Lawrence Martin

The gong show’s over – Parliament can use the break

Prorogation, vitriol, muzzling, flip-flops, culture wars, Jaffer-Guergis have made it a session to forget

Thursday June 17, 2010

Holidays anyone? Try becoming an MP. Parliament breaks this week and will be gone at least three months. We recall it had a two-month break to start the year due to prorogation. All told, it will sit about six months this year. But compared to times previous, this is a heavy load. In 2008, due to an election and another prorogation, Parliament sat for a grand total of four months.

Maybe it’s time to declare MPs’ jobs part-time employment. Okay, some members won’t be sitting on the dock of the bay all summer. But their schedules won’t exactly be taxing.

The taxing part will be thinking about the session that just ended. It is being described as one of the worst on record. All warring and wrath and bluster. Little in the way of accomplishment. Both major parties sinking in public esteem.

Of no surprise was that the debate in Question Period was of an odious quality. QP’s relevance seems to diminish with every session. Conservative Michael Chong has proposed some well-needed reforms in a private member’s bill, but it likely won’t get far because it isn’t in governments’ interest to have Question Periods in which answers are given.

What made this session more rancid than most was the malfunctioning of House and Senate committees. In contrast to QP, they used to be a forum where substantive issue work was done and the government could be held to account. Now, committee sessions are becoming more like Question Period. They’re all about obstruction on the governing side and lynch-mobbing on the opposition side.

Given its minority status on committees, the government has been determined to make them dysfunctional, and has succeeded to a quite a degree. The latest was a decree stipulating that staffers in ministers’ offices would no longer testify. Stephen Harper’s team invoked the convention of ministerial responsibility, saying that only ministers need appear before committees. Never mind that advisers might know more on files than ministers themselves, or that they might have information incriminating a minister. No matter. Like many others in Ottawa, they’ve been muzzled.

The move was small potatoes for a government that shuts down Parliament willy-nilly, but it does serve as another example of how the democratic process is being stifled. Rob Walsh, the parliamentary counsel, ruled this week that the Prime Minister has no authority to tell staffers not to appear.

The gag rule was just one of several the government has taken against committees, not the least of which was the PM’s breaking of his pledge to allow committees to appoint their own chairs. In opposition, he railed against Jean Chrétien’s assumption of that power.

Another setback for the system this session was C-9, the budget bill. The actual budget part was fine, with Finance Minister Jim Flaherty balancing stimulus spending and deficit reduction. But the bill was turned into an all-purpose Trojan horse concoction, replete with legislation that had nothing to with the budget. Measures included the rolling back of environmental assessment (this at the time of the oil-spill calamity in the Gulf) and legislation that could set the stage for the gutting of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. This shoddy approach, advancing your agenda by omnibus-bill stealth, is the likely way of the future. The Liberals opposed many measures in the package but acceded to it for fear of triggering an election.

The session featured myriad flip-flops and stumbles by the Liberals, the government’s unreleasing of documents that were required to be released under access laws, uproars over airport tantrums, culture wars, anthem changes, fake lakes.

It was reflective of the Ottawa mentality that the big story was the Rahim Jaffer-Helena Guergis gong show. On this one, the media and the Liberals were much to blame, as the melodrama deserved less than half the attention it got.

All said, it’s a good thing that our legislators are taking another long break now. They need a rest, time to think things over, time to recalibrate again.






Commentary by the Ottawa Mens Centre


The Harper gong show goes on. Have you received a phone call from the Conservatives extortion experts?

If not, get ready for a call even if you are on the do not call list because political "fundraising" as its called does not qualify as a spam phone call.

The Conservatives call asking a wide variety of phone calls, they allude that you message, what you say will go directly to Mr. Harper or at least have a chance of being read by him.

At the end of that call, you will "have the bite put on you" for "have a hand up your dress" "for a donation", Would you like to donate $X00 or $X,000?

The phone calls are chilling, its very obvious that they know its tantamount to extortion, you can feel the caller's power trip on the phone.

Its a bit like having your local street gang knocking on your door asking for protection money or your business will be burnt down or your car demolished.

For larger corporations, and developers, its those very personalized customized phone calls from the real golden voices offering that chance to "interact and build dialogue".

In Australia, business has got really sick of the official corruption. Developers are en mass telling the governing labour party to go stick their requests for $1,000 a plate dinners.

Canada has largely kept this very dirty corrupt aspect out of the news, and, its high time for those in the know to jump of the sinking ship
and rat on Harper's monopoly of government extortion.

In the USA, if its a going to be a close election,
large corporations reflect the odds of winning by making mutually large and similar "donations" and "buying" $1,000 or more a plate dinners.

In Canada, the corruption goes on, with access to local government officials and even members of teh judiciary if you fork out those large checks for a supposedly "charitable" dinner.


Steven Harper is more of a God Father than a prime minister. He simply laughs at the concepts of the Rule of Law, to hell with the fiduciary obligations of being a prime minister and the long term best interests of Canadians.

Stephen Harper acts like a hired mouthpiece for the Republican Headquarters to ensure that Canada behaves like a Republican State of the USA.

Its mega billions of dollars in purchase of military equipment, take the heavy lifters, he could have just continued to charter the gigantic Russian airlifters or even purchased a few. Then there is the untendered fighter purchase that had the specs written for just one aircraft. How convenient.

More disturbing is Harper's ability to extort money from Canadians and Corporations to avoid being on the receiving end of his governments wrath, or to be given mega bucks to set up a large business to wipe out small business who did not contribute as much to Conservative requests for "donations".

Canadians need to be reminded to expect a phone call from the Conservative extortionists and hopefully tell their actions are not those of a party deserving to govern.

Mr. Harper came to power on the promise of eradicating those kind of government abuses and since coming to power he has made those same abuses the hallmark of his government.

Its time for Mr. Harper to find another occupation where dishonesty and abuse of power are a little more difficulty.