4 min

A shocking lapse

If there’s one thing that the whole C-25 issue has pointed out to me, it’s just how far we need to go in this country to provide a proper education on just how Parliament works.

Sunday morning, I was watching CTV’s Question Period, and the issue came up. While the NDP’s Judy Wasylycia-Leis gave an appalling (if nevertheless ideologically correct NDP talking point) about how this once again demonstrates why her party believes the Senate should be abolished, I was unprepared for what came next.

Government Leader in the Senate, Marjorie Lebreton, stated on public television that the unelected Senate must always bow before the elected House of Commons, and she’s proud to be part of Harper’s reform effort. Wow. Just…wow. Way to kneecap your own constitutional authority. And all of this while Jane Taber goaded them on.

One would think that the most basic understanding of the role of the Senate – sober second thought – would demonstrate why C-25 is just an issue of the Senate actually doing its job. They brought in expert witnesses to testify to the bill, and based on that testimony, their justice committee decided to put forward amendments. Some of those reasons included the further detrimental affect that this legislation would have on First Nations communities (who are over-represented in the penal system), and because it hinders the fairly fundamental notion of judicial independence.

But for Marjorie Lebreton to suggest that the Senate’s role is not actually “sober second thought” but rather “the big red rubber stamp” is not only irresponsible, it’s in fact dangerous to democracy. Let’s face it – sometimes the Commons passes some pretty bad laws, from the huge gaps in the so-called “Accountability Act,” to the de facto censorship of Bill C-10 in the last Parliament. It’s the Senate’s job to look over these bills without the constant frame of electioneering at their backs. Let’s face it – when you’re trying to create a moral panic, it’s pretty easy to let bad bills through – especially when you’re painting your opposition as “soft on crime,” and other such epithets. That’s why the Senate exists.

And for “journalists” like Jane Taber (and I do use the term loosely) to simply go around suggesting that Michael Ignatieff is a weak leader because some Liberal senators – who are supposed to be independent – have deigned to do their jobs and actually propose amendments to a bill (which actually sounds pretty flawed in its basic concept), along with repeating the false government talking points about how these amendments would “gut” the bill and retain the “two-for-one” time served credits (the amendment was for a “1.5-to-one” credit), it’s beyond irresponsible.

If we indeed have a crisis of democracy in this country, issues like this, which demonstrate a wholesale ignorance of the most basic fundamentals of our Parliamentary system, prove that we have a lot more work to do than just some tinkering with the mechanics of the electoral system.

Elsewhere, Friday’s Members Statements saw Liberal MP Mario Silva recognise the many Brazilian-Canadians in his riding with the advent of Rio getting the Olympic bid:

Mr. Speaker, as the member of Parliament whose riding is home to the largest Brazilian-Canadian community in Canada, I am honoured to offer congratulations to the city of Rio de Janeiro on its winning bid to host the 2016 Olympic Games. Rio de Janeiro becomes the first South American city to host the Olympics. It is an honour which is well deserved.
Brazil is the largest economy on that content and ranks among the fastest-growing economies in the world. The selection of Rio de Janeiro is further recognition by the nations of the world of the growing importance of Brazil upon the world stage.
In 2016, Canada will join with nations of the world as we gather in Rio de Janeiro to celebrate athletic excellence, international co-operation and the common bonds of humanity that bind us together in competition.
Until then, as president of the Canada-Brazil Parliamentary Friendship Group, I invite all members of Parliament to join with me in extending our congratulations to Rio de Janeiro and to Brazil.

During Question Period, Andrew Saxton – the Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board – rather stunningly said that the Economic Action Plan™ website and advertising were in fact “increasing transparency.” Really? What does the Parliamentary Budget Officer have to say about that? Something about how the government has been skirting transparency rules, shuffling money around between the various “report cards” and not providing actual consistent reporting in order to hide their lack of accomplishment? Say it isn’t so!

We’ve also learned, thanks to The Canadian Press, that many current and former bureaucrats have been objecting to this kind of partisan advertising from the start, and that the government has been increasing the partisan nature of its activities across the board. It’s completely disheartening to see just what the Conservatives have been doing to the public service of this country.

Also disheartening? More proof that after over three years in office, they still act like rank amateurs on the foreign affairs file, pulling stunts like snubbing the American government over the issue of resettling former Guantanamo Bay detainees. Way to go, guys – brilliant move there. About as classy as using up precious time in a meeting about the thickening border to whine about charter flights for hockey players. Canada’s not “back” on the world stage – we’re becoming the butt of the joke.
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