United States Senate
4 min

Contempt for Parliament? Is it a day that ends in y already?

Remember that emergency session of the special committee on the mission in Afghanistan that was supposed to happen yesterday? Well, it didn’t. It seems the Conservatives decided to boycott it – after they already agreed to the emergency session. And because of the boycott, there wasn’t quorum, and lo and behold, you had a group of steaming mad opposition MPs baying for blood.

Oh, sure, the government gave out their talking points – that this was just a planning meeting and they offered to do a teleconference instead, that this is a three-year-old issue that doesn’t need to be hashed out now, that we should instead be focusing on supporting our troops. No, seriously.

But this particular tactic of boycotting committees – especially a special committee specifically set up to provide additional Parliamentary oversight as a precondition of agreeing to extending the mission in Afghanistan two years ago – is an egregious act. And trying to find a way to circumvent Parliamentary oversight is in and of itself contempt for Parliament. But sadly, the voters at home don’t think of it that way. They just see political games instead of the underlying principles under assault, and that is the bigger problem.

Down the hall in the Senate, it was business as usual, as they tried to clear the Order Paper before the holiday break. During Senators’ Statements, Senator Carolyn Stewart Olson spoke about the launch of the “Not4Me” anti-drug campaign targeted to youth – so be prepared to be bombarded with more ineffective government advertising! Senator Stewart Olson rather incredulously stated that their drug strategy not only focused on punishing the dealers, but was compassionate to users. Really? Then why aren’t you funding treatment programmes or harm reduction? Funny how those fundamental aspects keep being ignored in favour of more jail time.

Senator Oliver also elicited great laughs from the Liberal benches when he rose to laud the three-year anniversary of the passage of the so-called “Accountability Act,” and all of its transparency measures.

Senator Mitchell led off Senate Question Period by asking about those cabinet documents leaked to the CBC on Canada lowering its emissions targets. Senator LeBreton, the Leader of the Government in the Senate, who answers all questions in the Upper Chamber, chastised Mitchell for believing what he sees on the CBC. “Would it have been any better had it been on CTV?” heckled several Liberals.

Senator Dawson asked about the Prime Minister’s spokesperson accusing a respected Quebec environmentalist of pulling the big hoax in Copenhagen two days ago, to which Senator LeBreton suggested the Liberals apologise for their website incident (see below). As a supplemental, Senator Banks asked if she remembered how we were supposed to have a “Made in Canada” plan – to which LeBreton said it would be folly not to be harmonised with the US.

Senator Fraser gave a rather concise rendering of how the Minister of Public Safety has refused to appear before the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee regarding all those justice bills that would see mandatory minimums imposed. That’s one of the great things about the Senate – much more generous time allotments, which makes for a more genteel kind of debate. LeBreton, meanwhile, said she’d check into it. Senator Cowan asked a supplemental about whether LeBreton still stood by her old statement of “No Minister, no bill,” from when she sat in opposition? LeBreton said that these were the Minister of Justice’s bills – even though Fraser had made a point of saying that the Minister of Justice deferred answering those questions necessary to a complete understanding of the bill to the Minister of Public Safety.

Work on Bill C-6 went forward after Question Period, and apparently passed with further amendments. Senator Furey delivered an unsolicited op-ed to the media on those amendments – that the bill in its original form allowed inspectors to enter private homes where people were conducting their businesses without a warrant in order to do inspections – something which he (quite justifiably) found galling. It’s certainly worth reading, and will make you think twice about some of this government’s actions.

With C-6 and C-15 now passed with amendments and on their way back to the House of Commons, Senator Cowan later released a short statement, which read:

It is not often that I do this, but I commend the Government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper for not resorting to procedural tactics in order to prevent the Senate from completing its work on two important Government Bills before our Holiday break.
The Senate has played its traditional role – it has examined important Government legislation and has now made recommendations to the House of Commons on how they could be improved.
It is now up to the members of the House of Commons to examine and then to decide what they think of these amendments.

No procedural tactics yet. There are still those rumours of prorogation…

As referenced earlier, the Liberals apologised for a tasteless user-generated photo that appeared on their website as part of a contest on having people Photoshop picture of where Harper was instead of Copenhagen. But it’s being blown out of proportion, the Conservatives are certainly pots calling kettles black given their own online behaviour, and

And the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lawrence Cannon, has issued a very strongly worded release about the anti-homosexuality bill in Uganda – which is great. But seeing as it’s going forward, death penalty and all, it seems like Harper’s private chat with the Ugandan president at the Commonwealth summit a couple of weeks ago didn’t accomplish all that much.
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