'This is a scary election for Peter Russell' - Macleans.ca

‘This is a scary election for Peter Russell’


The constitutional expert is worried about this election.



‘This is a scary election for Peter Russell’

  1. And I`m really worried that a constitutional expert and former political science professor at the U of T does not the difference between a genuine threat to democracy and the well-planned manoeuvring of a group of opposition parties who were looking for an excuse to cause an election other than voting against the budget.

    Jeez, he sounds like Iggy. There is lots of reasons why Layton is having an upturn in the polls but one of them is not his emphasis on this silly contempt motion from an opposition dominated committee. Liberals seem determined to hand over the alternative political choice over to the NDP.

    • hush, you.

      • But, that would be a threat to my democratic right to express my opinion.

        See, I`m not a constitutional expert and I know when my democracy is being threatened.

        • But a big step towards acting like an adult.

    • The CRAP were itching to have an election. Their political owners in the states assured them that the time was right, and that most Canadians didn't care one whit what arrogant, deceitful, anti-democratic and lying SOB's they really were. It works in the States, and Canada, although a lesser country, is mostly like the US. Hence the attack ads running 2 months before the election.

      Unfortunately for them, we're different. We're smarter, we're stronger, we're better looking and gosh darn it, the world just likes us better.

      • right on Selena! couldn't have said it better myself!!!

    • The issue is our political system. It only works when there are 2 main parties, i.e. like the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives used to be, or when there are several smaller parties all equal to each other. When you have a situation like 1993 -2004 where there was 1 dominant party (the Chretien Liberals) or 2006-2011(The Harper Reformers), the flaws in our system become very apparent. A party can win a majority government with only 35% of the vote, meaning 2 out of 3 voters didn't support them, or the door is open for coalition governments. Coalitions, while part of the political reality, are more effective when there is not 1 dominant party that just didn't win enough seats for a majority. The coalition then seems unjust, but may in fact be a truer representation of the peoples will.

      • The real issue is the unwillingness to work together. The Harper gov fails to recognize that behind the liberals and NDP are real Canadians and we are some 65-70% of the population. When Harper refuses to 'comprimise' with the libs or NDP he is actually refusing the wishes of real Canadians. He doesn't seem to get that!

  2. He said something that needed to be said, and I'm glad he did. This is important for the future of our country.

    • Emily,
      More dramatic? You or peter?

      • The possible loss of our democracy is a serious matter.

  3. You know, what happened to Chet and all the other Conbots? Writing resumes and discovering they have nothing to say?

    • Libot?

  4. There was a lot of tussling in Parliament this last session, both sides played hard and both sides played by the rules. I think Canadian democracy will survive an impolite prorogation or two.

    • I guess there's an interpretation by which you could say the rules were followed. But it's an interpretation like saying "the rules were followed because the guy was caught and tried for robbing the store" rather than "the rules were not followed because somebody robbed the store in the first place". And certainly one side attempted to downplay and misrepresent the nature of the rules, which is troubling.

      • What was the robbery? The opposition tried some parliamentary maneouvres, the Government countered with its own. This whole thing has more than a whiff of “troops in the streets of Canadian cities”.

    • The danger isn't in the prorogation. The danger is in the attitude behind it. The attitude that anything is fine, so long as it's not outlawed. The attitude that not adhering to parliament's commands.. even if they *are* driven by partisan motivations.. is something that can be done.. The attitude that the rules are there so that people can play games with them, rather than as the definitions of the absolute worst that you are allowed to go, if you must.

      But most dangerous is the attitude that the governing party gets to control the access to information of all the House, even those committees cleared for it.

      Democracy needs light and information to survive. The easiest way to kill it, is to keep it's practitioners in the dark.

      • We lived through “just watch me”. Our democracy is a lot stronger than people give it credit for. Matt Yglesias has written a lot in this vein from the perspective of the US, where the Bush government's transgressions were much more significant.

        • Of note: the guy who passed the war measures act later adopted constitutional rights which would have overridden the War Measures Act. Does anyone seriously see harper doing an about face and becoming a protector of the parliamentary process by which we govern ourselves?

          • Bringing in the Parliamentary Budget Officer and the Accountability Act were good starts. I expect him to continue to use all the tools at his disposal to advance his agenda and I expect the opposition to do the same. That very well could result in further strengthening our parliament.

          • he should follow the orders of parliament, especially on basic matters like providing information on how the fisc is spent. it is upsetting you do not agree.

          • He's provided as much information as any previous government. He's strengthened parliamentary scrutiny of that information. That he's been found in contempt for dawdling over providing an exceptional amount of information does not suggest that he's history's greatest monster or an existential threat to Canadian democracy.

          • Speaker of the House disagrees.

          • And there's never been a similar Speaker's ruling? I understood that was the basis for the unprecedented contempt vote but was not itself unprecedented.

          • Hint: Something being unprecedented doesn't mean it didn't happen — or shouldnt' have.

          • And the accountability act is a joke.

      • " the rules are there so that people can play games with them " —-such was the attitude of the opposition members on the Committee who after 144 years as a country, they thought they would play the game where they would find the government of Canada in contempt, because the rules said they could.

        • I realize you'll never believe this, but in my mind, the government of Canada has been in contempt since it published the manual on disrupting committees. That was only furthered on refusing to give documents to the MPCC,and cemented when they decided that they alone were the arbiters of when and where they were to appear before parliamentary committees.

          This ruling of contempt was not done because the rules said they could, it was done because the government holds parliament in contempt.

          • Your points are good but I think we should always distinguish between what is contemptible and officially being held in contempt.

          • It would seem appropriate in your comment to replace "the government of Canada" with the approved "the Harper Government."

  5. There is something serious being missed here, by those that agree with PM_SHrug in writing off the Contempt of Parliament as just partisan ganging up against the government. It's this: of course there is partisan bickering, but it doesn't matter. The fact is that it is easy enough for a minority government, regardless of the amount of bickering (when does any parliament NOT bicker?) … it's easy enough to do sufficient work to bring at least some of the opposition on-side by being consultative and informative. What went "wrong" here is that PM_SHrug had a perfectly deliberate and planned strategy of systematically withholding essential information from the opposition, in order to force them to bring the government down. He wanted this, he engineered it. In fact, he is not only guilty of contempt of Parliament, he is guilty of cynically flouting the traditions of parliament to effect his own partisan ends. I find it hard to fathom why the Canadian population as a whole do not seem to understand what's happened here.

    People in this country do not seem to understand the system of "checks and balances" that are built into the Parliamentary system. The Opposition is required to "hold the government to account." That is their job. The United States has a very elaborate system of checks and balances, that to us might sometimes seem to result in deadlock – but it is a check on the enormous power of government. Their's is easier to see, whereas our's is sort of hidden within parliamentary procedure. Without it, we are drifting into a more absolutist regime reminiscent of the "divine right of kings" to do as they wish without any oversight.

    I hope people wake up to this fact before it's too late. And not only for THIS government, but for all governments in the future. After all, dismiss it though you may, this is the ONLY time a parliamentary government has been found to be in contempt of parliament. Now that is not an easy record to achieve.

    • One would think that an opposition that was able to push through a contempt motion against the Canadian government would be rewarded by a grateful electorate.
      But it appears that 2 of the opposition parties are about to take a hit Monday and the 3rd may gain but it doesn`t appear to have anything to do with contempt.

      So what is the explanation ?
      1—Canadians are just stupid about democracy and the role of the opposition in Parliament ? Only constitutional experts and Iggy know enough to comment on the rules of Parliament ?
      2—Canadians know that there are ways for the opposition to play games in Parliament, to embarrass the gov`t, and force an election.

    • But what are the consequences of being in contempt of parliament? Nothing. The Speaker has no power to impose sanctions, and, as a member of the governing party, wouldn't be inclined to anyway. It's left up to the voters, and most voters assume comtempt of parliament isn't a big deal, BECAUSE it has no consequences.

      If we're going to have checks and balances, then the Speaker has to be truly independent, have real power, and have the political authority to use it. If a minister was forced to resign for being in contempt, voters might notice. Otherwise, 'meh.'

  6. Good point – remind me about how Chretien put the documents proving adscam before Parliament. I must have forgotten about him complying with parliament's demands there.

    • I think your time would be better spent rethinking your foolish views expressed in the first post rather than what you feel you are attempting with this one.

      • I'm attempting to point out that your analogy doesn't help your argument. I'm happy to re-think my views if you can point out a valid basis for doing so.

        • not helping yoruself.

  7. To be specific, care more about their own success, than that of the country.

  8. One sided drivel………………..what's this country coming to?

  9. Good grief. Stupid people ducking under cover is a national comedy, smart people ducking under cover is a national tragedy.

  10. Boy, it must really suck to be a CRAP troll this week!!

    • they are all in hiding…under the bridge!

  11. My understanding is that no, this hasn't happened.

    • Here's one from the parliament website: http://www.parl.gc.ca/About/House/Speaker/rulings

      There are a few others there, and many more scattered through history. Milliken references one or two in his own decision.

      • This unfortunate circumstances bears some resemblance – though not as bad – as the Oda bit. Certainly Mr. Eggleton should have informed parliament what he knew when.

        Not much on the other stuff, though. Rather than try to justify yourself it would be wiser to give up and realize the second most respected Canadian constitutional scholar alive is in the right.

        • To be even more clear – doing stuff like misleading the house is bad and should be punished – as Eggleton should have been. But an ongoing breach where you are in the wrong but claim nobody can make you change your ways is a different kettle of fish.

          Eggleton had done wrong and was brought to task as much as could be done under the partisan Liberals. had he been doing wrong and been ordered to comply and then refused, he would be approaching harper levels of disregard for parliament.

          • Since the Liberals controlled the committee that needed to report him in contempt, that wasn't very likely to happen. His exoneration depends a lot more on the composition of the House than on the specifics of the case. We could rummage through history for better examples but the point stands – previous Speakers have made similar rulings. They only result in contempt findings if the opposition can control a committee.

          • Or, rather than wishing for documents unlikely to exist, you could accept the professor's thoughtful analysis.

          • If he publishes it in a peer-reviewed journal, I'll accept it's his thoughtful analysis. A video on an anti-Harper website doesn't necessarily meet the standards of his academic work…

          • And this is why people who listen to the experts will often have an edge over people like you, who will invent reasons to not agree with them.

          • But by all means, go on believing there were events between 1993-2006 that somehow – despite being on record as events of parliament – magically escaped the notice of the media, Peter Russell, and Canada as a whole. Yeesh.

  12. Take the Bloc Quebecois out of the equation and redistribute the seats in Quebec to the other three parties. That party is the biggest hindrance to the well being of the whole country. I hope Jack Layton wipes the Bloc off the political map.

  13. Agree 100 % with Peter Russell. The voters of Canada are on trial. Will they support freedom and democracy, or will they support Harper and the Conservatives, who have been found to be in contempt of Parliament, and who are willing to trash out Parliamentary Democracy for the sake of power. Very scary for freedom and democracy indeed, if voters are prepared to support Harper and give him a majority.

    Sincerely Ray Wegner

  14. No one has mentioned the adjectives originally used to describe opposition parties; ie, Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition. It is the same sentiment expressed in the Globe and Mail's motto. "The subject who is truly loyal to the government will neither advise nor submit to arbitrary measures". Mr. Ignatieff should have acted on this wisdom many moons ago. BF

  15. I Have Watched The Bickering And Manouvering Of The Parties, ANd Have Found A Great Deal Of Cowardice On The Liberals Part. The Lead Up To Contempt Started With Martin And His Failings. Now His Broken And Shattered Party Needed Foder For Their Last Chance At Government. Unfortunately A Mis Step By Haper Gave Them The Fire Power To Take Them Out. I Say Vote Conversitative, Let Them Have A Majority And See What Kind Of People They Are… How Would You Act On Constant Threats About Being Over Powered, Or Cornered? Honestly? Anyone?

  16. I think the contempt is party wide. Perhaps Canadian Voters are to blame, as many couldn't be bothered to vote in the first place. Why should any representative in the house worry about what voters in their constituency think? Couple this with the fact that many people vote the same every time because it is a tradition, not because they have any political opinion.

    I think low voter participation is the major factor in the lack of concern in Parliament. Conservative and Liberal representatives feel they are the only competition in the race, and they have learned Canadians will tolerate voting for the worst of two terrible options these days. We voted out Brian Mulroney after he brought us the GST, and Free Trade. We voted out the Liberals when they had billion dollar HRDC scandals and other shady dealings. And now we will vote out the Conservatives who are in contempt of Parliamentary rules. Seems like a downward spiral voting for the least terrible group.

    It would be nice to vote for a party or individual because we like their ideas and platform, rather than simply trying to get rid of the worst choices and pick the best of the worst.

  17. You know why this sounds hysterical? Because the whole way we run election campaigns in this country is already pretty contemptuous of parliamentary democracy, and few people seem to notice. All the parties run their campaigns as if we're electing a new president and a new government whose "mandate" will be, ideally, to steam-roll their agenda through parliament with as little opposition as possible.

    But that's not our democracy. In Canada, we vote for a parliament of several parties that together represent all the people. We don't vote for a head of state who gets to do what he likes because he has the most seats. Even a majority government hardly ever represents more than 50 percent of voters. Forty-something percent is more likely. Yet few question a majority government's right to do that, as if having the majority of seats is a licence to give an FU to the majority of Canadians.