“Legal obligations” - Macleans.ca

“Legal obligations”

No one is asking Harper to break the law. The conflict he’s complaining about exists only in his head.


Day three after the Ruling that Saved Our System of Government, and the Tories have achieved their initial objective: total strategic confusion. Is Stephen Harper now prepared to accept opposition demands that a parliamentary committee be given access to the documents in the Afghan detainees affair? Or is he digging in his heels, as unwilling to compromise as ever?

I don’t know. But a clue to the Prime Minister’s state of mind can be found in his repeated invocation of the government’s “legal obligations.” Responding to questions in the House Wednesday, Harper said, variously:

Mr. Speaker, as I have said, we look forward to both complying with your ruling and with the legal obligations that have been established by statutes passed by this Parliament.


The government has certain obligations that are established under statutes passed by this Parliament. We obviously want to proceed in a way that will respect both of those things, and of course we will be open to any reasonable suggestions to achieve those two objectives.


You have delivered a decision. Obviously, the government seeks to respect that decision. At the same time, it seeks to respect its obligations established by statute and passed by this Parliament.


The government seeks at all times to respect all of its obligations. To the extent that some of those obligations may be in conflict, there are reasonable ways to accommodate that and we are open to reasonable suggestions in that regard.


The government cannot break the law, it cannot order public servants to break the law, nor can it do anything that would unnecessarily jeopardize the safety of Canadian troops.

You can appreciate the Prime Minister’s dilemma. He is obliged to balance two competing claims: on the one hand, to comply with the Speaker’s ruling enjoining him to respect the House’s demand that he produce the documents; and on the other, to comply with his “legal obligations” not to produce them. Don’t you see? The Speaker is asking him to break the law.

What’s a Prime Minister to do? Parliament has passed legislation, notably the Canada Evidence Act, forbidding the government or its employees from disclosing certain documents. And yet here is one of the Houses of that same Parliament, the Commons, backed by its Speaker, demanding that he should disclose those same documents. What could be more reasonable than to seek some way to balance those competing demands?

Except the whole argument’s bogus. No one is asking the Prime Minister to break the law. The conflict of which he complains exists only in his head. This was a key point in the Speaker’s ruling: a law may impose a general prohibition on the release of certain documents, but unless it expressly states that the ban applies to Parliament, it doesn’t. The presumption, that is, is in favour of parliamentary privilege.

I quote from page 20 of the Speaker’s ruling, where he cites House of Commons Procedure and Practice, pp. 978-9:

No statute or practice diminishes the fullness of the power rooted in the House privileges unless there is an explicit legal provision to that effect, or unless the House adopts a specific resolution limiting the power. The House has never set a limit on its power to order the production of papers and records.

The same point is made in the letter from the Commons Law Clerk, Rob Walsh, to the Commons special committee on Afghanistan last December. The committee, he wrote

is at all times to be seen as carrying out its constitutional function of holding the Government to account. This is fundamental to responsible government and more particularly to the relationship between the Government and the House and its committees… The law of parliamentary privilege provides that this relationship operates unencumbered by legal constraints that might otherwise seem applicable…

This is not an exception to the law; it is the law. It does not mean the House of Commons is above the law, or that members may break the law with impunity. It means statute law does not trump the law of parliamentary privilege, which is of constitutional weight.

Moreover, Walsh argues, even if parliamentary privilege did not apply,  Crown privilege — the “long-standing legal presumption that a statute does not apply against the Crown unless this is provided expressly in the statute” — does. The Canada Evidence Act, in particular, may forbid others from releasing certain types of information, but it does not prevent the government from doing so. Quite the contrary: two provisions of the Act expressly permit government this discretion.

In other words, the whole “legal obligations” thing is a canard. It’s the same dodge the government was using from the start, when it claimed to be releasing all “legally available” information. The government is under no legal constraint not to disclose information to the committee. On the other hand, it is legally constrained to comply with the comittee’s demands for documents, as enforced by  a vote of the House on December 10.

In case there was any doubt, the issue was raised in Parliament, Walsh notes, at the time the Canada Evidence Act was drafted. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice responded:

It would not be the intention of the bill to alter the current status of Parliament’s subpoena powers and privileges…

Having stated this for our parliamentary record so that the intention of the House is clear, an amendment was made to the bill … yesterday for the same purpose of clarifying our intention that Parliament’s privilege to send [for] persons, papers and records not be affected by this legislation.

Indeed, the Justice department concedes as much in its reply to the Law Clerk’s letter. “Section 38 of the Canada Evidence Act has no application to parliamentary committee proceedings,” it acknowledges, appealing instead to “the values that inform legislation passed by Parliament,” and to “the parliamentary convention that injurious information should not be disclosed in a parliamentary setting.”

So if the prime minister is still invoking his “legal obligations,” it can only mean his position hasn’t changed a whit. When he speaks of the need to balance one obligation against another, it really means he intends to defy the Speaker and stonewall Parliament.

I’m with colleague Wells, then: the negotiations into which the government has lately entered are in all likelihood a diversion. The aim is to stall, and probe for divisions within and between the parties, notably the Liberals’ palpable fear of an election. The differences between government and opposition will be made to appear as if they were over questions of detail, rather than fundamental principles. So that when, inevitably, the negotiations break down, the government will sigh and claim that it went the extra mile, as it strove to balance its conflicting obligations, but was thwarted by an intransigent and unreasonable opposition.

ADDENDUM: The Speaker is not, as Norman Spector says, the Pope. He is, however, likely to be the last word on this subject, at least until the Commons itself speaks. (The Speaker can only rule on whether there is a prima facie case for a breach of privilege. It is for the House to decide whether the government is in contempt, together with whatever remedies it sees fit.)

It’s always open to the government to refer the whole matter to the Supreme Court, as Norm says, but the Court is not obliged to answer every question put to it, still less to answer as the government would wish. And there is simply no way on God’s green Earth that the Court is going to tread upon parliamentary privilege.

This is one of the holiest precepts in English constitutional law. It’s the reason they fought the Civil War. It’s one of the central demands upheld in the Bill of Rights of 1689: The courts may not intrude upon the inner workings of Parliament — any more than the King can.


“Legal obligations”

  1. You nailed it.
    Harper's support the troops narrative coupled with his ongoing disinformation campaign about the mechanics of a Westminster style parliament are un-statesmanlike activities bordering on being treasonous. I am sure his language and tactics are shaped by private polling results.

  2. The Speaker can only rule on whether there is a prima facie case for a breach of privilege.

    So here comes my appeal to author Andrew Coyne. I keep reading "breach of privilege," first by random commenters, then by reporters I have no reason to trust, and now by you. The word "privilege" strikes me as misunderstood, so please help me out. I have been saying that the Speaker has ruled that there is a prima facie case for raising a point of privilege, which takes precedence over any other House business. I have been saying that the government has allegedly breached a House of Commons order (the conviction awaits a potential "point of privilege" motion of contempt. Isn't the phrase "breach of privilege" actually a misuse of the word "privilege"?

    • UPPERDATE: And I have been digging through Marleau & Montpetit this afternoon (to think I made fun of however many hours Andrew Coyne spent one Saturday evening researching some nya-nyah point of his own…), and that text is littered with "breach of privilege" phrases all over the place. So my semantic hobbyhorse has been sent to the hobbyglue factory.

  3. I am by nature a pretty low key, quiet kind of guy.

    Since Stephen Harper began his shenanigans, I have found myself doing two things I never would have dreamed of:
    a) attending a political (prorogation) rally
    b) actually donating to the Liberal Party (….must… wash….. hands…).

    As Stephen Harper continues his insufferable antics, I find myself asking what's next?
    I'm getting ready to knock on doors, make phone calls, put up campaign signs – anything to stop these disgraceful shell games.
    The Liberals deserved to be unseated after their bloated foolishness – but I can't help but think that the loss of adscam money is chump change compared to the long term effects of empowering an Executive that feels free to run roughshod over the system. Slippery slope; tip of the iceberg – call it what you want – but I feel in my bones that it's time to end this carnival of shame.

    • I'll welcome your joining in, Danby, we newbie Liberals can use the help.

  4. Spot on once again Andrew.
    I hope Ignatieff and Layton are willing to show some backbone and explain these important principles in their election campaign if the Conservatives go the way you predict. But I also hope you are wrong about their plan, it would be harmful to parliament and to our democracy if the Conservatives fought the spirit of this ruling and campaigned against essentially against the Magna Carta in the next election. I'm going to link to this onhttp://democraticreform.feedcluster.com/

  5. …the Court is not obliged to answer every question put to it, still less to answer as the government would wish. And there is simply no way on God's green Earth that the Court is going to tread upon parliamentary privilege.

    This is one of the holiest precepts in English constitutional law. It's the reason they fought the Civil War. It's one of the central demands upheld in the Bill of Rights of 1689: The courts may not intrude upon the inner workings of Parliament — any more than the King can.

    Thank God for Andrew Coyne.

    I can stop yelling now.

  6. Bravo Mr. Coyne. I think you have read the situation perfectly – and for once in a blue moon – I am in agreement with you.
    I hope the outcome of all this is that the Opposition leaders – especially Mr. Ignatieff recognize two fundamental points a) that is – Mr. Harper is wrong in all this – and will not admit he is wrong and b) he is wrong – not only on the legal aspects – but also on the principled ones – he thinks Mr. Ignatieff will blink – again. What he doesn't understand is – Mr. Ignatieff is painted into a corner on this one as much as he – Mr. Ignatieff will lose what ever credibility he has remaining – if he backs off a confrontation again!
    What remains is simply the setting of the E-date!

  7. I echo your sentiments and would like to add that while I think Harper appreciates Canada is a centrist nation that would prefer a balance of power at the top (HoC, PMO, SCoC), he also thinks he can continue changing this relationship, starting with the House, in small steps.

    Centrist Canadians should not allow such power to be concentrated in an unelected office. The problem is over 30 years in the making, but I think an unstoppable critical mass is close to being achieved.

    If the House ultimately loses this battle, the Supreme Court is next.

    Perhaps an election before Jean's term is up is needed, but I cannot see a) Conservatives getting fewer seats than Liberals; and b) Conservatives getting a majority.

  8. Circular reasoning.

    It's not subject to the law because parliamentary procedure says it's not subject to statute.

    Except the question isn't what parliamentary procedure says it does, but what ,in law, it does.

    Does a rule of procedure of parliament (not a statute, passed by both houses and given royal assent), have supremacy over a statute?

    So then, can parliament now require anything? Just a majority vote at any given time, without a bill, without committees to refine, without senate and without royal assent?

    Law's by simple parliamentary motion – someone tell Stephen Harper that our system of lawmaking as we've known it no longer exists.

  9. Of course,

    just a the 105th prorogue was suddenly the most exceptional step ever taken in parliament a few short weeks ago,

    so too is this radical attempt to circumvent laws, now taken as something that's not even debateable.

    Welcome to the world of desperate leftist hyperpartisans shocked that this (of course inherently evil "non-progressive" party) is STILL in power….

    and their abettors in the left leaning media.

  10. I have to say, I think one of the best things to come from all of this is a fresh look at what a parliament is – i.e., not a government, and not just a bunch of guys yelling at government, but a unique body with its own powers and privileges which it exercises through democratic debate.

    And it's -that-, rather than government itself, which is the instrument through which laws are made, and we should note that well — and ensure that parliament uses its powers and encourage it to take on a life and significance outside "that place where the governing party tells everyone what to do."

    It almost makes me think that our system isn't broken at all!

  11. As for the "evidence" of abuse, coming from the single media hero Colvin. What does the media do with contra evidence? Why just what they do with contra AGW evidence, they bury it. From Blachford:

    "But when Gavin Buchan, the former political director and senior official on the ground in Kandahar (but for two months, when Mr. Colvin replaced him) for most of 2006 and part of 2007, and Major General (Retired) Tim Grant, the commander of the Canadian military effort in Afghanistan during the same approximate time period, came to testify before the committee on Wednesday, their evidence collectively a profound rebuttal of Mr. Colvin's claims, the media coverage was a whisper."

  12. To Conservative supporters I say that this is not simply about the Afghan detainees, and what we might have allowed to happen to them. This is about the future stability and health of our parliamentary system of government. If you can't rise above partisan considerations to concede this basic point, then you must be swept from power for the good of the country.

  13. "It's one of the central demands upheld in the Bill of Rights of 1689: The courts may not intrude upon the inner workings of Parliament — any more than the King can"

    This is what's making me crazy for the past 20 years. I can go along with courts not intruding on inner workings as long as MPs know how to behave honourably but I don't think they do. Since the baby boomers started to take over Parliament in mid to late 1980s, decorum and general behaviour has gotten progressively worse.

    Our Parliament is broken and we should start to write the rules down because I am tired of baby boomers and their justifications for bad behaviour – if it is not illegal, it must be ok – which works out well for MPs, but not so great for the rest of us, because very little is written down. There used to be standards of expectations that certain behaviours would not occur but this is no longer the case.

    Harper will continue to cock a snook at Parliament because he can get away with it and no one will stop him. The Speaker should have ruled that Harper hand over those papers immediately or threaten consequences. As it is, the Speaker put the ball back in Harper's court (the guy breaking the rules) which is ridiculous.

    Harper is like the arsonist who sells water to the fire department. If Parliament wants to be supreme, it should act like it instead of constantly letting Harper set the agenda.

  14. Given that most of the documents relating to Colvin would have been produced during Harper's early tenure as a rookie PM – who had not previously travelled outside of Canada (save the US and perhaps Great Britain) and with a notorious need to control his cabinet and make all decisions himself – I imagine he takes this whole document release thing rather personally. A thin skin can be rather debilitating and all consuming.

    I can't help but think in his "strategic mind" (he must enjoy the ongoing ego stroking accolades by some pundits, present company excluded) – releasing the documents = loss of face, legacy, and his reign.

    The sad image of two old men, Harper and Giorno, alone, all but forgotten and ignored, sitting on the porch in their rocking chairs with a cool glass of lemonade – reminiscing over and over again about old parliamentary battles fought, sticks in my head – "the pinnacle of our pettiness greatness ".

  15. The current Chief of Defence Staff has stated publicly that he has no problem with the release of unredacted documents, so whatever 'legal obligations' Harper may be referring to are not matters of national security.

    The press has been doing a good job lately of informing Canadians about the inconsistencies between Harper's claims and expert opinions about the realities of our parliamentary democracy; the fact that a despot is on the brink of usurping it says more about the citizens of this country than about the despot. The greatest threat to democracy isn't tyranny, it's complacency.

  16. In fact, now that I think of it, there have only been three periods since Confederation when none of the parties leaders was a lawyer: (1) 2006 to the present; (2) 1942-1948; and (3) 1938-1940 (Mackenzie King, Manion, Woodsworth and Blackmore). So for 131 of the 143 years since Confederation, or 92% of the time, at least one party leader has had legal training.

  17. "Except the whole argument's bogus. No one is asking the Prime Minister to break the law. The conflict of which he complains exists only in his head. This was a key point in the Speaker's ruling: a law may impose a general prohibition on the release of certain documents, but unless it expressly states that the ban applies to Parliament, it doesn't. The presumption, that is, is in favour of parliamentary privilege."

    Unless you are trying to accrue every last vestige of political power in the office of Prime Minister, of course.

  18. chet, I'm not particulary impressed with Ignatieff, as I've said. But if you think that what Harper's doing is the norm in Canadian political life, then you're misinformed. Proroguation to avoid a confidence vote (Martin delayed a vote for several days, but the vote did happen) and refusing an information request from a majority of House members are legally problematic. I don't care about members switching parties, but it is telling that you raise that point – you appear to treat any criticism of the government as a partisan attack, rather than principled opposition. Your political skin is too thin.

  19. Thank you for writing this, Andrew. While the other reporters have their heads up their a$$es and refuse to ask the obvious, you can always be counted on to shine a light on the obvious.

    I'm simply dumbfounded by the very little number of reporters who are taking this issue seriously. Is it that they don't understand what is at stake or they just don't care?

  20. LKO, I feel the same. Harper might be behaving shamelessly but the MSM's lack of proper reporting on this issue is a disgrace.

  21. Ok so chet clearly failed his history class in high school. This is ridiculous.

  22. I'll bet you $5 that chet is a Tory MP or staffer. This is the kind of ignorance that is running our country these days.

  23. "They don't appear to have a clear understanding of what's at stake, nor do they see law as a legitimate brake on unbridled power."

    I don't know about the rest of the clowns around the Cabinet table but, make no mistake, Harper knows full well that he is in the wrong. He himself has argued in favour of parliamentary supremacy when he was in opposition. Harper's apparent refusal to comply is deliberate and is not due to his misunderstanding of the law. Harper is drunk with power and wants to sidestep Parliament, democracy be damned.

  24. "The press has been doing a good job lately of informing Canadians about the inconsistencies between Harper's claims and expert opinions about the realities of our parliamentary democracy;"

    You can't be speaking about the Canadian press because the vast majority of our reporters have not challenged Harper's "legal obligation" nonsense. In fact, the vast majority have been repeating that the opposition is required to accomodate the government's concern over national security and that is a lie. The pundits, at the exception of a few like Coyne, have been on a tear claiming that the voting public doesn't care about parliamentary "procedure" and that Iggy shouldn't go to the polls over this.

    It's an outrage, really.

  25. Yes, Conservative talking points seem to be soaking deeply into media minds. Another seems to be positioning that the information must remain secret following any scrutiny.

    On CBC Radio just now, a "constitutional scholar" was tut-tutting that 'if the opposition parties find some evidence of bad behaviour on the part of the government, they're going to find it very difficult not to use that information for political purposes.'

    Ok, maybe there's something implied in "political purposes" that I fail to grasp, but the fact is that if the opposition finds evidence of bad behaviour on the part of anybody, I EXPECT them to do something with it.

  26. Shills like Blatchford are always shunned by reasonable people for very good reasons.

  27. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/27/AR2010042703170.html.

    Just so all the Obama groupies understand it is not only right of centre governments denying committee requests. The president has refused to forward investigative notes on the Fort Hood shooting to the US Senate Committee investigating the shooting., and his party chairs the committee! The concerns as expressed by the administration are entirely domestic, but the issues of oversight and holding the executive to account are identicle. I would have thought the symmetry would have appealed to some of the new organizations with DC bureuas.

  28. Fine Chet, we have a controversy. Show us the documents and it all goes away, if you and the lovely Ms. Blatchford are correct.

  29. if the link doesn't work, copy and paste the url or google "obama administration defies congressional subpeona on fort hood documents" +"craig whitlock". ps sorry for the shakey spelling, it's early on the west coast!

  30. The irony of comparing Harper to a President is not lost.

  31. Peter, let's tend to our own garden, as Voltaire said. The fact that you have to go to our southern neighbour in a transparent attempt to suggest that Canada's left-of-centre parties shouldn't complain about what Harper's doing is pretty shameless on your part.

  32. And although adscam was a very bad thing, the Liberals did actually investigate themselves to clear it up, which I give them some credit for – and wish the other parties had as well.

  33. No, according to the paragraph you've cited, the "ordinary law" (including the Canada Evidence Act) does not override an established privilege. Speaker Milliken cited a plethora of learned sources to support his ruling that the House's request for unredacted documents falls clearly within an established parliamentary privilege. So you're wrong to say that the presumption is that the law applies. The reasoning process is as follows:

    (1) Is there an established privilege?
    (2) If the answer to (1) is 'no', is there some necessity that would support a broadening of parliamentary privilege?
    (3) If the answer to (2) is 'no', then the ordinary law of the land applies.

    Since the opposition prevails on the first question, steps (2) and (3) do not apply. However, one could easily craft an argument that it is necessary for the House to receive the information in this case, so the opposition could prevail on the second question as well.

    • Orvel,

      your legal citations that appear to be very much on point, are not helpful here.

      This thread, and others like it, are about demonizing Harper, and in order for that to happen, there cannot be a bona fide basis for the position Harper is taking. It cannot be debated, because it is not debateble.

      In fact, this ruling is very much close to the edge (or well over the other side) of established precedence and if this impass cannot be negotiated, a court reference may be required. I look forward to the usual suspects here trying to explain that the extensive briefs the Department of Justice will be filing, replete with authority and analysis, is all bogus. I further look forward to the Supreme Court given serious consideration to what we were told was a pure lie, fabricated by the nefarious Harper. The serious consideration alone will show exactly who the real partisans on this issue are. A successful finding for the government will just be icing on the cake.

  34. Hmmm…..so even though you are Conservative you don't believe in abiding by the rules and law?

    Harper is supposed to be all about people that work hard, pay their taxes and abide by the rule of law?

  35. and their abettors in the left leaning media

    Is the media not owned by big business?
    Isn't the CPC the party of big business?
    Isn't the CPC the party of lower business taxes?

    What gives? This left leaning media phantom is nothing but a red herring.

    • Um, Danby, no. The LPC is/was the party of big business, which is why it was crippled by the corporate donation ban, while the CPC was unaffected. CPCis the party of small business entrepreneurial types, who naturally rail at real or imagined intrusion by government into their lives. Big business is bureacratic and process driven, and exists in symbiosis with big government.

  36. Look in the mirror dude.

    You have selective paranoid examples – time to stop playing the victim card – it's a sign of weakness

  37. Welcome to the wisdom of the chettering classes

  38. Ya, all they want is to speculate about elections – right from the day after an election.

  39. As heads of their respective executive branches their duties and reponsibilities differ how?

  40. We have a Westminster-style parliamentary system of government. Our constitution protects the healthy functioning of that system of government. You are comparing apples to oranges. Your vision is blinkered by partisan considerations.

  41. Don't be so daft – I mean, just look at CBC News…it's a veritable hornet's nest of frothing pinko commentary from the likes of Alan Gregg, Kory Teneycke, Tom Flanagan, Rex Murphy, Don Martin, John Ivison, and Mr. Coyne

    • Rex Murphy leftist, I think not

  42. You have got to be kidding . Investigated themselves ?????

  43. Milliken didn't put the ball back in Harper's court….he gave the Opps an out.
    The Opps backed Harper into a corner and won, so now what? A redo? Take a break kids and think this one out?

    I can write the coalitions press release, following MPs viewing of the unredacted documents..
    " it is our opinion that there is sufficient evidence to require a full judicial inquiry"
    And Liberals want this? Dippers do…..

    Libs will compromise, they have the most to lose.

  44. Did Spector not also say that the Supreme Court cannot refuse a request by the government of the day to review an issue? So the option of referral to the Supremes may still be on the table.
    The fact is the Speaker has delivered a blow to the House of Commons. They now and I mean the 3 opposition parties have now to come up with a solution which all three opposition parties can agree to while protecting state secrets. Already the NDP are suggesting they will only agree if MPs can go through the documents themselves. What if the NDP says this document should be public but the Libs so no it is too sensitive. Who will be the arbiter? This will be a can of worms and Harper will be the ultimate winner because the onus is now on the opposition to come to a compromise that they can all accept. In the meantime Harper will watch and wait for proposals from the opposition. The opposition only have themselves to blame for it. They got what they wanted but now they have to prove they can take the interest of the country at heart versus their own partisan interests.

  45. Take a pill….treasonous? A little over the top I would say. Where has the PM broken the law? Where has he divulged national secrets to the enemy? You don't even understand what the word means. You are just trying to be provocative. It doesn't add to the conversation. It simply makes you look like a loon.

  46. I would prefer that Ignatieff and Layton not wait for an election campaign, but start explaining these principles now, clearly and loudly, everytime Harper and the Conservatives try to mislead people about how our system of parliamentary democracy works. The only way to counter this misinformation is by sustained and constant correction.

    • Agreed, they need to get back to basic respect for democracy in everything they say. But then they'd have to admit they cannot support the government and must want an election, which apparently they are not ready for. So I don't expect them to come out too loudly until they feel they can handle an election. But I'm worried that even after all this, when the election does come, they still won't propose real changes to fix the problems with our democracy and will just say how they'll do better. The fact is that the Conservatives have set some bad democratic precedents and the electorate has permanently shifted in its voting pattern, but none of the main parties have responded to this yet. Perhaps the democratic revival in the UK will egg them on a bit.

  47. Well, you`ve named 7 employees that may vote Conservative sometimes. Now go ahead and name 7000 that will never vote Conservative…….not because of any principled reasons but because they depend on the lefties in gov`t for their job security.

  48. The only course of action would be a vote of non confidence in the government and an election. Do you think each of the opposition parties would not think about their own partisan interests? I am specifically talking about the Libs. All polls suggest that the Libs will be defeated and with the latest leadership numbers for Iffy Canadians have said time and again they do not want him as PM. So that will be the paramount question. Will the Libs have the guts to support a motion of non confidence.
    With all the bluster in the media about the Afghan detainee issue and all the rigtheous, holier than thou people talking about our failing democracy Canadians are not paying attention to this issue.
    So we have an election. The detainee issue will have little appeal to the voters and so bread and butter issues will be discussed. Harper gets re-elected to either a minority or majority government. What then? Do we start all over after the people have decided again or do we have the coalition of fools rearing their ugly heads again trying to get into government through the back door.

    • A confidence motion resulting in another election, regardless of the victor, will not change the Speaker's ruling. So at the end of the day the Government, regardless whether minority or majority, must cough up those documents. And if the Liberals were to win, hypothetically speaking, the Conservatives would still have no choice, that is if the Liberals still insisted on seeing them.

  49. The Speaker did not deliver a blow to the House. He has interpreted the rules correctly, although he suspended application of those rules for a couple of weeks, allowing everyone a chance to quickly put the pin back in the grenade.

    How about an in camera "committee of the whole" where each word and punctiation mark is subjected to a vote as to whether or not is should be made public. That would keep our MPs from any other activity damaging to the country for a good while, I suppose. And it would take long enough that our troops just about be home, which is what I have been hoping for all along, that we just all shut up about this for a few more months. Then we can go as crazy as we want over what happened over there.

  50. Were you trying to be funny, ironic or disingenuous? Since the progressive media is endlessly comparing and constrasting Obama and the PM and hyper analyzing every nuance of the relationship from style to substance to families and influences it pretty much reinforces a central theme of the government of late; the media is biased. btw I just googled harper +obama and got 2,910,000 hits, so if you want to disprove that which is self-eveident have at er.

  51. From the way he behaves in the last 10 years this 'artfullest of dodgerss' (Rex Murphy) and conservative bullying(Chantal Hebert) will NOT blink into desecrating democracy.

  52. I wasn't aware that the fact that the guys in the mail room might not vote Conservative is what your sort have a problem with.

    I've just named 7 of the CBCs highest profile political commentators (commentors?). In fact, the only one I can think of off the top of my head who doesn't tack right is Hebert…and even she would never be mistaken for a left-leaning Liberal. But to hear a Conservative tell it – Canadians are forced to participate daily in the CBC-led two minutes hate against S. Harper.

    It's painful really

    (stop taking cues from your republican counterparts…the arguments sound just as silly up here as they do down there)

  53. No…Colvin should provide actual proof…..not suspicion, not speculation…proof.

  54. The last Conservative government was Brian Mulroney's. Now go back and read your comment again. Flexible moral fibre????
    This government? It's early days yet – time will tell
    But if you think political favoritism is the exclusive domain of any one party, then you are misguided. This is a fault common to mankind, especially those seeking power.

  55. Upon review of the comments,

    not only is the issue of whether a passed statute can be overridden by simple majority motion in parliament, not debateable,

    its "TREASONOUS", and worse than "ADSCAM".

    Welcome to the Macleans blogs and the commenters that frequent it.

  56. Well, of course they didn't investigate themselves. They launched independent investigations into themselves. It wasn't a case of Parliament needing to threaten the government with contempt to get them to begin to act, Martin just set up an independent Inquiry. Today's Parliament is asking much less of the Tories than the Liberals under Paul Martin did of their own accord in response to Adscam. The Liberals are even (again) asking to start an investigation into themselves, with their call for an Inquiry that dates back to the very beginning of the mission in Afghanistan, when the Liberals were in charge.

    It's two very different approaches to the suggestion of impropriety.

  57. I just googled Obama + Hitler and got 5,560,000 hits.

  58. Peter, seriously, do you know how to construct an argument? Our country is not the United States. Harper and Obama are frequently at conferences together, and therefore are mentioned together in articles cached by google, but so what? If you're a Canadian, you should be concerned about democracy here at home. Try being part of the solution. You can ride your ideological hobby-horse if you want to, but don't expect others to applaud you.

  59. Hollinm – it sounds like you've hacked into Harper's brain.

  60. The fact that, as Andrew notes, the prime minister's position on this question hasn't changed a whit can only mean that he'll ultimately respond in exactly the same way he responds to all serious challenges in parliament–either prorogation or an election. for as long as he's prime minister this same pathology will play out, over and over again.

  61. You might want to re-visit the terms of reference of Mr. Gomery's little shindig .

  62. In the case of parliamentary privilege (Which is not a "process of Parliament" but a constitution prerogative of the Parliament, and the constitution trumps statute. In fact, Parliamentary privilege is so fundamental a precept of the constitution (wars have been fought and people have lost their heads in it's defense) that it trumps other parts of the constitution in many cases, and the SCoC has ruled on this in the past).

    The law is clear on this. Parliament cannot be bound in a matter concerning it's constitutional responsibility of holding the government to account, by any statute passed by Parliament. Put another way, no previous Parliament can bind a future Parliament's constitutional powers by mere statute. (This also CAME UP SPECIFICALLY during the debates on the Canada Evidence Act, and the Minister of Justice said in the House that nothing in the bill was in any way intended to encroach upon Parliament's powers). Besides which, Parliament's powers are vested in the CONSTITUTION, and we all know that when the constitution and a statute are in conflict, the constitution wins. Always. It's not even first year law. They teach this in high school law classes.

  63. Too pompous.

  64. Andrew, the truth needs to be told and retold. Thank you for doing this.

    Most people dislike lawyers, but part of our problem is that none of our federal party leaders is trained as a lawyer. They don't appear to have a clear understanding of what's at stake, nor do they see law as a legitimate brake on unbridled power. In fact, our prime minister seems to regard constitutional law as a nuisance that gets in the way of the exercise of his authority as head of the executive branch of government. I had hoped that Ignatieff might bring the proper perspective to all this, but a lifetime arguing in academic settings has left him as changeable as the wind.

    We haven't seen a comparable period since 1942-1948, when Mackenzie King, Bracken, Coldwell, Blackmore and Low were leading their respective parties. At that time, technocrats and teachers predominated. Mackenzie King was not above constitutional manipulation (the King-Byng affair) or red baiting (the 1945 election) but he didn't repeatedly thumb his nose at the constitutional framework of Confederation, as Harper has done.

  65. You see folks, just as AGW is not "debateable", so too is the issue of detainee abuse. There is no other side. One can't get from here to "TREASONOUS" with another perspective after all.

    Poor Blatchford, already a pariah and unable to attend the Toronto/Ottawa elite "progressive" media coctail parties, I suspect a full on shunning is in order for her.

  66. Just to be clear what I'm saying, Parliament doesn't need to "override" anything. They're not bound by the statute in this matter in the first place, as their constitutional powers make the statute effectively moot. You can't pass a law that binds Parliament's hands in this manner any more than you could pass a law that outlaws free speech. Which is to say, you can pass the law, but it is of no force and effect to the extent that the constitution overrides it in this instance.

  67. That's a lot of words. I'm trying to discern a point from all that, and I don't see one.

  68. Exactly, the proof, one way or the other is in the documents. If Colvin is a liar, he will be exposed.

  69. Both systems are children of the same family, one which loved its parents and one which had issues, however the similarities far outweigh the differences. The issue though is; is there a substantive difference other than progressives here and down south idolize Obama and that which he purports to stand for and hate the prime minister and that which he stands for? More fundamental though is the media treatment of the two issues, which are peas in a pod in the broader sense, Mr. Harper is demonized and Obama is lionized while their policies and methods are remakably similar. Since the hoi poloi gets its insight and issues from the "news" and their horse race cheer leading, how are those without direct experience of what's happening and limited understanding of the legal underpinnings and perogatives forming these rabid opinions? Oh, from the biased mainstream sources which is a principle argument and complaint of the CPC.

  70. I would say that the cry of "But Obama does it too" as a justification for Harper's misbehaviour is a pleasant variation on "But the Liberals did it too" – but it's not that interesting. It's the same old same old.

    Remember what your mother asked you. "If all the other kids were running over a cliff, would you do the same?"

  71. They may be children of the same family, but that family was separated by divorce and one hundred years of political evolution. As for me. I dislike Obama. He is a fraud.

  72. Thanks Andrew – this nitty gritty and James`Travers this morning gives us the a broader paint on the P.M. and it is very interesting but unfortunately I think we can predict this Prime Minister.

  73. Harper is a talking point driven machine. He's just road-testing the one which will poll well.

    He could care less about laws and statutes. The man broke his own fixed election law after all.

  74. Yes, yes, yes. That's what parliamentary supremacy is about. Only the constitution (including the Charter) can restrain Parliament's law-making powers, including its power to override laws it has already passed.

  75. When a new PM forms a government, s/he is given a booklet by the Clerk of the Privy Council. The first few pages of the booklet remind the PM of something very important: yes, he is the servant of the House of Commons and his government must hold the confidence of that House. However, it further reminds him that he a servant of the Crown. As a servant of the Crown, the booklet continues, the PM has a fundamental duty to secure and defend the realm, which can include, among other things, protecting Canada's access to intelligence provided by allies, etc.

    Now, there is no doubt that parliamentary privilege rules and trumps Crown privilege in most cases. However, given his fundamental duty to secure and defend the realm, the PM does have an obligation to ensure that information is not disclosed in a manner that undermines the security and defence of the realm. If the parties can find a way to disclose the information in a sufficiently guarded manner, then, yes, parliamentary privilege absolutely rules. But if such a solution can't be found and the Commons demands that the PM disclose information without proper protection, then s/he does have a duty, a duty to the Crown, to refuse to disclose the documents. In that case, due to necessity, Crown privilege must be balanced against parliamentary privilege. This balance does not undermine parliamentary privilege, but it forces the Commons to exercise that privilege in a responsible manner.

    Canada, it i worth stressing, is not a republic. Canada is a constitutional monarchy.

    • I, ……………, do solemnly, sincerely, and truly declare and affirm that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second.(2)

      Every member

  76. Chet, you've confirmed my worst suspicions about the current 'law and order' enthusiasts, You are a dangerous bunch.

  77. "Is there a substantive difference?" Yes, in a Westminster-style parliamentary system, the executive must enjoy the confidence of, and respect the prerogatives, of Parliament.

    As for the media, you and I and most other people are perfectly capable of googling wikipedia as well as official government websites to obtain the basic information necessary to think about these matters. You aren't a prisoner of the "hoi poloi" and neither am I. And by the way, my opinions are not "rabid" (if that's what you were suggesting) – they are correct :)

  78. So are you referencing AGW, shelving the oil sands, or not enough stimulus spending, those are some pretty high cliffs. Gee I wonder how thirds parties are judging the PM and his governments…I suggest you check: IMF, OECD, World Bank G7/8?, with the benefit of data as opposed to opinion they are pretty much unequivocaly saying that Prime Minister Harper's policies are a beacon unto the world. But holy cow, the CBC reporters and Globe and mail and Star columnists say he is evil, so it just has to be true, surely the PM is bribing these third parties to cook the books. Don't you wish we had a coalition instead?

  79. What is a responsible Canadian PM to do when he has lives of soldiers and treaties with allies at risk? HM's loyal opposition with which he has to deal, in this onlooker's eyes, cannot be trusted to do the right thing. full stop. One is left astounded at the sheer vulgar partisanship of the Liberals NDP plus the CBC plus the warped mindset of those whoever they are (?) who routinely make little consitutional decisions (eg how did Ms May get to participate in pre-election debates? How can a party sworn to break up Canada be given privileged information to assist them in their destruc tive work?) I keep asking people to answer these questions and all I hear are flacid remarks about, 'the Canadian way", and the charm of leaders of both the Greens and Bloc. The debilitating effects of adhering to the "Canadian Way" is why many have chosen the highway.

  80. A few more points, if I may.

    This is similar to the point that the SCC made in the Khadar case. Yes, his Charter rights were violated (something which is now arguably as sacred as parliamentary privilege in Canada), but the justices felt that it was necessary to defer to the government's discretion on the grounds of the Crown's prerogative for foreign affairs. The justices realized that fundamental principles must occasionally be balanced.

    Also, lest some claim that all this undermines democracy, we should recall that if the House can always withdraw confidence in the government. If the opposition parties feel that Harper is hiding behind national security, then they can form a temporary coalition, form the government, and release the documents. Then they would take the full responsibility for the consequences of the security concerns (real or imagined) linked with a release of the documents.

  81. I didn't claim to be right. There were other arguments. This is why I don't dismiss the possibility of a Supreme Court Reference. under section 53 Supreme Court of Canada Act.

  82. Calm down, your Lordship! You misread my post. I was talking about parliamentary supremacy, not parliamentary privilege. Parliament may "override" (to use my colloquial term) anything it has already passed – it is not bound by its own previous enactments. That's all I was saying – chet seemed unclear on the meaning of parliamentary supremacy.

    Also, I think you're reading too much into the notion that parliamentary privilege equals the constitution, such that other provisions of the constitution must give way to the privilege. For example, Parliament's prerogatives have been sharply constrained by the Charter.

    • There is no overriding. It was never bound in the first place.

  83. Bingo.

    Ignatieff wants to be PM someday so he has to consider what the impact this ruling would have on his (hypothetical) government. This is why Ignatieff is being supportive of Iacobucci option to report to Parliament – he might be PM in the future and he won't want to release documents that would harms Canada's interests. NDP and Bloc don't care about this. Iti s in both Harper's and Ignatieff's interest to cut a deal. When I heard Goodale say the talks were "very constructive" you knew that they were working toward a deal.

  84. Elsewhere in these blogs I have been trying to make that exact point, that the PM has a duty to the crown (and the safety of our soldiers and of the privacy of our allies observations and their activities). Sadly the mindless pig-pile of the progressives is immune to logic or common sense and seems incapable of assessing their coalition heroes and media cheer leaders as the opportunistic, ignorant, bottom feeders they are. Certainly Iggy's legal advisors know that if the shoe was on the other foot they would be protecting the crown's perogatives just as relentlessly.

  85. With the possible exception of the Toronto Star, every single major newspaper, radio and TV station in Canada has been a Conservative-sympathist mouthpiece since the mid-eighties.

  86. Laid out with perfect clarity… I've been baffled by the apparent apathy on the part of most Canadians in the face of one of the most egregious acts of this government. Is it because people are so sick of all politicians that they just don't care anymore? I hope so, because the other option would appear to be that they are too ignorant to understand the gravity of what this government is trying to do.

  87. "Partisan considerations" are driving this issue.

    A perfectly honest attack on Iggy was characterized by the press as a threat to civility in politics. (Liberals alleging Harper will "take away all our rights" is "just politics", part of the game.) Prorogue under liberal rule, just a procedure. Under Harper? A threat to democracy. This very issue, detainee abuse – under the Librerals, did not even occupy a thought. Switching parties? Stronach does it, and its a saavy political move. Emerson does it? A threat to our representative democracy.

    Partisanship slices both ways my friends. To the partisan liberals here and their friends in the liberal media, there's only ever one side.

  88. SomeContext, you have to remember how we got here. Harper has apparently read only part of the booklet you referenced – the part relating to Crown privilege, which, conveniently, supports the centralization on power in his office and in his person.

    None of us knows the outcome of these negotiations among House Leaders. But the opposition had to take some kind of action or risk a permanent narrowing of parliamentary privilege, to the detriment of our democracy. Westminster-style parliaments are particularly vulnerable to executive over-reach. I'm not saying anything controversial here.

  89. Linda, are you a L(l)iberal, by chance?

  90. WHy don't YOU name the 7000 who never vote conservative because they depend on lefties in government for their job security.

    Your assertion. You prove it. And when you can't, and we both know you can't, then just give it up already. When you have to make things up to prove your point, it usually means you don't have one.

  91. This is funny. As you should know, the proof is in the control of the government. And they do not want anyone to see it.

    Maybe you should draw some conclusions from that.

  92. Look! Over there – plaudits for our economy! Pay no attention to the man paying no attention to Parliament.

  93. The reality of expedient legal proceedings shouldn't be outweighed by hypothetical blows to morale. Evidence gets stale over time and it becomes harder to deliver justice (that is part of the reason a right to a trial within a reasonable time is a constitutional right).

    It is perfectly possible that evidence which would exonerate soldiers accused of wrongdoing could be lost in the passage of time, especially in a lengthy conflict such as the one we are emboiled in now.

  94. wilson

    The LPC have gone on record numerous times saying they want an inquiry into the entire mission. You know this, so I am confused about why you are suggesting they do not want such an inquiry. It almost makes you look dishonest.

    In any event, the fact that Harper is now suggesting some of the remedies the opposition have proposed, over and over again, suggests that Milliken did, indeed, put the ball into Harper's court. Harper just does not like admitting he lost, and apparently, you don't like admitting that either.

    If there is a compromise, that compromise will be by Harper finally agreeing to do what the liberals proposed a long time ago, your attempt to rewrite history notwithstanding.

  95. Note that he is careful to start threads so his post is most likely to be read.

  96. Ignatieff will backdown, there is no backbone in this man DNA, it will be nice to see him try though!

  97. chet the Conservative staffer, starting one thread after another.

  98. I just googled apples + oranges and got 3,990,000 hits.

  99. peter, the US revolted and designed their government to be different from the British Parliamentary government. Canada modelled our government after the British Parliamentary government.

    peter are you an American, or are you a Canadian who is ignorant of your own history?

  100. And what precisely does this have to do with article other than if the documents are handed over unredacted than one party or the other is proven correct? Sounds like a sound argument to find a way to review all the documents to me!

  101. "…When I travel overseas I hear it all the time: What has happened to your country? What has happened to your government? You hear it all the time in the UN space. Not only is Canada behind on this stuff, we're actually blocking a lot of stuff from moving forward…" http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/acti

    The world sees Harper as a regressive fool.

  102. "…When I travel overseas I hear it all the time: What has happened to your country? What has happened to your government? You hear it all the time in the UN space. Not only is Canada behind on this stuff, we're actually blocking a lot of stuff from moving forward…" http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/acti

    The world sees Harper as a regressive fool.

  103. See Christie Blatchford's Globe piece on DND/DFAIT testimony that pretty much leaves Colvin in the cold, alone and soundly refuted. Look, over there- Harper is Bush, has a hidden agenda, is going to put soldiers on our streets, is cruel to puppies….oh look! canadian teen idol is slaying them in the southern hemisphere, tiger missed the cut because he was hanging with nickleback….isn't Celine's pool cool.

  104. This may be the best column I’ve ever read by Andrew Coyne. It’s very informative.
    Coyne demonstrates clearly & succinctly Harper’s intransigent position on detainees docs is untenable, power-abusing, and appears to be entirely illegal.

    I don’t understand though why Harper might get to trigger an election in lieu of producing docs.
    Faced with an obstinately intransigent Harper, couldn’t the Speaker simply find Harper in contempt of Parliament, and use Speaker’s legal powers to demand docs be produced, forcibly seizing them if necessary?

    Aren’t potential Tory law-breaking & losing confidence of the House two separate issues?
    How is it Harper might get to trigger one (non-confidence), but avoid facing legal charges & consequences stemming from the other (his possible law breaking)?
    Or, if Harper is somehow able to trigger & win another minority in an election, what’s to prevent the Speaker from demanding and seizing docs immediately after the election?

    Perhaps Harper could postpone such a development by appealing to the Supreme Court, but as Coyne suggests, the Court is unlikely to act as lap dog to Harper on this issue by rejecting the rights of Parliament, and may not be willing to hear the case, thus giving the Speaker last word.

    I’m quite bewildered that Tories still lead in opinion polls, despite obvious ongoing, flagrant abuses of power committed by Harper, where our Prime Minister appears to be attacking the foundations of our democratic system. How is it so many voters can be indifferent to this?

    • The polls puzzle me too. As a woman, I am deeply concerned not only with the issue of the parliamentary supremacy, but also with the bizaare direction the Tories seem to be taking on maternal health. Their stance is profoundly worrying for what it might say about policy directions closer to home. I am sincerely hoping that women in Canada get up off their comfortable rear ends and start making some noise.

    • The Polls puzzle me as well. Unfortunately it seems too many people are buying into Harpers Lies that Michael Ignatieff (Voted 1 of the 100 most intelligent people in the world Btw) is not a Canadian he never renounced his citizenship , Is Not elected, and was parachuted into his riding strictly to become the new leader of the Liberal Party. If Canadian's cannot get off the couch and need to see Us Republican style TV Ads to decide who to vote for we are in a world of trouble.

    • Don`t be too puzzled by the polls. It`s quite obvious that the Libs on this blog and in Ottawa ( same people ?) don`t really care about the Afghan detainees; they don`t care about the Geneva convention or any possible war crimes; and they certainly don`t care about Parliament.

      Voters will know that the only thing Libs care about is a return to power and that won`t happen so don`t be puzzled about the polls as the libs continue to drop.

    • The questions you raise are a helpful addendum to an excellent post by Mr. Coyne. If only the press would run with them, we'd see a more cogent, mainstream analysis than that of the "Gunfight at Noon" variety.

  105. You`re the one who implied that there was a direct connection between big business and the CPC. I simply corrected your rewriting history habit.

    • You need to stop arguing the point. You're starting to sound petulant.

  106. Check with RSA above………he`s the one in charge of leftist propaganda today.

  107. The SCC in Vaid v House of Commons ruled:

    "Legislative bodies created by the Constitution Act, 1867 do not constitute enclaves shielded from the ordinary law of the land. The framers of the Constitution, and Canadian Parliamentarians in passing the Parliament of Canada Act, thought it right to use the House of Commons at Westminster as the benchmark for parliamentary privilege in Canada. Accordingly, to determine whether a privilege exists for the benefit of the Senate or House of Commons, or their members, a court must decide whether the category and scope of the claimed privilege have been authoritatively established in relation to our own Parliament or to the House of Commons at Westminster. If so, the claim to privilege ought to be accepted by the court. However, if the existence and scope of a privilege have not been authoritatively established, the court will be required to test the claim against the doctrine of necessity — the foundation of all parliamentary privilege. In such a case, in order to sustain a claim of privilege, the assembly or member seeking its immunity must show that the sphere of activity for which privilege is claimed is so closely and directly connected with the fulfilment by the assembly or its members of their functions as a legislative and deliberative body, including the assembly's work in holding the government to account, that outside interference would undermine the level of autonomy required to enable the assembly and its members to do their legislative work with dignity and efficiency. Once a claim to privilege is made out, the court will not enquire into the merits of its exercise in any particular instance."

    I read that to say that the presumption is the law applies, unless the doctrine of necessity can be invoked to show that parliamentary privilege overcomes the operation of the law.

    I do not know how the SCC would rule in this case, but there is an opposing legal argument that can be made to the Speakers ruling. I would not so confidently rule out a SCC reference as our host does.

  108. And they are forming their opinions how? Based on what guiding philosophy? Oh, that would be the selective reporting that is the central complaint I and others are making combined with a stuborn inability to look at facts as opposed to opinions. garbage in garbage out. You need to wrap your head around the concept that your "belief system" is a product, recently manufactured, to undermine our institutions. For a good primer check out Ken Wiber's "Theory of Everything". I disagree with his end game in many ways but find his analysis very compelling. btw it is a very accessible read, unlike much of his more academic prose.

  109. Hear, hear – they could have spent the last few months painting Harper into a corner with clear, relentless messaging,

  110. "I'm with colleague Wells, then: the negotiations into which the government has lately entered are in all likelihood a diversion. The aim is to stall, and probe for divisions within and between the parties, notably the Liberals' palpable fear of an election."

    I agree, the Liberals are not anxious to fight another election. That said, I would hope that if Mr. Harper really, really thought hard about it, he'd come to the conclusion that Canadians would not agree with him that this is an issue on which to base fighting his fourth election which he'd most likely lose (or get another minority at best). Unless of course, his ego got the better of him and he decided that the sweaty masses of voters really don't know what's best for them and would blindly mark yet another "X" beside the name of one of his candidates. With his Party's approval rating hanging around the 1/3 of decided voters level, surely he must be aware that mathematically, he won't be able to gain a majority that would allow him to foist his rightist agenda on all of Canada. Perhaps like Pierre Trudeau before him, he needs to do some self-examination while walking on a snowy night.

    I also suspect that the average sort of Canadian find this whole matter rather arcane and, other than those of us that are political junkies, average Canadians would not agree with Mr. Harper that this is an engaging enough issue on which to fight another election that would cost taxpayers another $250 million.

    I would also hope that Mr. Harper would realize that if he fights and loses another election, his dream of "righting" Canada is over and he'll be remembered only in history as a Prime Minister who did his best to divide and conquer Canada.


  111. "au contraire". Since Canadian "progressives" deify the Big Owe I repectfully suggest that what is good for the goose is good for the gander. You just can't have it both ways. Of course in my personal experience hypocricy is the hallmark of the progressive movement…i.e. do as a I say not as I do. The ideaology does seem to have pretty selective standards, this along with Al Gore's AGW jet setting is the definition of the word.

  112. Harper would be re-elected with another minority and yes, we'd start all over again with the house demanding to see the unredacted documents. Election? Bring it.

  113. You are correct that there is a possibity that the Supreme Court of Canada will agree to hear a reference of this issue by the government. But the justices on the SCC are just as smart as Peter Milliken and you can be sure that they will never make a ruling that allows the rights of the Parliament to be trumped by the iron fist of any government.

  114. Your arguement is based completely on the assumption that all Conservative MPs can be trusted to look after the country's national interest, including military and security issues, but all oposition MPs cannot. This is absurd, especially since you are making the arguement at the same time as we are being reminded how untrustworthy and lacking in good judgement some Conservative MPs actually are. For example, Helena Guergis, Rahim Jaffer and Maxime Bernier. Let's not forget that Stephen Harper named Guergis and Bernier to cabinet illustrating his lack of judgment. These are the people who until recently would actually be reading the documents that Harper now says opposition MPs can't be trusted with.

  115. Once more…with feeling:

    "He was a fattish but active man of paralyzing stupidity, a mass of imbecile enthusiasms — one of those completely unquestioning, devoted drudges on whom, more even than on the Thought Police, the stability of the Party depended."
    – George Orwell

  116. Colvin claims it's behind the black ink. Over at the Military Police hearing the government lawyer, who has seen the un-redacted documents in question, claims they don't back up Colvin's claims. Of course he cannpt quote for them, neither can Colvin. And the judge is even denied access to the documents. It's right out of Alice in Wonderland.

  117. Actually No, the party of big business is the Liberal party because big business determined long ago that if they expected to be rewarded for favours to politicians then the Party with the flexible moral fiber to accomplish that was the Liberals.

  118. Actually, he put the ball back in EVERYONE's court. I suppose, in theory and by rights, as soon as the Speaker ruled that there was a prima facie case for privilege, the prioritaization sequence rules would / should have placed the motion on contempt-of-Parliament on the order of business right then and there, suspending all other business except, say, evacuation in case of a fire. Any parliamentary experts out there are more than welcome to clarify.

    So it seems to me the Speaker held back from his parliamentary duties slightly, basically telling all MPs "Don't make me do this — sort this out over the next two weeks if you want to avoid a real mess."

  119. Well argued AC. When are we all going to get on the same page on this? Only Parliament may limit Parliament in any way. [ although…what is to stop a majority gov't from limiting PP?] It may well be that certain docs cannot be released or come into the public sphere – but that is entirely a matter for Parliament to decide, not the gov't of the day alone. The gov't has in all likeihood a case for witholding some information as regards national security, but the gov't is only a part of Parliament and cannot decide to do so arbitrarily.
    I still find it beyond comprehension that the PM did not approach, at the very lest, the leader of the opposition and privately come to an understanding that this issue was too serious to become a political football…what possible conclusion can there be, other than the gov't is hiding something truly serious…well, we are talking about SH, so Lord only knows what it is?

  120. Not like those treasonous socialist and separatist coalitioners from a couple years back!

    • Which brings up an interesting point. If nothing else, Harper has done probably more than anyone in giving Canadians an understanding of how our democracy works. If only by saying how it isn't, and having everyone else correct him on it. Sadly, many partisan types simply take Harper's misinformation as gospel and never listen to how it really is. Still work to be done here, I guess.

  121. You're right that it's not strictly treasonous, but insofar as it is an attack on the fundamental principles of our democracy, the sentiment is not nearly as far off as you seem to think. I prefer insidious.

  122. And I'm not sure if you read the above… refusing to provide Parliament with documents it demanded is breaking law.

  123. And yet here is one of the Houses of that same Parliament, the Commons, backed by its Speaker, demanding that he should disclose those same documents.


    you guys are dense

  124. Debate the laws of physics, the Geneva Conventions and Constitutional convention all you like, see if you can convince them to change.

  125. Thank you, Andrew for making the point so well. That Harper is refusing to recognize the Speaker's ruling is bad enough, but what is even more depressing, is that a lot of voters believe him.

  126. Very good article Mr Coyne. I have a question that I think needs more public airing. Many journalists frequently mention that this standoff might result in Stephen Harper calling a snap election, The issue that I see with this conclusion is that this requires Harper going to the Governor General to ask her to dissolve Parliament. But there is a good chance that at that point Harper, together with some of his cabinet colleagues are likely to have been found in contempt of Parliament and / or once again running away from a vote of confidence. And they would be leaving unresolved an important democratic issue ruled on by the Speaker. Furthermore my understanding is that Parliament can punish government officials in contempt of Parliament even to the extent of imprisonment until they comply with Parliament's request. So my question is: what standing does a Prime Minister who has been found in contempt of Parliament and might possibly be behind bars have with the Governor General? What is the probability that instead of acquiescing to Harper's request to dissolve Parliament, the Governor General asks the opposition to form a coalition government from the existing Parliament?

  127. As his posts continue in a downward direction, I'm convincd he's a cabinet minister.

  128. Or he is protecting the dignity of the Crown, sullied by an inattentive former government preoccupied with domestic corruptiona and scandal. The trick is the PM represents our nation and its past practices as well as current on the international stage. As well he is responsible for the lives of Canadian soldiers and ally's confidences. When the final story is written I think he will come out of all looking pretty good. Never in the eyes of deluded fanatics, but high probability with 40% plus of voters…as the PM keeps asking, "are you really sure you want a national poll that matters on this?"


  130. He does not protect the troops, he has been hiding behind the troops and thus smearing them with suspicion. Didn't you notice that Natynczyk has just shown that the military will refuse to let Harper hide behind them anymore?

    What is Harper hiding?

  131. What is Harper hiding? Something that would get him kicked out?

  132. Hmmm… it is the party with the plurality which – traditionally – forms government – with the confidence of the commons. The leader of the party doesn't matter. Our government is not vested in any individual.

  133. You are deluded. The fact is that Harper must submit to Parliament and release the documents or be held in contempt of Parliament.

    If you claim to know facts that are not being reported, then produce them and back them up.

  134. His argument was thoroughly rejected by the Speaker and so is moot.

  135. This is the government defense – that there was nothing known about detainee abuse until the spring of 2007. They don't seem to realize that gets the Liberals off the hook. Buchan went on to go off his talking points and said that in a place like Afghanistan mis-treatment is to be expected. He really didn't help his side.And after watching the committee it's starting to look like Conservative MP's may have access to things the opposition MP's don't. Just a hunch.

  136. No, the house asked the speaker for a ruling to resolve the impasse, he has given one based on his and his experts best judgements. If you consider giving the merry pranksters two weeks to save face a win, you have my sympathy. There is an immovable object (the crown) being hit by an unstoppable force (the house). If forced to an ugly end everybody loses and most importantly the institutions lose. There will be face saving compromise or there will be an election and almost certainly a Conservative majority.

  137. I suggest you check out the government of canada's organizational flow chart, moreover speak with a few soldiers on their voting habits. At the command level the soldiers take orders from the executive, not the other way around, they are there to serve the ancient institutions not to lead…that's the Hugo Chavez way. BTW it is the "loyal opposition" accusing the military of war crimes, not the government. The government is defending the military from errors of ommision or commision from OTHER PMOs…and doing a damn fine job I'd say. There is no black and white here (or ever in Ottawa) just lots of grey.

    • No. It's the government accusing the military of war crimes.

      Essentially, Harper is saying no one can ever question his conduct when it comes to the war, because to do so would mean questioning the troops. He brought the troops into this, not the opposition.

      You have to think that if Harper had simply given the party leaders access to the documents a long time ago this would have all blown over by now – assuming Harper is not trying to hide something.

  138. Yeah, kind of like when Harper 'looked into' the reports of an attempt to bribe Chuck Cadman and found . . . nothing.

  139. since it's all in upper case it must be true! since this is all lower case it must be false! Keep repeating your mantra dude surely if you believe hard enough it will magically become true. btw nice spin on the lame OLO talking points! Nice mimicry of the shouting it in the House, of course being the misinformed partisan i am i must be wrong a priori…regardless of the facts.

  140. Like the successful Dion letter-writing campaign challenging the the separatists claims of the legality of Referendum results and UDI in Quebec. Made Bouchard and Landry look like complete prats, shouldn't be too hard to make the same work of Harper.

  141. I hope you're not referring to Senator Duffy.

    • Couldn't be, the first two adjectives used in the quote couldn't possibly be construed as referring to the Senator.

      • Indeed, Duffy is way past fatish, and well into morbidly obese.

  142. Colvin, didn't warn the govt until April 2007?
    Wednesday the media ignored committee testimony.

    Q: When you took over for Mr. Colvin, you would have received briefing or handover notes. … Did any of these documents allege that the Canadian-transferred prisoners were being abused?

    Mr. Buchan: “In the handover note that I received on my arrival in Kandahar in July, 2006, there was no reference to the detainee issue whatsoever … there was nothing to that effect in the note.”

    Q: Why do you think Mr. Colvin said he had warned officials back in 2006?

    Mr. Buchan: “I won't presume to speak for Richard or his motivations. What I will say is that in April, 2007, there were some very vigorous exchanges between the embassy in Kabul and headquarters in which he [Mr. Colvin] put forward strong, and I believe entirely legitimate views, but the key thing here is timing.

    “Those views were expressed in April, 2007, not in the period prior.”

  143. Nice deflection. How about you get a plane ticket to Pittsburgh for tomorrow and offer up your skills to the Habs?

  144. poor little peter tsk tsk

  145. How does commenting on the constitutional affronts of the current government make me a Liberal. In my opinion, Canadians should be highly concerned by these actions, regardless of political stripe.

  146. I think Harper is covering up some political misdeed, hiding behind the troops and "national security". What is he hiding?

  147. Just googled "about 1,400,000 for harper hitler" and "about 3,340,000 for harper stalin".

  148. So, in your world it's Harper standing up for our institutions? Crikes. What's next – the threat of communism?

  149. Finally…FINALLY…people are getting it…

    Now if only we can convince people to get off their collective asses and vote, we can relegate this debacle of a government to an ugly footnote in our history…

  150. hollinm
    given the steady stream of con talking points that you post, my post is at least original

    and I guess you missed the "bordering on" qualification (nuance is our thing obviously)

    thanks cew – insidious works too

  151. What I can't understand is why Frank Iacobucci, after being appointed to "review" which documents can be released to Parliament, didn't announce 5 minutes later "that's easy, all of them". Or maybe that's what he did, after all he's not allowed to discuss his findings with anyone.

  152. I'll stick with the west thanks, but if the Habs will have me and my no-skills at hockey for their minum wage I'm in like Flynn! ps still waiting for the Canucks to perform their annual collapse…game time in 22 minutes. anxiously awaiting the start of the CFL season. And no I don't hate Qubec cause of the Als and Riders last fall.

  153. So in other words, you have no proof that 7000 CBC employees vote liberal?

    Why don't you just man up and admit it.

    • It doesn't have to be true, it just has to be plausible.

  154. Sigh, they are making those corrections. The MSM isn't reporting them.

  155. Would you believe: Agent 13?

  156. Perhaps I should have said they're doing a better job now than they were when Harper had them all trembling in fear of his wrath. It seemed to me that until the past few months, the vast majority was deliberately ignoring the progress of Harper's agenda for this country, but recent coverage seems somewhat less reserved, and their giddiness over Harper's cleverness seems much less prevalent. Maybe I'm just looking at the cup half full. It does seem to take them a while tho to figure things out that many of us find so obvious, like Natynczyk's comment about having no problem with releasing the documents, thus no worries about 'legal obligations', national security or 'protecting our troops'. But I remain hopeful.

    I think that most of the pundits (present company excepted of course) are slaves to the polls – they don't know what to think without the polls telling them what to think. (BTW, despite Spector's reference to the Supreme Court's obligation to accept a reference by the government, a former Supreme Court Justice said yesterday (can't remember his name, but I think it was on Power Play) that in his opinion, it would be unlikely to do so.)

  157. It's not the hypothetical blows to morale. It is the hypothetical blows to operational security and soldier safety. I know that is the reason used by Harper and therefore instantly refuted on these pages on the basis of, well, it's Harper, but this Canadian would be quite happy to let things get stale if it keeps a Canadian safer over there. Obviously, at least around here, that's just me, it seems.

    • No one believes Harper when he claims he is protecting the military, including the military themselves. He is protecting his own sorry butt. What is he hiding?

    • It simply isn't realistic to consider that showing a small committee (or possibly even all of parliament) creates a dangerous situation. The stuff that would have to go wrong (dangerous info is in the docs, that it somehow inappropriately revealed by committee, the press acts irresponsibly in distributing it, and the "enemy" (oooh, shivers!) is able to utilize it, and that this creates a real risk for military operations.

      It's easy to make sure these things don't happen. It is scandalous and horrific that no investigation has yet taken place. It is only common sense that the docs be released.

      Justice and the rule of law are simply too important to be sacrificed to hypotheical coulda shoulda mightas. I am sorry if you came by your position legitimately, but it was originally dreamed up by people who want obfuscations and smokescreens, not justice and proper procedure. Harper is making a mockery of the very fabric of Canadian democracy, and it needs to be stopped YESTERDAY.

  158. 1)The Bloc are a legitimate political party voted in by their constituents. They are not traitors, they are not anti Canada they are Pro Quebec, What they are is a Quebec version of the Reform party .(Quebec first The remainder of Canada second) As Constitutionally and democratically elected MP's they should be accorded the same respect as any other party. If General Natynchuk is not afraid for these documents to come to light why would anyone not be able to see them.

    Elizabeth May as the head of a political party supported by 10% of the voting public deserved to be on the debate.

    Who are the Harpocrites and their Rabid supporters to say any party is Partisan and Divisive? Harper tried to split Canada before he hid behind the GG's Skirts in 2008 by repeatedly calling The Bloc Separatists, and demonizing other political parties by saying they were trying to stage a COUP? He is the master of disinformation and is a bitter man. Mayhap it stems from the fact that he was a sickly child and never learned to play or work well with others.

  159. Funny you should mention fire in a parliament building, it seemed to have worked a charm once before. If it happens here we could blame it on the Left-Lib media.

  160. Thank you, but I'll form my own opinion about that "moot"point.

  161. I'm a die hard Liberal, but I have to say – I have no doubt that the government has a legit legal opinion that says they can't release certain info. These likely take the form of 'advice to cabinet', which is why they're not out there in the open. In whose interest was this advice given? Is it correct? All valid questions.

    One has to remember as well, that as top heavy as our system is, the PM can't order the public service to do something it deems illegal. It's part of the Clerk of Privy Council's job description to say 'no' if Cabinet issues such a request. If someone in the media were clever, they might try calling him.

    The speaker and law clerk of the commons do not get to decide what has 'constitutional weight' in our system – that job belongs to the courts, and the Supreme Court in particular.

    • You are wrong about that. Parliament decides; all of the elected representatives of the people. The Speaker is the servant of Parliament, and so is the Prime Minister. Harper must submit to the will of Parliament.

    • No. You're a concern troll. There's a difference.

  162. Sadly unlike that incident, in fact.

  163. Yes, I'm a "staffer",

    because the notion of someone actually not joining this frothing anti-Harper thread, is literally unthinkable. Therefore, I must be paid to hold such views.

    Again, contrary views here are inherently illigitimate. They are not permitted so to speak.

    I look forward to the next election in which Harper's seat totals rise once again. Tens of millions of paid "staffers" I suppose.

  164. The evolution of Canada’s parliamentary institutions is characterized by pragmatic accomodation. The Canada Evidence Act is a response to a new reality and a shaping of history that demands accomodation. Therefore, the Speaker asked for a proposal of a means for pragmatic accomodation. This is Canada. Expect the unexpected. That is what works for the time being (not for time immemorial).

  165. Hugo Chavez? Seriously, that is not helpful. And if, as you flimsily suggest, the gov't is defending the errant ways of past PMOs, then they have to stop. And all of it must be aired. Accountability, remember?

    BTW, "'loyal opposition"? The quotes, nice touch.

    Sorry, but what possible relevance do this referenced 'flow chart' or the voting habits of military personnel have to do with any of what Coyne was writing about? The 'legal obligations' to which the PM referred are a phantasm. The executive is subordinate, as affirmed by the chair this week, to parliament. Harper knows it. You know it. Anyone with an IQ above that of a newt knows it.

    To willfully insist otherwise is to press for the dismantling of our long-standing parliamentary democracy. It's an ill wish. Treason. almost.

  166. You're missing the point; if the PM is taking a bullet for the military or the honour of Canada, then Parliament has a right to know – the PM is saying they don't, and hiding behind the law – but not anymore. Given the highly partisan nature of this PM i'm prettty sure he would have found a way to tell the country by now, if he's the hero here. It's much more likey to be complicated…something that reflects badly on the country/military and possibly the conservatives themselves. My feeling is he's hoist himself up on his own partisan petard, something that was always likely to happen with a give no quarter guy like Harper.

  167. It must be terrible to be such a cynical common man – and what has it brought you? Certainly not knowledge, and probably not happiness.

    • Well, Dr. wellwell, I`m actually quite content in my opinions about the Afghan matter.
      I am a little disillusioned by the lack of understanding by some around here who should know better.
      We are not in Afghanistan to build schools so little girls get an education……….there`s probably a 100 other countries that would be better suited to that woirthy action.
      We are not there to demonstrate our knowledge of the Geneva Convention by treating the enemy as if they just got caught speeding.
      And we are not there to allow a reckless irresponsible opposition to use any means to make a gov`t, that inherited the mess, look bad.
      We went to Afghanistan because of 911. The goal was to isolate the terroists to prevent another 911 from happening again in Canada or it`s allies. I`m confident that the Harper gov`t is aware of this. But I do believe the opp. and most of the commenters here with plus numbers are naively unaware. They would like to play some Parliamentary Games. It`s a dangerous game.

  168. For the last time THE CONSTITUTION TRUMPS STATUTE. They're not overriding a statute. A statute cannot bind a Parliament's ability to hold the government to account any more than a statute can outlaw freedom of speech. It's part of the constitution.

    The ignorance that abounds about the fundamental tenants of how we govern ourselves is utterly stunning.

    It's not rocket science people.

  169. I,m sure Harper Is Pissed Off , The Man no longer has control of the Parliament, A Little stress & Depression funds,maybe be needed in his part,if he thinks his the Boss of Canadains,than We are fools to vote for his hidden agenda.

  170. I'd actually like to see a reference, but I'm not sure the Tories would risk having to ignore Parliament and the Supreme Court at the same time.

  171. Yeah! Right On! He should show the proof! Wait, what? It's in the documents in question? Um… adscam?

  172. Ah yes, because of course, we wait for proof of guilt before courts will allow a trial, or the police will investigate, or anything of that sort…

    There is, of course, a presumption of innocence on the part of the Conservative government, and the Liberals before them, and without sufficient evidence we shouldn't jump to conclusions, but a presumption of innocence does not free anyone from scrutiny.

  173. OK, so release the documents, in sworn secrecy, to select members of each party, except the separatists.

  174. OK, so release the documents, in sworn secrecy, to select members of each party, except the separatists.

  175. Then they have to try harder to get the message out. It's too important.

  176. Folks, one feels like a hick. How was one to know that one had stumbled into a raging anti-Harper gaggle of funny people. Your hatred is frightening and makes one realise that profoundly negative things have happened to this seemingly benign country. Not so benign at all, just like Canada's political correctness only applies if you are l(L)iberal. Goodnight all.

  177. Look what we have here – A London Daddy's Boy – the Token CBC Conservative – You represent everything I hate about Ottawa and Canada. You, and your family, haven't paid a dime in blood for this country. – Go fetch your cheque

  178. PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY THE FISH STINKS FROM THE HEAD. Unacceptable pretentious justice too. EXCELLENCE WELCOMES SCRUTINY Too many managers participate in the blame game. They blame the government, their peers and subordinates, the marketplace, competition and some take it to the real extreme and blame God. Avoiding responsibility for personal behaviour in business is probably the most fundamental weakness that a manager can possess. The best managers I know are the ones who hold themselves accountable, take responsibility for their behaviour and actions and hold their colleagues equally accountable for their behaviour. Ha ha ha So they now still all cannot cannot be trusted now not to lie on their expense account so can we trust them all still now even anywhere else? Of course not! It is no wonder it takes such a long time to get something done in Ottawa! The way a politician conducts his parliamentary business is clearly still, political and “murky,” with a lot of the money likley used for the political parties expenses and not for the legitimate citizen, or governing business expenses.http://thenonconformer.wordpress.com/2010/05/01/c

  179. We need a judicial public inquiry!

  180. "The subject who is truly loyal to the Chief Magistrate will neither advise nor submit to arbitrary measures." Junius

  181. PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY. MANAGERS MUST manage is such a simple truth, so axiomatic that it is hard to believe that so many people who are called managers – or call themselves managers – completely miss it.
    Too many managers participate in the blame game. They blame the government, their peers and subordinates, the marketplace, competition and some take it to the real extreme and blame God. Avoiding responsibility for personal behaviour in business is probably the most fundamental weakness that a manager can possess.

    The best managers I know are the ones who hold themselves accountable, take responsibility for their behaviour and actions and hold their colleagues equally accountable for their behaviour. http://thenonconformer.wordpress.com/2010/05/01/c

  182. PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY. MANAGERS MUST manage is such a simple truth, so axiomatic that it is hard to believe that so many people who are called managers – or call themselves managers – completely miss it.
    Too many managers participate in the blame game. They blame the government, their peers and subordinates, the marketplace, competition and some take it to the real extreme and blame God. Avoiding responsibility for personal behaviour in business is probably the most fundamental weakness that a manager can possess.

    The best managers I know are the ones who hold themselves accountable, take responsibility for their behaviour and actions and hold their colleagues equally accountable for their behaviour. http://thenonconformer.wordpress.com/2010/05/01/c

  183. Who are you referring to?

  184. Too bad your opinion is meaningless in the grand scheme of things.

    Run for office, be elected Speaker, and then get back to us.

    Better yet, make this the point of your next campaign: "MP's from other parties cannot be trusted with state secrets. If released to them, the opposition MP's will risk the lives of our soldiers. The opposition parties want our soldiers to DIE"!

    Let's see how far you get with that one.

  185. "He is obliged to balance two competing claims: on the one hand, to comply with the Speaker's ruling enjoining him to respect the House's demand that he produce the documents; and on the other, to comply with his “legal obligations” not to produce them. Don't you see? The Speaker is asking him to break the law.."

    This is a red herring. Parliament is not covered by these laws, to wit: "By virtue of the Preamble and section 18 of the Constitution Act, 1867, Parliament has the ability to institute its own inquiries, to require the attendance of witnesses and to order the production of documents, rights which are fundamental to its proper functioning." This also applies to Standing Committees.

    House of Commons Procedure and Practice, Second Edition, 2009, "The Rights to Institute Inquiries, to Require the Attendance of Witnesses and to Order the Production of Documents".

    The aforementioned section 18 states unequivocally: The privileges, immunities, and powers to be held, enjoyed, and exercised by the Senate and by the House of Commons, and by the members thereof respectively, shall be such as are from time to time defined by Act of the Parliament of Canada, but so that any Act of the Parliament of Canada defining such privileges, immunities, and powers shall not confer any privileges, immunities, or powers exceeding those at the passing of such Act held, enjoyed, and exercised by the Commons House of Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and by the members thereof.

    I believe the Constitution trumps any other law which may end up being ultra vires. If anyone still thinks that Harper is telling the truth when he says he can't, think again. It;s not that he can't which bothers him, it's that he must. By the supreme law of the land, he has no choice.

  186. I figured this out. The legal obligation Harper is bound by is the deal he signed with the devil.

  187. Coalition?

  188. I think he is desperately trying to hide something. Whether it's a serious crime or just a minor dent to his ego I don't know, but we will find out sooner or later.

  189. There were good discussions on CBC's "The Sunday Edition" today. No yappy partisans.

  190. you are so OTT

  191. In the real world of evidence and proof, like the courts, or the honest world of the court of public opinion, if one person's testimony was contradicted by two or three other people and inference reason would be given to suspect the veracity of that testimony.

    But this isn't the honest world of public opinion in which the media portrays all sides and lets the public decide.

    Much like a court of law in a banana republic, the "preferred" testimony, albeit tenuous or even fleeting, is trumpeted from the rooftops, while as the (apparently lowly, nay even…gulp "non-progressive) Blatchford points out, others' testimony are effectively silenced. They speak the wrong words, and so those words are not fit for news readers consumption.

  192. Having spent many a summer working in various mailrooms on Bay Street I can guarantee you that you are absolutely, 100% wrong.

  193. You are the one who referred to the lives of our soldiers being at risk. I am just taking it to its logical conclusion.

    Maybe you should just think about what you wrote.

  194. I believe Tony is questioning Mr. Coyne's patriotism. After all, 'if ya ain't wit us, yur agin us'.
    Way to raise the level of debate there Tony.

  195. The key statement for me in Vaid case is: "a court must decide whether the category and scope of the claimed privilege have been authoritatively established…" The SCC did NOT say "the Speaker" must decide.

    Those who claim that the SCC has no role to play, or that the SCC would refused to hear the Reference, are wrong. I don't claim to know how the SCC might decide the matter, but to dismiss the possibility of a SCC reference shows many journalists do not understand how our system of government works.

    One possibility that hasn't been mentioned is to have the Senate play a role. After all, the Senate is part of Parliament and shares the same privileges with the House of Commons. Why not swear a few Senators as Privy Councilors and have them "vet" the documents, or have Iacobucci report his findings to the Senate, instead of the House of Commons? This way we could get the politics out of it because no-one on the Afghanistan Committee will have any role in deciding whether the documents are release-able or not?

  196. Given the seriousness of the issue the PM. would be well advised to go to an election and that will settle the matter once and foreall.

  197. Where do we nominate Holly Stick as Chief of Defence Staff? I sure hope she's bilingual! She's got incredible talent, what with knowing without seeing a single page that there is nothing in the whole batch of documents that would, if disclosed, represent a threat to the success and safety of our military. That's pretty impressive.

  198. We are fighting an insurgency in Afghanistan. One of the strategies is to win over the 'hearts and minds' of the local population. How do you think turning over detainees either guilty or innocent for abuse is contributing to that? And knock off the boy scout stuff. We're propping up a corrupt government who have done nothing for women's rights.

  199. The old 'who's the real Canadian' criteria . I thought Coyne was from Manitoba and that it was one of the provinces where 'real Canadians' live. These Conservatives are always changing the club rules, it's hard to keep up.

  200. TO ex canuck: I hope you realize that the profoundly negative things that have happened in Canada are since Harper has become PM. His belligerent, combative, arrogant, uncooperative attitude is the cause of all the hatred. If you are from Alberta you will be well aware the reason he went in to politics is because of hatred. His hatred is to all Liberals and his main ambition is not ot govern Canada but to destroy the Liberal party. One man rule has caused many wars. Harper’s authoritative atitude favors political power for the Conservatives which is not what over 65 perccent of Canadians want.

    • Shirley, I don't realise that at all and was referring to the climate of faux (classical) liberalism which has lead to coercive political correctness and poisonous political manoeuvering and the overweaning power of human rights commissions. None of this has anything very obvious to do with the present government. Incidentally, do you mean "authoritarian" attitude?

  201. I didn't write that…somebody's playing games.

  202. Is there any compliance mechanism, other than forcing an election?

  203. 2 weeks after Nato leaves Afghanistan the Taliban will make short work of these hearts and minds you speak off and when the time comes let me know how you feel about the Taliban and their treatment of women.

    I`m confident that the naivety displayed by the plussers on these pages is a minority in the country and that the Harper gov`t will do the right thing.

  204. This thread is exhausted, surely?

  205. The usual leftists here cheering-on with much fervor, this selective reporting as being a "good job of informing readers" of this issue, shows just how much the birds of the leftist/media/academic elite feather, flock together.

  206. I wonder what the Liberal election airplane will be called: Air Cave-in or Igneous Airline?

  207. Then call your MP and ask him or her to rise in the House on a point of order, since the House rules are being violated by this two week delay. The very fabric of Canadian democracy deserves no less, if that's how you feel.

  208. Are you claiming Harper once had a soul to sell? Hard to believe.

  209. This is why I like you, MYL. Not afraid to admit when you're wrong. So refreshing!

  210. Particularly when General Natynczyk says he's okay with Parliament looking at the documents.

  211. You know, if I had signed a deal with the devil (he looks over his shoulder) I should think it might be for something more grandiose than merely PM of Canada. Merely PM of Canada? Petty and small minded. That's proof enough.

  212. Another BS article from another Media Liberal Schill. STFU Coyne

  213. Harper's just buying time, the little time that he has remaining. Amen.

  214. The devil misled him; he thinks he's the US president. Think about it – it explains a lot.

  215. If you don't know whether the Supreme Court's involvement would make any difference, then why are you recommending it? The same question could be asked of your Senate suggestion. Are you simply seeking a delay, and if so why?

  216. Perhaps you didn't read the rest of the same sentence: "[Parliament] is not bound by its own previous enactments."

  217. I was aware, as I was listening to Harper, that he was somehow obfuscating or embroidering, or fiddling — but didn't know exactly how. He uses words like Bill Clinton in "I never had sex with that woman".

  218. Judging by the arrogance with which Harper has refused to comply with anything to date — and judging by how he clearly wants to get rid of Parliament and thinks he can do so with the blessings of Canadians — why would anyone think that he would go along with a ruling by Milliken? He has no respect for Milliken – Milliken's not Harper's idea of a "man".

  219. No more rationalizing and no more debating, it is not required and it never was. There never was a question or any reason for doubt and Harper knows it.

    It is time to tell Harper in no uncertain terms, to quit jerking us around and respect our democracy. Call him.

  220. All the news coming out of the meetings on this topic are good: everyone seems to be on the same page and things are moving along.

    Now I fully agree with the article, but discussin this issue with a lot of my friends, they simply don't care. I think this issue will end up hurting the liberals unless something massive and I mean massive comes out of this (which isn't likely).