The Commons: There but for the grace of God go us

On the occasion of Chrétien’s portrait unveiling, Harper uncovers a ‘deep, enduring consensus’


Stephen Harper stood this afternoon before a room of past and present cabinet ministers, current and former members of parliament, power-brokers, diplomats, hangers-on and swells—the size of the crowd woefully overwhelming Parliament’s air conditioning system on a truly sweltering day in the capital—and toasted the career of Jean Chrétien, the man who once seemed to epitomize everything Mr. Harper campaigned to change, everything that was wrong with this place, everything that brought Mr. Harper to office four and a half years ago.

Mr. Harper spoke of a “great Parliamentarian” and a “great leader” and his “long and successful service to Canada.” “For this passion and dedication, Jean Chrétien deserves our admiration and our thanks,” Mr. Harper said. “And he deserves to look back on his record of service to our country with pride and satisfaction.”

And then Mr. Harper said this. “Partisan differences are a healthy and necessary part of our political culture and process. But on an occasion such as this, we remember that they are transcended by a deep, enduring consensus, a shared understanding that our freedom rests also on the limitations imposed on those partisan differences by our constitutional traditions and the rule of law.”

Perhaps it was just the heat, but these words seemed heavy.

Some five and a half hours earlier, four television cameramen and one newspaper photographer stood in an airless, soulless committee room—the air conditioning not so much struggling here as simply non-existent—in the furthest corner of Parliament’s West Block, all lenses aimed at an empty green chair. The chair was to comfortably seat one Dimitri Soudas, the Prime Minister’s long-time aide and current director of communications, and the witness properly asked to attend and testify this day. He had, alas, already stated that he would not be present, and this was a cause of some controversy, and so the networks and the papers wanted a meaningful image for the evening news and the morning edition.

The standing committee on access to information, privacy and ethics is, at the moment, taken with a study of alleged government interference in the release of documentation under access to information laws—specifically the allegation that an aide to former public works minister Christian Paradis (Mr. Paradis is presently the Minister of Natural Resources) personally blocked the release of certain documents requested by the Canadian Press. The aide in question testified—somewhat awkwardly—before the committee three weeks ago. Mr. Soudas was himself due to testify two weeks ago, only to have his appearance preempted by a fire alarm.

Sometime between then and this past weekend, the government decided that it would no longer allow its staff to testify before parliamentary committees—the new policy announced, oddly enough, by Mr. Soudas after an appearance on a Sunday morning chat show. Never mind that Parliament is supreme, the ultimate forum of our democratic expression. Never mind that Parliament can legally compel an individual to appear before it. Never mind that Parliament even possesses the power to detain and, in fact, imprison those who defy such orders. Apparently the government would sooner its ministerial aides be thrown in jail than be allowed to answer questions under oath about how this administration conducts itself.

So there sat that empty chair. Behind it sat a half dozen reporters waiting to see what was about to occur. For awhile there was no action worthy of note. But then, at precisely 11:02am, in walked John Baird, the government’s Transport Minister and official face of obfuscation. Here, apparently, was the answer. Liberal Paul Szabo, the chair of the committee, strolled over to confer. Mr. Baird took his seat, a placard was made up to identify the witness and at 11:07am, Mr. Szabo called the committee to order.

Mr. Szabo informed the room that Mr. Soudas had called that morning to say he would not be attending. As well, the government House leader had, moments earlier, stood in the House and explained the government’s new policy, lamenting for the “tyranny of the opposition” and the brusque treatment of committee witnesses, and vowing that, from here on, only ministers will appear when there are questions about the help. Never mind the tenets of our democracy that allow Parliament to determine its own business, never mind the legalities, traditions and foundations of our democracy. This was, apparently, something to do with the concept of ministerial accountability. Except that, in this case, Mr. Soudas’ superior minister is the Prime Minister. And it being “quite unusual” for a Prime Minister to appear before a committee of Parliament—well, except for the time this Prime Minister broke from convention to do just that in 2006—the Prime Minister would not be here this morning. Instead, apparently, he had asked Mr. Baird to appear in his place.

The first objection was raised shortly thereafter this had been explained. Deeming this a “subversion of Canadians,” Wayne Easter took issue with the decision, apparently taken by Mr. Szabo, to let Mr. Baird testify. Mr. Szabo deemed this a challenge to his authority. Pierre Poilievre, Mr. Baird’s dutiful and faithful protege, first tried to argue it was not in fact an official challenge, then requested a vote to sustain Mr. Szabo’s original decision. That vote ended in a tie—the five Conservative members of the committee voting in favour of Mr. Szabo, the five opposition members voting against. There was then some debate over the precise meaning of a tie in this context.

There was more wrangling before Mr. Baird was allowed to proceed with an opening statement, which Mr. Szabo quickly cut short, apparently on account of its inflammatory nature. The rest was perhaps too pointless to recount here at any length. From the opposition side, this was said to be an insult to Parliament, a show of blatant disrespect and, potentially, the setting of a dangerous precedent, Parliament ceding control of itself to the government. From the government, there was weeping about the intimidation of ministerial staff, the offices of this government apparently populated entirely by wide-eyed innocents barely removed from the womb. There was moaning, there was raging. There was an attempt to adjourn, but Mr. Szabo voted with the government allowing the meeting to proceed. There was precisely one question asked of the witness—”Do you as a minister have any direct authority over Dimitri Soudas?” The answer seemed to be no.

Finally, at precisely 12:14pm, another attempt to adjourn was made. This time, Mr. Szabo voted with the opposition, bringing the meeting to an end.

This could easily be dismissed as arcane and tedious and complicated. It is perhaps all of these things. But is also quite simple. This is, as the Prime Minister put it, about the “deep, enduring consensus.” About the constitutional traditions and rule of law upon which our very freedom rests. Because this is, of course, a Prime Minister who, shortly after office, passed a law meant to end the practice of prime ministers calling elections on strategic whim and then, two years later, did precisely that. This is a Prime Minister whose government has schooled its members in how best to manipulate, frustrate and, if necessary, stymie committee proceedings. This is a Prime Minister who asked the Governor General to prorogue Parliament in December 2008 so that he might avoid a vote of non-confidence. This is a Prime Minister who, a year later, asked the Governor General to prorogue Parliament again, seemingly only because the business of functional democracy were getting to be a bother. And this is a Prime Minister who, two months ago, sent up the Justice Minister to argue, in an effort to withhold documents related to the treatment of Afghan detainees, that a limit existed to the will of the people as expressed by the individuals they elect to represent them, thus compelling the Speaker to stand and not only correct the Attorney General’s understanding of one of the most fundamental laws of this land, but also question the minister’s reading comprehension.

This is all of those things. And so, again, the government is in conflict with our system of governance. And so, again, the enduring and deep consensus is in need of defending.

After Mr. Harper had finished speaking, Mr. Chrétien was invited to unveil his official portrait—the ceremonial reason for this afternoon’s gathering in Parliament’s Reading Room, scene of the great fire that burned Centre Block to the ground nearly a century ago. Mr. Chrétien then stood at the podium to reflect and revel and defend. He took aim at the easy cynicism that presently surrounds our politics and celebrated those who give themselves to the profession of public office. “This is a tough life,” he said. “But it is a very noble life.”

By way of example, he cited Argentina—a country that was regarded half a century ago, like Canada, as a nation full of potential. Canada, he said, had thrived. Argentina, he said, had struggled. The difference, he said, was democracy.

And so there, perhaps, but for the grace of God go us.


The Commons: There but for the grace of God go us

  1. Aaron, you missed Chrétien's most interesting line of the day.

    Asked on CBC about a possible Liberal-NDP coalition to challenge the Conservatives next election, Chrétien said: "If it's doable, let's do it".

    The Godfather gives his blessing.

    • let's do it!

      • Agree 100%,__unite the left with the inclusion of Lizzy May's Greens.__exNDP Liberal MP Bob Rae is the natural choice as leader.__

        • Hey you forgot the Bloc, the December 1st, 2008 coalition partner in crime, caught in a big photo-op for posterity.

          • Not part of the coalition, but the political in ears that didn't see the danger in that photo op ought to be fired.

            Oh wait. One of them was.

          • Let's do the math tb, shall we?

            Conservatives 143

            Liberals 77 + NDP 37 = 114

            Does a coalition with 114 MPs have the confidence of the House? Not by a longshot. That's why they phoned Gilles.

            Dion and Layton didn't phone Gilles because they had a tin ear. They phoned Gilles because they needed his 49 MPs. With his 49 MPs the Coalition had 163 members and de facto confidence of the House. They needed the Bloc, they signed a deal to seize power with the Bloc's guaranteed votes, 6 short weeks after the federal election. It was ignoble a dark day for the Liberal Party of Canada.

          • Look, that coalition at that time in those circumstances was very ill advised and I was not in favour, even if it meant getting rid of Harper.

            But the truth of the matter is that all Gilles agreed to was not vote no confidence in the the government for 18 months while we muddled our way through a recession and a deficit the government was saying could never be even though it already was. They were not part of the coalition and did not guarantee their vote on anything except a confidence motion.

          • Nonetheless, the agreement with the Bloc was a necessary condition of the coalition. The very existence of the coalition depended on the Bloc's signed cooperation, which made it a very flimsy coalition indeed.

          • Considering that the budget contains the majority of all legislation passed by parliament (according to Don Newman's column today), and that the 2009 coalition budget would have included the multi-billion dollar stimulus, it is a huge understatement to talk about "just a confidence motion". Moreover, the Bloc would have had a de facto veto on just about every issue. By contrast, the Conservative minority is able to pass legislation with the agreement of any one of the three opposition parties.

            I can see the need for a coalition, but why not a grand coalition of the Liberals and Tories? Together they could govern from the centre and reform the system so as to restore the possibility of majority governments.

          • "Considering that the budget contains the majority of all legislation passed by parliament"

            Using your definition, we already have a cranky Liberal-Conservative coalition, in which the Liberals agree to ensure passage of confidence bills, including this odious omnibus budget bill that will among other things weaken environmental assessment. Angry or not, this is a working version of what you're calling a coalition with the Bloc, just without a timeline, which is in even less above board.

          • Yes.. a C&S agreement with the Bloc.

            Not exactly a coalition.

        • I disagree Jack Layton should lead the coalition. The Liberals are very unpopular out West. Layton can write off Alberta for more seats around the urban vote in Toronto.

          • The West is quite accustomed to being "written off".The tide will turn and our memories are good so be careful what you wish for.

          • Vern,
            I don't WANT the WEST excluded or marginalized. My point is the strategy for the Liberal-NDP coalition to be successful.

            The disconnect for the NDP is to repeat the same mistakes with joining the Liberals. Everytime they NDP support and provide a lifeline for the Liberals they get their head handed to them.

            The question is Jack Layton a dummy will he lead the NDP to a short term power grab?

            1972 – 109 seats Liberal lose 46 seats, P.O.P. -6.95% swing but hang on by a 2 seat minority. PC party gained +35 seats for 107, +3.95% p.o.p.

            1974 NDP lose half their seats with a swing of 2.4% and David Lewis is voted out. Will NDP repeat same mistake or help eliminate one political rival competing for same voter?

    • Welcome to December 2008…when he helped negotiate the coalition with Broadbent in the early days..

      Not exactly breaking news folks.

      • Helping putting in place the ill-fated 2008 coalition was not Jean Chrétien's best moment.

    • Just like the Irish guy who kissed the Blarney Stone – Mulroney gave Harper his blessing when the Prog Cons and Reformers joined.

  2. In the immortal words of Kelly Bundy, "The mind wobbles."

  3. I dunno. When I recieved my MA in Canadian history I recall a lot of stuff about responsible government. Maybe the PM has been studying history recently?

    • Just curious, are you a paid shill or do you do it on your own dime?

      Notwithstanding I take you at your word:

      I am a retired federal public servant with a longtime interest in Japan.

      • I have a pension. Does that count?

        Also, sometimes the view from my apartment in Tokyo gives me a different perspective on things.

        • I have a pension. Does that count? </>


          I'm looking for a yes or no answer here.

          • As I said, my sole source of income is my government pension. Since my views are personal and do not reflect the party line of any of the existing political parties, I'm sure no one would want to pay me. Who pays you?

          • As I said, my sole source of income is my government pension.

            Then, I'm just curious again, why not answer the original question with a yes or no?

            . . . are you a paid shill or do you do it on your own dime?

          • For Pete's sake. I am NOT a paid shill for anyone. Period. End of story. No one pays me for posting my views. They are mine and mine alone. My views do not align with any of Canada's political parties. They never have and probably never will. What don't you understand about NO? I said so repeatedly above. Anything else about me is none of your GD business.

          • The idiot is you and your other unpaid Liberal lackeys.

          • One can hardly blame TwoYen for being annoyed by James Connors and his odious questions.

          • Thank you.

          • James, are you a paid shill?

          • No.

          • unpaid shill…very sad

          • Idiot, redux.

          • Thanks for clearing that up.

          • I am completely in favour of clarity.

          • You need to be more specific, pirates are easily confused.

            James when the monthly electrical, bundled bill arrives is it addressed to your mommy or daddy?

          • Why don't you guys do lunch and hash this out.

    • 'Responsible government' refers to the notion that the government is responsible to Parliament. I.e., parliament gets to call the shots and government serves at Parliament's pleasure. It doesn't mean that a minister with no direct knowledge of what a parliamentary committee wants to know about gets to stand in for the person the committee needs to speak to.

  4. "There but for the grace of god go us"

    We capitalize the word God in the English language when using it in this context. For example, "Whereas Canada was founded upon principles which recognize the supremacy of God…" and "God keep our land glorious and free".

    But what am I saying: this is the same Maclean's magazine which (in)famously ran a cover story recently titled "Is God Poison?", arguably the stupidest cover of any publication going back to Gutenberg.

    • You really want to go with that being the stupidest cover in publishing history? May I suggest that you visit a library, bookstore or newsstand. Quick!

  5. Stephen Harper's tenure as Prime Minister has been marked by banality (boring and visionless), mendacity (questions come from enemies, who must be destroyed) and hypocrisy (his speech at the portrait unveiling this afternoon was absolutely shameless).

    • And the face of that banality, mendacity and hypcorisy has been John Baird, Pierre Polievre, Jason Kenney and company. Birds of the same feather flock together.

      • Any chance they'll flock off?

    • I respectfully disagree. You may not like everything Harper has done, but there are many ways in which he has been a transformative PM. Harper overhauled accountability legislation, enacted a significant tax cut, ended the softwood lumber dispute, killed national childcare, left Kyoto, ended income trusts, launched the most decisive rebuilding of the Canadian military in decades, led Canada through its first fighting war since Korea (the fighting in Afghanistan didn't heat up till he became PM), navigated the country through a serious constitutional crisis in December 2008 and helped orchestrate (smartly focusing on infrastructure spending, which has a high multiplier effect) a surprisingly soft landing in what was supposed to be the worst recession since the 30's.

      The Canada of 2010 is a different place than that of 2006. Canada now spends less as a % of GDP than the US, making us one of the most free market countries in the world. The Olympics, our superior banking system and our military engagements have helped make Canadians increasingly assertive of the viewpoint that the world needs more Canada.

      • hosertohoosier, stop drinking that Indiana water. The constitutional crisis was caused by Harper's desire to avoid a confidence motion. His accountability legislation has been violated in spirit by years of obsessive government secrecy. He inherited a generous surplus and an economy that could be run on autopilot, and then cut the GST which led us straight into deficit. Either he was in denial about the recession, or else he was warned about it and broke his fixed election date promise in order to win re-election before the bad news hit. The Olympics and the banking system were secured by previous governments. If you believe the softwood lumber dispute is never coming back, you're incredibly naive. Harper's support of the military has been cynically used to belittle the patriotism of his political opponents – something no other Canadian government in my lifetime has ever done. This guy is a bully and a dullard, and he lies all the time. You have not refuted anything in my original post.

        • You forgot how he hides behind the millitary when the going gets tough, and how he uses them for photo ops when necessary. He is no friend of the millitary.

          • And they are not fans of him.

        • 143 or 145 MP can not avoid or keep confidence of the house through vodoo or magic. Bob Rae and many other used their constitutional tool called prorogue.

          That NDP-facebook group flopped, oh well try again.

          If the opposition can't get their act together and vote against the minority government for "x" reason perhaps the problem is your party.

          • Indeed it surely is the problem of the opposition. However, that does nothing to suggest that the current government is in anyway good.

            That said, I'll agree with HtH that Harper has been a transformative PM. He transforms promises (such as softwood lumber, income trusts, and accountability) into completely opposite actions.

          • Your are entitled to your opinion, misinformed as it is like the Liberals, Democrats, Separatists who want to regulate free speech, assembly because it may hurt their feelings.

            You should continue to worship at the altar of the failed economic models preached by the NDP, Separatists and Liberals. Cuba has a great climate, your ideology is a better match.

            Bigger government, more taxes. State owned companies and Press.

            I will continue to vote for the other guy that protects my freedom.

          • Bridge getting cleaned? At any rate, your "failed economic models" are the ones this current conservative government is using, or had you missed that? And they're not the ones that we see in such rousing success stories such as Iceland, Ireland, and Argentina…

            ..oh wait.. those places aren't success stories at all.

          • You mean the failure in regulating the banks, greed by those three countries in policies they can't afford?
            You think we should adopt the Greek-Quebec-Califonia model and start printing I.O.U.'s regarding debt?

            Let's start cutting the adminstration, expenses, salaries of those politicians, civil servants pensions, political party welfare first.

      • "Afghanistan didn't heat up until he became PM"

        Harper's government made a conscious decision to adopt a heavier combat role, so yeah, he can have all the glory.

        • It was Martin that moved Canadian troops into Kandahar. I know some have claimed they didn't know there'd be fighting there, but that's not a reassuring claim.

      • He also created the Parliamentary Budget Office and reformed equalization while bringing incredible calm to federal-provincial relations. Paul Wells has a list of other ways Harper has strengthened Canada's economic union. I wouldn't hold the 2008 crisis up as his shining moment, but he has managed government relations with a very assertive parliament well enough to keep governing.

  6. Notwithstanding the resounding popular support for the Speaker's "Parliamentary supremacy" ruling of some weeks ago, this government's now repeated attempts to render that supremacy dead and buried are precedents as well.

    Indeed, the detainee document defiance and subsequent "agreement to negotiate an agreement" (otherwise known as 'utterly empty') and with today's challenge to Parliament's ability to call witnesses, it appears the government is quickly setting quite strong and operational Parliamentary precedents.

    Compare these to the pretty words of the Speaker's ruling so quickly hollowed out by the sniveling opposition.

    • Actually, my airport-traveling friend, the Speaker himself has succeeded in rendering that supremacy dead and buried with his immediate set-aside of his own theretofore correct ruling on supremacy. Seems the Speaker has decided to be a little more supreme than Parliament.

  7. "Dig! Dig! Dig! Find a new scandal every day, eventually we will hit on one that will give us a majority." Welcome to the new Liberal political strategy. No ideas just find the dirt to sling. I am sick of the constant attack by kangaroo committee politics of Iggy and his band of idiots. Just once I would like someone in the Liberal caucus emerge with a good idea worth the consideration of all Canadians, but no, they have nothing. Bankrupt!

    • well said!!

    • While they do spend a lot of time on scandal… (1) there has been a lot of important but not necessarily earth-shattering scandal oozing from this government, particular when it comes to democracy and Parliament and (2) if you think they have come up with nothing then you have not been paying attention.

      • rofl.

        understatement of the year. "They spend alot of time on scandal"

        Sorry Ted the Liberals have nothing else, for the four years since they lost power. They were warned in 2009 to drop the games.

        A political lesson from voters will make it more clearly as the MSM are openly discussing the only hope is for the NDP to save the Liberals from the dustbin of history.

      • The LPC "scandale du jour" strategy has been an abject failure, as demonstrated by the fact that the LPC is plumbing historic depths in the polls.

        • There is an argument, though, that I've heard from political veterans, that says that such a strategy does bear long-term benefits — it gradually, over time, damages the Tory brand, and in particular breeds an impression that the Tories are scandal-prone, lack integrity, are sleazy, etc. This may not show up in polls now, but the argument goes that it does limit the upside potential for the Tories (as evidenced by their inability to go above a certain ceiling level in the polls), and that it will bear fruit come election time, when the Liberals and others can list this litany/laundry list of scandals as proof that it's time to throw da bums out etc.

          • Good point. It really is a war of attrition, and with a flurry of minor cuts, the Libs have succeeded in chipping five points or so off of what the Tories would have otherwise had in the polls. I also agree with your point that the laundry list of outrages is a very useful tool in the Libprop arsenal.

            Even though most observers agree that the LPC has been poorly led, the party has still been able to inflict real damage on the government.

          • The only fruit this strategy bears is voter apathy and declining turnout on election day.

          • Which benefits the conservatives.

          • And the NDP who both have grassroots support, advance polling strategies etc.

            A good organization will adapt and survive.

            The Liberals strapping on suicide vest blowing everything up is going to backfire for them.

          • Unfortunately the Liberals have a longer laundry list and a much more serious one. The money they STOLE from the E.I. fund to balance the books, and the cash in the Adscam scandal has neither been repaid nor been forgotten by Canadians. That was a REAL CRIME and cannot be compared to the faux sandals, and sometimes downright lies about the Conservatives, that the Liberals have tried to perpetrate. It is very obvious and transparent that the Liberals and most in the Opposition, have put their political aspirations miles ahead of the best interests of Canadians. With all the obstruction,(if not in the H of C, then the Senate,)it's amazing that anything gets done. I was completely disgusted watching CPAC with the treatment of Mr. Jaffer and Gilliano when they were called to be witnesses at one of the kangeroo courts (oops, committee meetings) demanded by the Opposition. The behaviour of the committee (esp. Pat Martin, NDP MP) was scary and hostile. At the time, there were only allegations–not even any charges! No Canadian citizen should be treated like that–with such disrespect and intimidation. Good on the Conservatives for not playing along with this and allowing what is nothing more than a witch hunt. Smart move to let the ministers account for their staff–so they should. This was never about the truth anyway–it is just another devious way to entrap, then gloat about whatever they can construe. There is nothing "noble" going on here.

          • "The money they STOLE from the E.I. fund to balance the books…"

            According to the SCC it was perfectly legal to use the EI money to pay down the deficit.

    • Whaddya mean, no ideas? You didn't see the Liberal brochure that wants to shower the Canadian farmer with platitudes? Don't make me dig for the link…

    • Why are you following this story around and pasting the same response on different message boards?

      That's just lazy.

      And strangley the first time I read your post elsewhere my thoughts were the same as tedbetts: 'you have not been paying attention' or at least only selectively.

    • The Libs have yet to create a scandal over a receipt for a pack of gum for which a claim for reimbursement from taxpayers was never sought nor given.

      You must have really hated the Conservatives in opposition when they were conducting they 'courts of public opinion', as the chair of the public accounts committee used to call the exercise.

  8. As I said in another thread (and countless times in the past 4 years in fact) if Stephen Harper conducted himself such as he did in this speech today – rising so graciously above petty partisanship and mudslinging and acting the statesman-representative of all Canadians, the temporary holder of an historic and important position of power – he would have had a majority a looooong time ago.

    It is both too bad and a godsend for us all that he does not. It is both too bad and a godsend that his own actual conduct keeps him in check.

    • Your party is going to win roughly 58 seats next election and might very well be de-registered and have its assets seized. The NDP will pick up some Liberal seats, but between the two parties they'll win about 90 seats, leaving them 65 seats short of even a coalition government. When McGuinty's Liberal 13% sales tax kicks in and puts the final nail in the coffin that is the Ontario economy Conservative support will soar.

      170 seats for the Conservatives. Easy.

      • You mean the McGuinty-Harper sales tax is going to result in more votes for Harper? About as insightful as the rest of your analysis.

        Speaking of which your 170 "easy" Conservative seats is not even close to the 200+ seat mega-majority Martin's juggernaught was going to make. So my fantasy-league election clobbers your fantasy league election!

        • Deregistered. Assets seized. Liberal brand toxic, hazmat. 58 seats, total.

          But think of it as an opportunity, Ted, you can re-brand your new party as the "Anti-Religion Abortionist" (ARA) party and restrict membership to "super" Canadians who have spent no fewer than 30 years living outside of Canada.

          • Hmmm…..more PM talking points.

            …..another blathering sheep

          • These don't even rise to that level.

          • You are very cute Boogard, but it is way past your bedtime. Now finish up that milk and cookies and get off to bed. It's a school night.

            And tomorrow in class you might learn a bit about democracy and how it works, voting and all that, and how Harper can't impose his will and wish – as you've just articulated them – upon Canadians . Although, that's now taught in high school, so you may have to wait a few years.

      • I think you are being over optimistic even considering a possible voter backlash against McGuinty in Ontario. As long as the Bloc continues to win a large block of seats, it will never be easy for any party to win over 155 seats nationwide.

        • requiring anyone to form a coalition…

  9. There but for the grace of god go us

    We. There but for the grace of some mythical supercreature(s) go we.

  10. Anyone can talk out of their ass to sound like bird chirping on a spring day…doesn't change the fact that it can smell to high heaven. It is only what people actually do that matters.

  11. "There but for the grace of god go us "

    That's "God" with a capital G, bub. Show some respect.

    As to the rest of the post, amen.

    • CP style indicates that when speaking of a person, you need to capitalize it in each use.
      However, the use of a capital when referring to god, or any other belief-based personage is strictly a tradition.
      It's not a matter of disrespect. It's a matter of tradition vs. accuracy.

      As to the original post? Ditto. We live in hope that democracy will prevail.

      • It's a matter of tradition vs. accuracy.

        To some, it's tradition; to others, it's accuracy.

        • If it makes you feel any better, I don't capitalize mohammed, christ, bhudda, krishna or zoroaster, either.

          I have respect for people with a faith strong enough to believe in the absence of proof. That respect does not extend to changing my behaviour, even in something as small as spelling, to follow that faith.

          • Sweetie, its not about you and we don't get to pick our own special capitalization scheme. We follow the RULES of the English language. Indeed, many people find non-capitalizers to seem ignorant and obnoxious and childish, i.e. kd lang. People too immature to follow simple rules are a hazard and a liability to society.

            Aaron made a grammatical mistake, period. I have to say that your stalking and hostile behaviour at this site is getting out of hand. Are you even 18? If not, kindly leave us adults alone. Thanks.

          • It wasn't a grammatical mistake. Insulting me won't change that.

          • It was indeed a grammatical mistake. When referring to God in the singular it is pluralized. I'll bold the important part pertinent to the context:

               /gɒd/ Show Spelled[god] Show IPA
            the one Supreme Being, the creator and ruler of the universe.

            the Supreme Being considered with reference to a particular attribute: the God of Islam.
            (lowercase) one of several deities, esp. a male deity, presiding over some portion of worldly affairs.

            (used to express disappointment, disbelief, weariness, frustration, annoyance, or the like): God, do we have to listen to this nonsense?

            You're not exactly choosing the best hill to die on here.

            I'm not religious myself and I find it very easy to "secularize" my language and don't even use figures of speech like but for the grace of God. Aaron's obviously got some hate issues regarding religion and he really shouldn't be fronting as a Theist and using theist language.

            The fact that anti-religionists are *this* childish about capitalizing God is a perfect example of why they don't have a very good reputation. As for insulting you, I didn't: it is my sincere belief you're not "all there" and are possibly under 18, given your trollish behaviour, stalking and harassment, and I'd rather you leave us adults alone.

          • I must say, I doubt your sincerity. That said, allow me to back away, and watch me surrender the field. A recent spate of accusations of "trollish" behaviour capped by a most remarkable -100 (and counting) dethumbing indicates the time for my input here has passed.

            I'm done.

          • If it makes you feel any better, I don't capitalize mohammed, christ, bhudda, krishna or zoroaster, either.

            Why would that make me feel better? I was simply pointing out that it's a stylistic convention, whatever the reason. Feel free to capitalize words in whatever manner you please; that doesn't change the rules as they exist, though.

          • Again, it's not a rule. As you said, it's a convention.

          • Names are capitalized in the English language. God isn't necessarily a name (as it can also be a noun – as in "the Greeks had many gods"). You can try using a lack of capitalization to show your independence, but it really only shows ignorance of English spelling. It's really just asinine.

            And by the way, it's spelt "Buddha". However, if you are referring to buddhas as a class of being (there are countless buddhas), you do not capitalize it.

            However, I am of the opinion that it doesn't make a whit of difference to supreme or super-supreme beings how we spell their names. Heck, the languages in which pretty much every sacred text were written don't even have capital letters. Therefore, I don't find it offence to my faith. I've also gotten used to people not bothering with grammar/spelling rules on the internet. However, you chose to argue the point, so I do have to inform you that you are wrong, and silly.

      • However, the use of a capital when referring to god, or any other belief-based personage is strictly a tradition.

        "There by the grace of God," refers to a name (even if it is that of a fictional character). If it were, "there by the grace of a god," you would be correct.

    • And I see the edit was made. Much appreciated.

    • Of course, it really has nothing to do with "respect" so much as proper form. I'd insist that "Snoopy" be capitalized as well, but not out of some sense that the cartoon dog deserves any particular respect, but simply because in English we capitalize proper nouns.

      • Perhaps. Wherry's a pretty good writer, and he had it non-capitalized twice, so I assumed it was deliberate (there is more meaning to the "God" vs. "god" distinction than "Snoopy" vs. "snoopy", after all). Taking that view I appreciated the correction.

  12. A nice summary of the status quo, Aaron. We don't currently have a working government, we have a farce.

    • Farces are meant to be humourous.

      This isn't.

    • "the government is in conflict with our system of governance"

      I thought that was the best bit – concise and bitterly true.

  13. The committee structure was designed by majority governments to allow parties across the floor to have direct input in the legislation before the house.

    Because this is a minority government t the committees are stacked.

    With little effort one can recall recent witch-hunts. This is not the 1950s in America. McCarthy is dead. To use the committee like this may dupe the low-brows in Canada, but eventually, like McCarthy, it will be seen for what it is.

    But no.. Canadian politics is a pure as the driven snow! And democracy is the new religion of the Left. Quaint.

    • I just love it when you people try using historical references to back up your nonsense points about today's farce.

      If any group is emulating the execrable, right wing, witch hunt atmosphere of the McCarthy inquisitions it is the mendacious loud mouths like Baird and the limp liars like Harper.

      Sorry, while the left has had a few scoundrels of their own, it has a much better claim of loyalty to democracy than the right. The right has been dragged kicking and screaming into the modern world as they lose (and try to reclaim) their monopolies on power.

      • "Sorry, while the left has had a few scoundrels of their own, it has a much better claim of loyalty to democracy than the right. The right has been dragged kicking and screaming into the modern world as they lose (and try to reclaim) their monopolies on power."

        I see that non-African populations have between 1 and 5 percent Neandertal DNA. Whenever you're ready to have a 21st century science based discussion on race and gender matters we're waiting for you. We could start with the well documented full standard deviation between whites and blacks on IQ tests; do you still bitterly cling to your "nurture" thesis, or is the fact we've proven species differentiation something anti-science lefties will continue to ignore because it is politically incorrect?

        You do realize the term "racist" was coined by Trotskyists who dispute Darwin? Modern world indeed, socialism is a 20th century solution to a 19th century problem.

        • Go f**k yourself.

        • Jeez
          try to have civil discussion and up washes the ol' white-is-right fringe.

          Why does it matter who coined the term most apt to describe your views?

          • It's amazing how many of these klan types are lurking about.

        • The variation has everything to do with "nurture". It's pretty much a fact, though I can see why you might want to ignore it to maintain your ignorance. The questions on an IQ test are culturally specific. I can guarantee you that if you were to take an IQ test geared toward a Tibetan upbringing, for example, you would do poorly on it, as would most westerners.

          The genetic variation between different races is pretty much insignificant. I'd be fascinated to see a reputable scientist from the past 20 year who says differently.

          "Socialism is a 20th century solution". Please read some history. Socialism dates back to the 19th century. I'm guessing you're another one of those conservatives who throws around the term without the slightest idea of what it means.

  14. Wherry, it should be "There but for the grace of God go we" (as myl points out)

    "We" is the subject of the sentence, for God's sake!

    • I'm glad someone pointed that out.

      Ogden Nash wrote a poem objecting to the use of that term. I can't find the poem now, but it concluded: "There but for the grace of God think I."

  15. Whatever. It's up to the committee to pull who ever they want in as a witness. They have almost unlimited power to do so. It's up to them to use it and over ride the PMO decree.

  16. So all it takes is to lie about GST to win an election and steal directly from the pockets of the taxpayer to get admired.Glad to see how high the Liberal bar is.

  17. TedBetts,
    Chretien was behind the last attempt at a Lib/Dip coalition and he is currently involved in discussions with Layton over the next one. His only claim to fame in gaining a majority was a disunited right, and his 1993 ideas don't work any more. Until the Libs get rid of the corruption that still swills around in caucus, and do the hard work of building grassroots support, nobody trusts them nor will vote for them.

    • I always hated Chretien, I thought he was evil.I still do.

      • Hate is a pretty strong word there kiddo. Too much hate.

        Dislike, disagree, etc., but save the hate for pedophiles, the Iranian leader, Bin Laden.

  18. If it is the Harper Government's intention that the Minister appear before Parliamentary Committees to answer for their staffers, why was Mr. Baird sent to replace Dimitri Soudas rather than Mr. Harper who is quite clearly Mr. Soudas' superior? Are both Mr. Soudas and Mr. Harper now in contempt of the Committee?

    This has all cropped up after Sebastien Tognieri, aide to Public Works Minister Christian Paradis testified back on May 11th to the same Committee that he had "made a mistake in judgement" when censoring documents released under the Access to Information Act. That was a bad "oopsy"; all those connected to the Harperites never make a mistake and if they should, public confession is verbotten. The error of confession before Committee will never be repeated; from now on, only fully briefed Ministers will appear.

  19. Ha Ha Ha!…and the BS carries on!

  20. For shame! How dare those nasty members of the opposition subject the dewy-eyed youth of Our Nation to such relentless grilling! How can they possibly live with themselves? Thank goodness that the Conservative Party Of Canada is there to soothe the hurt and provide a warm, supportive environment in which young staffers can flourish! (Provided, of course, that they never deviate from CPC talking points so much as one iota. At which point they and their mothers will wish that they had never been born.)

    More seriously: when are the Conservatives going to stop all these shenanigans and simply govern the country? If they weren't so busy playing political games, a Parliamentary summons to a staffer would be a non-event: the young man or woman would show up, would be asked questions, would answer honestly, and would get back to work. No problem.

  21. liberal post = thumbs up
    conservative post = thumbs down

    Typical Macleans commenters.

    • Dividing every discussion and all the world into either Liberal or Conservative? Priceless!

    • I was going to say "na na, na Na na"
      but then I was struck by how many people seem to agree that reality has a Liberal bias. SO sad!

      • Well, you may all "agree" that reality has a liberal bias, but that doesn't change the fact it is conservatively biased. ;)

    • Macleans can't control who responds or the thumbs – paranoid with childish whining.

  22. I've said it before and I'll say it again, if the Tories don't want their taxpayer-funded political staffers to be embarrassed when testifying before Parliamentary Committees about what their bosses had them doing, they ought to stop having their taxpayer-funded political staffers do embarrassing things for them.

    The notion that anyone who gets their salary from our tax dollars, and takes their orders from our Cabinet Ministers, should be shielded, in even the most symbolic or ineffectual way, from testifying before Parliament or her committees makes my blood boil. Who knew that a cornerstone of Ministerial Accountability was that Cabinet be provided with an army of taxpayer-funded political staffers who don't have to testify about what they're doing for the government while working on our dime.

    • Aren't the Ministers also working on our dime? Why can't they be compelled to testify?

  23. What a dazzling display by the opposition. One useless question, and an hour of squabbling between themselves. Still, it's nice to see Easter and Szabo having their arguments in public again.

    • "Dazzling" is perhaps not the right adjective. ;-)

    • I think the question was the only possible one that could be asked as it can be boiled down to "do you have any relevance to the person who is supposed to be here?"

      If the answer is as it was "no," then what's the point of asking anything else when all he's going to give is word-for-word the same statement that's being read everywhere else?

      • It's not the committee to investigate Dmitri Soudas. They could have asked Minister Baird any relevant questions about access to information – he'd have either answered them or evaded them, but either outcome would have been better than the silliness on display. It says something about parliament's current functioning that two Liberal MPs decided to use the committee for their little dick-measuring contest – but I don't think it says what Aaron says it says.

        • Hello – the issue wasn't about Baird's department/cabinet staffers.

        • It's not up to us to say what the committee investigates. If they want to talk to Soudas, they should be able to easily talk to Soudas with no interference from the government. If they'd wanted to talk to a random Cabinet Minister with no connection to the thing they want to investigate, they'd have said so.

          • They did say so – they seated Baird at the table with a little nameplate and everything, even managing to ask him one useless question in the hour-plus that he was there. Now, it's true that the Liberal MPs disagreed with themselves over whether this should have been done. It;s not like the committee members didn't know a Minister was showing up in Soudas' place – the Government had told them as much. But somehow, rather than preparing for this known event, the committee went in two directions at once, with Easter and Szabo publicly arguing over whether Baird should have been seated. That's two Liberal MPs who had ample time in caucus to sort this out. What was going on? Had the Liberal members really not thought about what to do, or did Szabo demonstrate his backbencher independence again?

          • It may have been a useless question, but it was certainly relevant to ask if the person the government sent had any connection whatsoever to the person the committee asked to see.

            That said, I certainly agree that the opposition should have handled it exponentially better. They should have immediately proceed with whatever is the next step in FORCING Soudas to appear, but they didn't. However, just because the government's attempts to bully Parliament appear to be occasionally working, doesn't mean I have to like it.

          • You seem to be a big fan of politicians using force to get cooperation. I've never really understood why that is – even if you dislike Mr. Harper and his ministry, it seems a bit reckless to advocate politicians sending officers after their political opponents. Is that really an approach you want established? It won't always be your team with this power at their discretion…

          • Oh, I'm not at all a fan of Parliament having to use force to enforce their supremacy, I much prefer government's that respect Parliament's essential role in holding them to account, and don't need to be forced into complying with Parliament's wishes, however, we don't always get governments like that.

            Also, this power is ALREADY at my team's discretion, it will be when a government I love is in power and a group I hate is in opposition; it is, was, and hopefully always will be so. I certainly hope that ALL governments would do what's right and respect Parliament, but I also hope that ALL Parliaments would use their powers to force the government back into line when they stray. Parliament is, essentially, whatever the majority of the House of Commons says, so I'll pretty much ALWAYS advocate for the majority of our representatives holding the government's feet to the fire, no matter which parties are on which side of the equation. One government or another may or may not be "my team", but that's immaterial. In this context, PARLIAMENT (the collected representatives of the citizenry) is ALWAYS my team, however it is composed. So, as my team is "Parliament", it actually WILL always be my team with this power at its discretion.

          • A majority government may not aim parliament's power to compel so squarely at the government though. And, difficult though this is to believe, there are people who think the committees have been treating political staff unfairly and pushing their mandates past the conventions. So, these people, crazy fools that they are, think they are pushing back against an over-aggressive parliament. It would be a shame if we lived in a country where such people, even thoroughly misguided ones, found political parties throwing them in jail. Where idiots like Szabo and Easter would be deciding how they should be treated and when they should be released…

  24. I have noticed Macleans tends to attract a more intelligent crowd…

  25. Well, he served as P.M. so he gets his portrait just like all the others, but c'mon based on what skewed reasoning is he "certainly the greatest PM Canada ever had". What exactly did he achieve for the average Canadian? Absolutely squat! There is not one thing that anyone can point to during his mundane and arrogant time as P.M. and say this was a great thing, he did. We Canadians outside of Quebec, much of the rest of Canada and most certainly the majority of Western Canadians are glad to see him gone. He viewed Canada as little more than his own little fiefdom

    • And he's been replaced by a man who claims Canada is a country that boasts ever more loudly about its economy and social services to mask its second-rate status. We outside of Alberta do not thus rate our country and our fellow citizens.

      Vive le Canada!

      • It is not a competition. Harper and Chretien both stink …

    • What a load of BS – and you don't speak for most Canadians. You just get to speak for yourself. That's all any of us are allowed.

    • I'm not sure – are you referring to Chretien, or Harper?

    • "There is not one thing that anyone can point to during his mundane and arrogant time as P.M. and say this was a great thing, he did. "

      He kept us out of Iraq.

      Thank [deity of choice, capitalized or no]

      • They would never had had the uniforms, they ha nothing when patty martin sent them to Afghanistan. Chretien kept us out of the war with Iraq because he was a good guy?? Try greed..this information is all over the Internet, Chretien was caught and kicked out of the war council in Washington.

        His own party wanted rid of this shallow little man, a cheap painting for a cheap suit.

        • all over the internets ….wow -must be true

  26. “Partisan differences are a healthy and necessary part of our political culture and process. But on an occasion such as this, we remember that they are transcended by a deep, enduring consensus, a shared understanding that our freedom rests also on the limitations imposed on those partisan differences by our constitutional traditions and the rule of law.”

    This from the King of push button prorogations, blacked out documents, muzzed ministers, porkbarrel Senators, and outright fabrications about the very system that is supposed to keep him accountable. Stunning.

    The first glimpse perhaps that Harper may be very worried about his legacy.

    • This is a man who has no qualms about putting personal attack ads beneath photos of his children.

  27. I note that Wherry still hasn't fixed the egregious grammatical error that appears not only in the last line, but also in the title of this piece.

    It's as though he's deliberately trying to offend grammarians.

    • I like reading it in Cookie Monster's voice "Me want cookie! Us like Parliamentary Democracy! Now me really want cookie…"

      • LOL. But for grace of God, there go me.

  28. Well done, Aaron, or anonymous editor. Excellent job of caving in.

    • Caving in? He still hasn't fixed the pronoun problem, or did that escape your attention?

    • On the capitalization thing???

      It was incorrect not to capitalize it, and he made the correction. Simple.

      The word "god", in that context, is a proper noun. Proper nouns get capitalized. It's not rocket science, and has nothing to do with religion. Writing Peter Pan as "peter pan" or Comic Book Guy as "comic book guy" would be every bit as wrong, and for the same reason, and whether or not one believes in the existence of Peter Pan or the Simpsons is neither here nor there. Proper nouns are capitalized, even if they're proper nouns referring to fictional or otherwise no-existent entities (or entities who's existence is questioned).

      Even if you think God is a fictional character, when the name of that fictional character is used as it was above, it gets capitalized. It seems perfectly clear to me that in the context above "god" is being used as a proper noun to refer to a specific entity, not as a common noun referring to a class of entities. (Consider the following sentence which may make the distinction more clear: "My God is a better god than your God").

  29. Looking at that photo, I'd say Harper is thinking "I want to bite his neck right at that spot!" while Chretien is thinking "One move, buddy, and I'll choke you good!"

    • Yes, the sexual tension is palpable.

    • I think they're sharing a laugh about how when Harper was in opposition, everything Chretien ever did was a threat to Canada, whereas now that Harper's PM, everything Chretien ever did is an excuse for the Tories doing it too.

      It's the kind of inside baseball joke that only two PMs can share.

  30. But, unlike the CEO of BP, Ministers can't be compelled to testify in committee. Why is that? The government isn't arguing that nobody should appear before the committees – civil servants and private citizens are still expected to appear when summoned.

    • Oh, I realize that the government isn't arguing that NO ONE should appear before the committees, just that their taxpayer-funded political staffers not be expected to appear.

      I just don't like the notion of living in a country where there's a higher expectation that I should appear before a Parliamentary Committee when called than there is if the Prime Minister's Director of Communications is called.

      • Okay, but maybe there's an actual reason Ministers can't be compelled to appear, and maybe that logic extends to political staff.

        • I always presumed the reason for not allowing committees to compel testimony from Ministers was simply to keep committees from being able to endlessly tie up Ministers in committee hearings, but I admit that I haven't really looked in to that too closely. It does seem a reasonable reason.

          Personally though, I don't give a hoot if a political staffer is tied up in committee hearings until Kingdom come. The more time taxpayer-funded politicos spend sitting in committee hearings, the less damage they can do, as far as I'm concerned.

  31. Parliament is not separate from political parties. And Parliament can compel anyone to appear before its committees – does it need to be "in order to hold the government to account"? I don't think that's in the legislation or the standing orders. And Parliament can be dominated by one party with much less than 50% of the popular vote, so it is entirely possible for it to represent something other than the will of the people. Which is why I would rather not advocate Parliament seizing and jailing people.