Ottawa Notebook



Wednesday, April 28, 2010 5:30 PM

Stephen Harper stuck between
Speaker’s ruling and ‘legal obligations’

Gloria Galloway


Observers could be forgiven Wednesday if they were unable to gauge Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s response to being told that his government must release to Parliament the unredacted documents related to the treatment of Afghan detainees.

When Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff opened the daily Question Period by saluting the “historic decision” of Speaker Peter Milliken, opposition members rose to their feet while most Conservatives sat silent. And when Mr. Ignatieff asked Mr. Harper if he would comply with that ruling, Mr. Harper suggested he would not roll over without a fight.

“Mr. Speaker, 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 Prime Minister said. “The fact of the matter is, 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 same of Canadian troops.”

The government contends that the public release of the documents would jeopardize national security. Mr. Harper and his ministers also say they are duty-bound by Acts of Parliament or other basic legal requirements not to disclose information without the consent of those to whom a duty of confidentiality is owed – like foreign governments.

So when NDP Leader Jack Layton pursued a similar line of questioning to Mr. Ignatieff, Mr. Harper seemed to dare the opposition parties to force an election on the issue.

“We are seeking to respect the decision as well as our legal obligations,” he replied. “... It is still the case that the government depends on the confidence of the House” – a phrase he repeated for emphasis when Mr. Layton asked a follow-up question on the same topic.

The NDP Leader demanded a clarification. “Is the Prime Minister telling us today that he is going to defy the ruling of the Speaker and the will of the House in order to go to an election? Is that what he is saying he is going to do? Is he going to defy the will of the House and go to the people on a vote? Is that what he is putting forward today?”

Only then did Mr. Harper appear to soften.

“I do not think I said any of those things,” he said. “In fact, I think I said quite the contrary. 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 importance of the decision and the government’s response to it had the effect – some might say the happy effect – of pushing questions about former Tory MP Rahim Jaffer and his wife Helena Guergis fairly far down the Question Period agenda.

In fact, they had to wait their turn until after a debate around the government’s insistence that it will not fund abortions as part of its G8 proposal to improve the health of mothers and infants around the world.

The issue was first raised by Liberal MP Lise Zarac, who pointed out that rape is a weapon of war and accused the government of denying rape victims in places like Africa the rights to abortion that are afforded to Canadians.

Jim Abbott, the parliamentary secretary to International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda, responded in the absence of the Minister who was at a G8 meeting in Halifax. “What I find terribly sad is the fact that this member and the entire opposition are trying to make an issue that simply does not exist,” Mr. Abbott said.

When Johanne Deschamps of the Bloc continued with the line of questioning, Mr. Abbott lashed back at unity of the three opposition parties with regard to the issue. “The maternal and child health initiative is moving ahead,” he said, and “the only way it can get derailed is if the unholy coalition decides that they will continue to do this kind of demagoguery over an issue that nobody wants to debate.”

Then the opposition moved on to the familiar territory of Ms. Guergis and Mr. Jaffer. Again they wanted to know who had met with Mr. Jaffer when he was allegedly lobbying without being a registered lobbyist and who had handled documents related to his business.

Liberal MP Anita Neville asked about the fact that Mr. Jaffer had submitted proposals to Brian Jean, the parliamentary secretary to Transport Minister John Baird. Mr. Baird, in a previous capacity, oversaw the crafting of the government’s Accountability Act.

“The man who proclaimed a so-called new era of accountability will not even answer simple questions in the House,” Ms. Neville said. “Accountability is not simply words. It is how one acts, answers for their actions and fixes their mistakes.”

Mr. Baird replied to that question and four others by pointing to the sponsorship scandal revealed by The Globe and Mail in May 2000 in which money was funded the Liberal-friendly advertising firms.

“When the Liberal Party was in power, they turned over bags of money to the lobbyists. Then the lobbyists sent some of that money back to the Liberal Party. Then the Liberal Party got caught and it had to send some of that money back to the taxpayers,” Mr. Baird said. “We got back $1-million that was stolen from taxpayers by the Liberal Party: $1-million down, $39-million to go.”




commentary by the Ottawa Mens Centre


Mr. Harper is saying he has the legal power to do what ever the hell he wants and justifies that in the interests of national security, "the statues" that Mr. Harper very conveniently interprets that anyone else except him and his party are threats to national security!

Mr. Harper is refusing to disclose, on the vaguest of reasons, documents that would only be viewed by selected trusted, members of parliament who if there was a change in government would be instantly have access to the same documents.

The danger is that Mr. Harper will embark, correction, he already has started raving like a dictator and his "tough on crime" and "national security" are simply veiled ways of giving himself more power to abuse ever more flagrantly.

What Canadians need to understand that those who most likely to flagrantly abuse their fiduciary powers and legal obligations are those entrusted by society with the most amount of power.

Canadians need to understand that the more power anyone has the less it should be assumed that they will not abuse that power.

Mr. Harper came with a fresh face, he made all the right sounds of how he was going to be ethically above the past corruption and abuse of power.

What we are seeing is that he is a highly skilled manipulator control freak who is addicted to power and has a genius like ability to keep going and going.

There is one old saying, you can fool some people some of the time but you can't fool everyone all the time.

The opposition are not fooled but they are incredibly incompetent in dealing with Mr. Harper. We see a chronic lack of leadership and vision.

The opposition are deluded if they think the speakers "ruling" will make any difference to how Harper operates. What parliament and the speaker forget is that Mr. Harper is a war crimes suspect and will look after himself by any means.



We are all very fortunate to have Gloria Galloway and Jane Taber keeping us so well informed. Their articles make riveting reading, also of equally high standard is the Star's expose of the Jaffer affair.


What a load of bullony.

This is like suggesting that two divorcing psychopaths can sit down to mediation.

Mr.Harper has had plenty of opportunities to disclose and has very deliberately chosen not to.

Its the manner of that non disclosure that shows Mr. Harper has NO Genuine intention of revealing anything that might implicate himself in war crimes.

Anyone who suggests other wise is deluded.