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Friday, January 08, 2010

How to undermine a democracy in just one year

Conservative pundits have taken to mocking any and all people who dare to question Stephen Harper's decision to prorogue parliament, pointing to the one-hundred-some-odd times that parliament has been prorogued since confederation. But any rational person can see that this is merely an exercise in, well, rationalization.

The legality of prorogation is also not a meaningful discussion, quite simply because government restraint and the checks and balances of our parliamentary system are largely built on mere convention. Not rules written in stone. So when a government engages in a parade of precedent creating behavior, it behooves us to ask critical questions.

Why does this create new precedent? Especially since prorogation has happened so often?

The first and foremost reason is that this is a minority government. Not a majority government. In this sense, the government ostensibly governs because it has the confidence of the house. Not simply because it has the most number of seats.

Last year, when it became clear that the government had de facto lost confidence in the face of an opposition that was united to defeat it, Stephen Harper asked the Governor General to prorogue parliament.

Harper is a shrewd politician and it's obvious to anybody with any sense of political strategy why Harper did this; Harper knew that if he prorogued parliament, it would provide more time to allow the cracks between the Liberal, NDP and Bloc Quebecois to widen. And with a few scare tactics and attack ads, the Conservatives could seal the deal on the demise of a united opposition. It worked out perfectly.

The Conservatives got away with it, for the most part, because the general public was outraged at the whole concept of the Bloc Quebecois being part of a coalition government. The prospect of a separatist party having any sort of national power was far more offensive than Stephen Harper's closing of the doors to parliament.

All and all, last year's prorogation of parliament should go down in the history books as one of the most perfectly and shrewdly played political moves in Canadian history. But that didn't make it right.

A year later, Stephen Harper prorogued parliament again. But this time, the reason is ostensibly because MPs need to spend more time in their constituencies to work to focus on the economic recovery. Really. That's the reason given. It didn't have anything to do with the fact that the questioning of the government's knowledge of the potential torture of Afghan detainees was starting to take center stage in the political discourse of this country.

Sarcasm aside, I think we all know that's the real reason.

Let me first start off by saying that if it turns out that Afghan authorities did, in fact, employ torture on prisoners which we handed over to them, I must simply say that we cannot lay blame on the Canadian military or the government. Why? Because we're either occupiers or we're not.

The very idea that angry people on the left are upset that the Canadian military is respecting the national sovereignty of the Afghanistan government to run it's penal system without interference is beyond me. After all, these are the same people who advocated for the sovereignty of Afghanistan under Taliban rule. Now that we're there, the left is advocating that we act like imperialist occupiers. That we should, not respect the sovereignty of the state, and impose our own standards of justice. I just can't get my brain around this.

The left wants us to pull out of Afghanistan immediately, but also wants to hold us responsible for the actions of the sovereign Afghanistan government while we're there, for having the tenacity to respect their sovereignty. Okay. I don't get it.

It just so happens I agree we should probably pull out of Afghanistan. Nation building is a forsaken exercise, and it doesn't seem we're going to overcome the corruption in that country in our lifetimes. But unlike the left, I'm not trying to have it both ways.

I digress.

Even though I would not fault the Conservative government for any torture that has occurred at the hands of Afghan authorities, it doesn't change the fact that using prorogation to avoid transparency and accountability is unacceptable.

Certainly, past governments have used prorogation, but never as a matter of having uncomfortable questioning of the government stop. As far as I know, neither Chretien* or Martin prorogued parliament to avoid the questions around the Sponsorship Scandal. Martin didn't prorogue parliament to avoid the non-confidence motion which ultimately brought down his short-lived tenure in 2006.

The pandora's box that Stephen Harper has opened in this past year goes far beyond the present and extends ominously into the future.

Just as Stephen Harper has in many ways been a mirror-image of Jean Chretien in terms of his governance-style: shrewd, tactical, power-centralizing, etc -- future Liberal governments can be guaranteed to enjoy the inheritance of heavy-handed tools that Mr. Harper has paved the way for using. As such, parliament will become more and more a game for politicians to maneuver through -- pushing procedures and rules to their boundaries -- while the inevitable consequences of corruption through lack of oversight, will go unchecked.

We certainly need democratic reform in this country, as Stephen Harper has himself advocated for. The problem is, Stephen Harper has defined himself as one of the biggest reasons we need democratic reform as opposed to someone we can trust to deliver it to us.

Stephen Harper has become the very enemy to accountable government that he claimed to be fighting against. He has lost almost the entirety of his intelligent, thinking base and is left with nothing more than a voting block on which to chop populist issues, and a chorus of uninspiring partisans cheering on from the bleachers. Harper is bathing in the bath of his own arrogance right now, and he is sowing the seeds for the destruction of the very united right that he shepherded into existence.

Worse, Stephen Harper may -- much like the Republicans in the United States -- have paved the way for a radically left-wing federal government which will rise from the ashes of an imploded right.

Something for all those uncritical partisans to think about, if they truly have any ideological backbone.

* Factual Correction: Jean Chretien did in fact, prorogue parliament for 80 days before the tabling of the report by Sheila Frasier. I stand corrected on this historical oversight.

Update: I've noticed that quite a few people are linking to this article by pre-establishing the context of the Western Standard as being a "conservative" entity, and myself being a "conservative" writer. Neither of these characterizations are true. The Western Standard certainly has conservative contributors, but we are a decidedly libertarian-leaning bunch. Many, if not most of us support marijuana legalization, equal rights for same-sex couples (although most of us would prefer the state not be involved in marriage for anyone), a defensive --not aggressive-- foreign policy, strong property rights, freedom of speech, belief, and association.

Us libertarians do not hold our beliefs for these rights to be contingent on ethnicity, citizenship, race, sex, sexual orientation, political beliefs, cultural practices, social or economic class.

I am not a conservative. I am categorically a libertarian with progressive social views. Yes, it's possible to be a small government, cut-throat capitalist, whilst at the same time being socially progressive. Meet libertarianism. Please do not keep referring to me as a conservative. Thanks.

Posted by Mike Brock on January 8, 2010 | Permalink


"You're basically saying that there's a good chance that the US, Soviet Union, Saudi Arabia, India, Pakistan, etc. have all been working together to construct a fake persona of an Islamic extremist for the past 30 years."

Prove they have been working together on this issue because everything you think know is from one source, the US media. You did not read it online in a foreign paper so don't even go in that direction. You tried here to present a fallacy, by implying it must be true because you said multiple sovereign nations reported its joint effort, over many years. Actually it was media who connected the dots, and created this fallacy notion, and gave you the sinker to swallow, which you seem to have gladly done. You cannot say one way or the other if any truth regarding this exists.
You having nothing factual, and my argument is that you actually know nothing for sure. This doesn't mean I am a nut, it means I could not be more rational about coming to a conclusion, based on the evidence presented, and you could not be more irresponsible as a human being.

Posted by: Vegan Philosopher | 2010-01-10 3:45:21 PM

you like it when I blast you don't you Peter that is why you keep goading me.

Yes, yes and I admit it. I have truly enjoyed the many lessons I have learned from you and it is such a shame my holiday is over and it's back to work tomorrow.( I can explain this part if you need help with it). Keep charging that windmill and always remember that the folks at PETA are hanging on your every word. You are the only one to stand up for all the good things they believe in. You Vegan...are their future.

Howbout that vegan handbook thingy?

Posted by: peterj | 2010-01-10 9:22:47 PM

Pierre the handbook is what you need so as to know how to function, that is why you project that image on me. Do you think a book exists that tells you how to be free? That comes from within.

Regarding Peta, I am a member yes, but they don't guide me, and obviously not visa versa. No one strike fear into the meat industry like Ingrid Newkirk and team. The industry has two full time fat lobbiests dedicated to trying to discredit the notion that its wrong to be purposely cruel.
They don't need me and I don't think they are militant enough or, do enough to find homes for shelter animals.
In 4 US states Utah is one of them it is law that all turned in animals have to be used for animal testing. People who get tired of their animal and after knowing some love it is tortured to death in one of the numerous animal testing labs in the US. Huntington sciences kills 500 aniamls a day in the most horrible ways imaginable like spraying raid in an animals lungs or eyes until it dies. They might do this over as many days as it takes for someones cat dog or bunny to die. letting it suffer constantly through the process.
I cannot talk about this because it upsets me, but you get the point. Peta works to educate and asks why do you have to repeatedly kill animals testing the same products over and over, it serves no point, and I support them with money so they keep asking questions just like this.
You can mock Peta if you want but Ingrid Newkirk is good good people, and if anybody deserves to be blessed it is her.

Posted by: Vegan Philosopher | 2010-01-10 9:49:19 PM

The industry has two full time fat lobbiests dedicated to trying to discredit the notion that its wrong to be purposely cruel.

But why are they fat if the only eat vegetables??
enquireing minds want to know.

Posted by: peterj | 2010-01-10 10:03:45 PM

But why are they fat if the only eat vegetables??
enquireing minds want to know.

Posted by: peterj | 2010-01-10 10:03:45 PM

When I said the industry, I should have put "meat" infront of it. All that horrifying pain I mentined and thats all you wanted to know? More proof humans are the worst thing the earth has ever seen.

Posted by: Vegan Philosopher | 2010-01-10 10:12:29 PM

Support the troops by bringing them home.

Posted by: Louis Riel | 2010-01-10 10:41:36 PM

More proof humans are the worst thing the earth has ever seen.

Posted by: Vegan Philosopher | 2010-01-10 10:1
I agree. Life would be a lot more entertaining if we were ruled by cows and they ate us for lunch. Damned humans.

Posted by: peterj | 2010-01-10 10:44:34 PM

Posted by: Louis Riel | 2010-01-10 10:41:36 PM

Agree completely, but it looks like we will wait another year before that happens. By that time Iraq will start to fall apart and Obama will be in a real mess. Unbelievable what so called intelligent people get us into.

Posted by: peterj | 2010-01-10 10:51:00 PM

Louis Riel an actual Canadian hero. Yes bring the troops home.

Posted by: Vegan Philosopher | 2010-01-10 10:53:33 PM

I agree. Life would be a lot more entertaining if we were ruled by cows and they ate us for lunch. Damned humans.

Posted by: peterj | 2010-01-10 10:44:34 PM

Is that what you interpreted from what i said or are you showing how indifferent to another species suffering you can be?

Posted by: Vegan Philosopher | 2010-01-10 10:56:11 PM

Is that what you interpreted from what i said or are you showing how indifferent to another species suffering you can be?

Posted by: Vegan Philosopher | 2010-01-10 10:56:11 PM


Damned but I'm gonna miss you, but I'll be thinking of you as I quaff down a hamburger with greasy fries for lunch tomorrow. Signing off now 'cause I have to work tomorrow ( I can explain that if you have trouble with it) but be sure to tune in tomorrow night so we can play some more.

Posted by: peterj | 2010-01-10 11:09:06 PM

vegan...let's play some more.

A man, whose family was German aristocracy prior to World War II,

owned a number of large industries and estates. When asked how many

German people were true Nazis, the answer he gave can guide our

attitude toward fanaticism. 'Very few people were true Nazis,' he

said, 'but many enjoyed the return of German pride, and many more were

too busy to care. I was one of those who just thought the Nazis were a

bunch of fools. So, the majority just sat back and let it all happen.

Then, before we knew it, they owned us, and we had lost control, and

the end of the world had come. My family lost everything. I ended up

in a concentration camp and the Allies destroyed my factories.'

We are told again and again by 'experts' and 'talking heads' that

Islam is the religion of peace, and that the vast majority of Muslims

just want to live in peace. Although this unqualified assertion may be

true, it is entirely irrelevant. It is meaningless fluff, meant to

make us feel better, and meant to somehow diminish the spectre of

fanatics rampaging across the globe in the name of Islam.

The fact is that the fanatics rule Islam at this moment in history. It

is the fanatics who march. It is the fanatics who wage any one of 50

shooting wars worldwide. It is the fanatics who systematically

slaughter Christian or tribal groups throughout Africa and are

gradually taking over the entire continent in an Islamic wave. It is

the fanatics who bomb, behead, murder, or honor-kill. It is the

fanatics who take over mosque after mosque. It is the fanatics who

zealously spread the stoning and hanging of rape victims and

homosexuals. It is the fanatics who teach their young to kill and to

become suicide bombers.

The hard quantifiable fact is that the peaceful majority, the 'silent

majority,' is cowed and extraneous. Communist Russia was comprised of

Russians who just wanted to live in peace, yet the Russian Communists

were responsible for the murder of about 20 million people. The

peaceful majority were irrelevant.

China's huge population was peaceful as well, but Chinese Communists

managed to kill a staggering 70 million people.

The average Japanese individual prior to World War II was not a

warmongering sadist.. Yet, Japan murdered and slaughtered its way

across South East Asia in an orgy of killing that included the

systematic murder of 12 million Chinese civilians; most killed by

sword, shovel, and bayonet.

And, who can forget Rwanda, which collapsed into butchery. Could it

not be said that the majority of Rwandans were 'peace loving'?

History lessons are often incredibly simple and blunt, yet for all our

powers of reason we often miss the most basic and uncomplicated of

points: Peace-loving Muslims have been made irrelevant by their

silence. Peace-loving Muslims will become our enemy if they don't

speak up, because like my friend from Germany, they will awaken one

day and find that the fanatics own them, and the end of their world

will have begun. Peace-loving Germans, Japanese,Chinese,Russians,

Rwandans, Serbs, Afghans, Iraqis, Palestinians, Somalis,

Nigerians, Algerians, and many others have died because the peaceful

majority did not speak up until it was too late.

As for us who watch it all unfold, we must pay attention to the only

group that counts; the fanatics who threaten our way of life.

Since you are a complete contrarion and have such a grasp of revisionist history, i would really be interested in your "truth" on this subject.

Posted by: peterj | 2010-01-15 9:38:33 PM

You may be a libertarian but you should still obey the International Geneva Convention. All nations have an obligation to ensure that those captured in conflict be treated humanely. That includes not handing detainees to third parties when there is the possibility of torture. The Geneva Convention also stipulates that captured enemy soldiers must be given the same access to medical treatment as one`s own injured. That is humanitarian, nothing to do with political ideology.

Posted by: Kim Philby | 2010-01-29 6:29:24 PM

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