Every silver lining has a cloud - Macleans.ca

Every silver lining has a cloud


David Eaves considers the flip side of Peter Milliken’s ruling.

While some are understandably happy about the decision the fact is this is lowest-common-denominator democracy. Presently the executive – one that ran on the notion of accountability – believes it is accountable to no one. Indeed, it is not even embarrassed to openly argue the case. The good news is that, thankfully, the Speaker has intervened and signalled that, in fact, the government is accountable to at least one group of people, parliamentarians. On the surface, it is more than a little embarrassing to all Canadians that, to avoid accountability, the present government would attempt to break centuries of parliamentary tradition and violate the very rules that sustain our democracy. Again, yesterday is not a high-water mark – it is a low-water mark for all of us.

But there is something still more disturbing in yesterday’s events. If this government is unwilling to be accountable to elected officials who have the power of tradition and rule of law, how responsive will they be anyone else?


Every silver lining has a cloud

  1. "how responsive will they be anyone else?"

    I think we already have an unequivocal answer to that question from this government: not at all.

    Look at the contempt he shows in ignoring the Access to Information Act which he promised to make stronger. The Commissioner sent report after report of failure and then he got moved out. The Interim Commissioner has sent warning report after report of failure and the government ignores her.

    Looke at the contempt he shows for his own laws. Jaffer and lobbying. Fixed election dates.

    Look at the contempt he shows for Canadians. He didn't introduce an election platform until after the debates and just a couple of days before. Didn't even produce a printed version and copies of the electronic version were difficult to find.

  2. Ted, be fair, they backed off on their Throne Speech commitment to change the national anthem because people expressd themselves and they listened…

  3. If Harper's such a tyrant, why don't the Opposition just defeat him on a confidence vote? After all, they only have dozens of opporrtunities to do it each year.

    Sadly the answer is obvious: its not the tyranny they mind so much as the fact that he would beat them a third time if they went to the polls.

  4. Perhaps because they know better than to spend Canada's money on an election that would return very much the same results.. not because Harper or the CPC has done anything that meritorious, but because the opposition is split among 3 or 4 parties across the country.

  5. It's sad to think that there's no journalistic hubris in that either, it's completely true!

  6. Of course, it depends upon how you define "beat".

    After all, for the leaders, I'd say Ignatieff has a slightly better chance of surviving another Tory minority as leader than Harper does, and I see no realistic chance of an election returning a Parliament significantly different than the one we have now (I can see a few more seats for the Liberals maybe, but a Tory majority? No way). Looking at the positions of the party leaders, I'd say Ignatieff's no less secure than Harper would be with another Tory minority.

    Not that Ignatieff's exactly "safe", but I have to think that another Tory minority would actually be a bigger problem for Harper than for Ignatieff, but I could be totally wrong. Of course, all parties are in it to win, so it's entirely true that the Liberals would prefer to WIN an election outright (even a minority would probably please them now) but I do think it would be problematic for Harper long-term to come out of his third election in a row with a divided opposition and a Liberal Party at a historic low and STILL no Tory majority. At some point the Tories have to question just what the Liberals would have to do for them to move out of minority territory. Sadly for them, short of Ignatieff killing and then eating kittens on live T.V., I don't see what that would be.

  7. Since the Liberals seem to be desperately searching for a campaign platform on which to run against the Conservatives, isn't "Good Government" kind of a no-brainer here?

    It will provide endless opportunities to condemn the Conservatives' constant pushing of the limits of their power, and loads of good legislative proposals to put limits on that power. I think it will appeal to Canadians' desire for good government and keep the Conservatives on the defensive. It's even difficult to smear and demogogue, since the Conservatives themselves are the ones accused of making new legislation necessary.

    Seriously, who could complain about a refresh and strengthening of ATI laws, reasonable limits on prorogation, some moves to distribute power out of the PMO and back to backbenchers?

    Of course, this will never happen as the Liberals will find a way to shoot themselves in the foot again.

  8. Who would believe a Liberal promise to reduce the power of the prime minister? Seriously, who?

  9. The "other place" being elected through proportional representation might help solve the problem. Of course who'd want to open up that can of worms.

  10. The confidence issue is important. The opposition has accused this government of abusing the GG's reserve powers, of intimidating public servants, of showing contempt for the commons, of hiding behind national security, and possibly of being complicit in war crimes. Given these charges, how can the opposition still express 'confidence' in the government? If they really believe the conservatives have done all these things, isn't it time for a Liberal-NDP coalition?

  11. I was attempting a satirical tone. Damned interweb!

  12. I think that's a really important point that should be put to the Cons and their supporters more often; would they think any of this would be acceptable if it was under a Liberal government?

  13. It is the "point" that should be put to all voters.
    If something is wrong, then it is wrong no matter who does it.
    Saying it is "ok" when your team does it only weakens the entire premise of good government

  14. It's definitely a paradox that many of the people who express the most concern about government intrusion into their lives also seem to be the ones least concerned about authoritarian measures and behaviour.

  15. Yes! Which is a no-brainer for anyone – including privately – several leading members of the Liberal caucus I suspect – but apparently not for those who are pulling Mr. Ignatieff's strings!
    Although – that too may be changing!

  16. It might be more accurate to say that the Harper government appears to be accountable only to its base.

  17. This is your solution to effective government? Keep voting until someone wins a majority? As if that will make the eventual winner more responsive to parliament and Canadians!

    There are other possibilities than a majority Conservative government. What happens, for instance, if there is another minority government? And another after that? At what point will the prime minister figure out that greater transparency and inclusion of more points of view in decision making is the only way forward in a minority situation?

    Or what happens if there is a Liberal majority? Are you comfortable that they will inherit a weakened parliament, with feeble oversight for ethics, access to information and complaints commissions; in other words a new low for accountability?

    Do you even care how the country is governed, or do you just care about short term partisan scorekeeping?