the Bloc for the quoted 18 months than I could.

        The required number of seats to gain the government did include the Bloc and no amount of repeating your mantra will convince enough people that the Bloc would have sat by and simply watched and voted as Liberals and NDP dictated. It is simply a fiction.

        • Except the Bloc didn't have a veto. In fact, they were explicitly swearing to not use the "veto" that they normally have in minority governments — a vote of non-confidence.

          What you're saying then, is that the Bloc, despite a signed, public agreement with the two parties who are most friendly to them anyway, would at the drop of a hat, violate these agreements to plunge our country directly into an election where they'd not only have to fight against the Liberals and NDPs who would quite rightfully claim that obviously Quebecers could not believe the Bloc, but against the Conservatives, who would be saying the same thing and that they were the answer to Quebecs problems.

          Or in shorter form, they'd commit political suicide to.. what.. be spiteful? Please.

          • Not only that but if the bloc reneged [unlikely for all the reasons you give] there would have been nothing to stop the libs and the cons voting together in any CM. The level of wilful ignorance of our system truly apalls me.

          • I doubt you're really that naive. The Bloc agreeing to give up it's "veto" is about as solid as Harper's fixed election date. All the Bloc would have to do is pick something they don't like that the Liberals and the NDP do, say it's bad for Quebec and break away from the coalition. It's more likely that the Liberals and the NDP would face a backlash in Quebec under those conditions since the Bloc would obviously pick an issue that's to their advantage. We've seen the Bloc support both Liberals and Conservatives in the past. What makes you think they'd be more loyal to the Liberals or NDP? They don't care who governs as long as they get the best deal for Quebec.

    • And I am terrified of the (hopefully not so real) prospect of a Conservative majority government and what it would do to this country.

      Which is why Canadian politics is in gridlock – a significant percentage of the electorate thinks the way you do, and another significant percentage thinks the way I do, and neither of us is ever likely to change his mind.

    • Imagine a Liberal-NDP coalition government led by Dion with the mandate to fully enact the "Green Shift" leading up to Copenhagen. Canadian Democratic Nationalism would be sold down the river and replaced with growing degrees of subservience to the United Nations Global Socialist agenda. We like our leaders to be grounded and sensible, not "big idea" flakes who'd trade our country for a handful of beans. Stephen Harper is the PM because there are a lot of Canadians who like our Country the way it is. The left is so worried that S. Harper is "changing" Canada. Personally, I'm more worried about what a coalition would do. (as the great Lynyrd Skynyrd once said, "Proroguement doesn't bother me…Did the coalition bother you, now tell the truth")

  32. My guess is that both the Liberals and Conservatives realize that another election would lead to yet another Conservative minority.

    At this point, there's virtually nothing that the Liberals can do to sway the 35% or so of the electorate who have hitched their wagons to the Conservative star. The only hope the Liberals have is that the Conservatives will do something so egregiously awful and non-conservative that some of their base is willing to defect to the opposition.

    And Harper has made the same calculations, and so is laying low.

  33. "Parliamentary Privilege

    As is well explained in the legal opinions of the Law Clerk & Parliamentary Counsel (see below), the constitutional nature of the House of Commons and its parliamentary privileges is part of the unwritten part of the Constitution – but has the same weight as other aspects of the Constitution, such as the Charter of Rights. The Law Clerk refers to a recent Supreme Court of Canada case describing the constitutional role of the House of Commons as the “Grand Inquest of the Nation” and to hold government to account. That Law Clerk's opinion states that “there is no legal authority” to support the view of the Department of Justice that government officials can withhold information from a House Committee based on the Canada Evidence Act. The constitutional nature of the House and its committee and its parliamentary privileges trumps the Canada Evidence Act, not the other way around. There is a clear hierarchy of laws in Canada – respecting the supremacy of the Constitution is consistent with another constitutional principle: the rule of law"

    • The SCC ruled in House of Commons v. Vaid that Parliament is not "an enclave shielded from the ordinary law of the land." Parliamentary privilege functions to provide a necessary immunity for legislators to do their work. The role of the courts is to ensure that the claim of privilege does not immunize from the ordinary law the consequences of conduct by Parliament that exceeds the necessary scope of the privilege being asserted.

      The SCC set out a 2-step test of "necessary immunity"

      (1) does the claimed privilege exist? and
      (2) if so, is the privilege so closely and directly connected with the fulfillment of Parliament's function as a legislative body, including its ability to hold the government to account, that outside interference would undermine Parliament's and its members' autonomy to do their work with dignity and efficiency.

      So, the presumption here is that Parliament IS subject to the operation of the Security of Information Act and the Canada Evidence Act, UNLESS, the Court determines that Parliamentary privilege exists to overcome the legal need to keep some information secret, and that the scope of this privilege does not exceed the doctrine of "necessary immunity".

      Retired Justice Iacobucci is an advisor ("second opinion") to the Minister of Justice on Dept of Justice's determination that certain information must be redacted. If opposition parties think that all information must be released to them, even info for which its release is illegal, then the court will ultimately have to determine the matter.

      • i'd have to do some more research before i attempted an answer [ why don't const. experts ever visit these boards?] I can say that when the evidence act was before parliament Nicholson explictly assured the house it would not impair parliamentary privilege.

        • The Attorney-General said the following on 10 December2009:

          "The decision to redact documents is not taken lightly and reflects the absolute need to protect sensitive information. Pursuant to section 38 [CEA], officials redacted the documents. Copies of these edited documents were later provided to the Special Committee on the Canadian mission to Afghanistan.

          "While section 38 of the Canada Evidence Act may not apply directly to proceedings of a special committee, the values that inform that legislation, passed by Parliament, are consistent with the parliamentary convention that harmful information should not be disclosed in a parliamentary setting. Accordingly the process under section 38 of the Canada Evidence Act serves as a useful surrogate to identify information that should not be disclosed to the special committee due to concerns related to national security, national defence or international relations."

          The legal question is whether the Parliamentary Committee is a "proceeding" for which sec 38 applies. A "proceeding'" is defined at sec. 37 and "means a proceeding before a court, person or body with jurisdiction to compel the production of information."

          The Attorney General notes that since the Committee can compel the production of documents, it is a "proceeding" under the Canada Evidence Act. In the alternative, if it is ruled that the Committee is not a "proceeding," then the Attorney General relies on the convention that Parliament does not disclose information harmful to Canada and Canadian interests, a convention analogous to sec 38.

          Given that Justice Iacobucci was on the SCC when it ruled in the Vaid case, which held that Parliament is presumed not to be above the law of the land, I would think it likely that he will advise the Dept of Justice that it was correct in redacting the documents prior to their submission to the Special Committee.

          • December 10, 2009: Law Clerk (R. R. Clark) Response to Department of Justice Letter – Explains Significance of Parliamentary Privilege: http://www.cbc.ca/news/pdf/20091210-…dofjustice…

            A completely different view of Common vsVaid.

            Clark argues the DOJ has interpreted Vaid incorrectly. Parliamentary privilege is unaffected.

  34. "The Prime Minister is afraid the public does not share his views, and so refuses to share his views with the public. His MPs are afraid of the Prime Minister etc.". I agree completely, and it's the PM's presidential communication style which is getting him in trouble! If you don't respond to all parliamentarians & journalists politely, rapidly, authoritatively, and credibly on important files, the lack of an adequate response becomes the story. Justly or not, the public expects nothing less. Our parliament has become a senseless, stalemated, & stagnant body of self-serving, egotistical antagonists whose only reason for being in Ottawa is their love of power, pensions & paycheques. They don't like the art of discussion; they can't cope with disagreement; & there is no public discourse or engagement anymore. Either toe the party line or you're an outcast, you're picking on us, or you're biased. Harpers' bunker mentality has his caucus feeling menaced , and any difference of opinion is counted as a kind of personal danger to his presidency. Meanwhile, all the other parties are on their own political jihads & Canadians are paying the price (& all their salaries). Pathetic!!!!

  35. "So long as he doesn't actually do anything, Harper can govern as long as he likes."

    If that's governing, this is commenting.

  36. and how do you manage to get such lenghty piece inserted? When I try a longer piece, I keep getting the message that my piece is too long. Mmmm?

    • nothing evil FVerhoeven (btw my mom is dutch and we know a bunch of Verhoevens. all great folks!).

      i think the first step is to get an intense debate account (which has the added additional benefits of some editing and a track record of your contributions)!

      • I thought I had a intense debate account……but I may be mistaken…..I'm not such a savy techno-cat.____In any case, I pushed onto the intense debate button and I think I'm in now (which might please PhilCP…..I had a real laugh about it this morning, it's only 7 am here now)

        • Yup, you have one now.

          Okay, in order to get longer posts. (ie, ones that allow us to talk about context and don't restrict us to the simplest of ideas) what you do is you type in your entire long message while signed into ID. When you hit submit it'll tell you it's too long. Select the bottom section of the message leaving only the top couple paragraphs or so, and cut it. Submit your much shortened and incomplete message. As soon as it's through, hit the edit button, drop down to the bottom of your message, and then paste in the rest of it.

          Now when you hit submit, it won't bother checking the length, and it'll take it.

    • That's something you don't hear ever day…

  37. uhm, i missed that on first read. but, ya, know, you definitely do not.

    • LOL…I was actually only referring to the last phrase, but now that I reread the entire post it's making me cry!!

      On that basis I don't think getting an ID account will help.

      Perhaps FV is zero generation…my folks are zero generation from the old country, and their english is pretty good, but sometimes they do come up with some real manglations.

  38. Great freeze-frame of the state of government in Canada. Poor Neandercons trying to blame anyone and anything but themselves.

    Meanwhile, who is looking after the interests of the country? Well, there still is a public service …

  39. Yet, any lobsided sense of individualtiy, (namely in the sense that the collective aspect within the whole has been discounted) does not feel an inherent sense for needing the "other" for completion, hence the other is not really acknowledged, hence the male-female sense of completion is no longer sensed. And so you will find the individualistic aspect of homosexuals strong, but the collective aspect weak.

    What do you think Sam Davies? Could I be onto something?

  40. and btw i do not advocate an election on this in the least although i do support putting Lee's motion forward.

    • "i guess what i am suggesting is more that people might say any one of a number of things in a poll, but i don't that those things necessarily actually are followed through when the reality materializes (ie an election is called)."

      Agreed. I also suspect that a lot of people give answers that they think are the 'right' ones because they don't want to appear to be ignorant of the issues, especially if they are.

      I think your point about Lee's motion is very relevant because it seems that it's still a distinct possibility. If the PM were to interpret it as a matter of confidence, then he would be responsible for forcing an election on this issue, and voters would have a very clear perception of what the election is about – the supremacy of all of our elected representatives over the representatives who form government.

      I agree fully with your final comment.

  41. "No wonder nothing gets done in Ottawa. Everyone is scared."

    Much gets done in Ottawa, and more could be accomplished with a Conservative majority government. Mr. Coyne might like to read the following piece on my weblog…

    Mansbridge, Gregg, Hébert & Coyne re Prime Minister Harper…

  42. I can't fault your logic, but I hope that you're wrong. There's nothing more depressing than believing we will be stuck with the status quo indefinitely. And even when Harper is not "actually doing anything" he still somehow manages to do a lot of damage. After inheriting several years of surpluses from the Liberals, "In just the next two years, all the debt repayment of the past eight years will be wiped out." http://www.debtclock.ca/index.php?option=com_cont

    If Harper continues not actually doing anything for much longer, the country will be broke.

  43. Very well said Andrew. I really enjoyed reading this. Cheers!

  44. Media sometimes exaggerate things in their own understanding. Most of the people believe it's true when it's not.

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