University of Toronto
9 min

Harper is playing us for fools

The more one reads about the silly buggers being played around Bill C-25, currently in the Senate, the more instructive it becomes about the way this government does business – and it’s a process rife with spin and utter dishonesty.

The timeline is thus – the Senate committee studying the bill is going about their business and are asked to halt their clause-by-clause study of the bill in order to hear from two provincial Attorneys General. But when the justice ministers for Alberta and Manitoba appeared, they spoke for about an hour (in support of the bill), then said they had a plane to catch, only to turn up at a press conference with the Federal Justice Minister to repeat the message – pass the bill.

That the Conservatives had enough contempt to disrupt the process with the stunt was bad enough, but to fly in two provincial ministers and have them leave early under false pretences is galling. (Even worse was how, when the chair of the committee complained such action was a “grave and serious breach” of Senate privileges, Manitoba Premier Gary Doer laughed it off and said it proved why the Senate should be “abolished.” Because apparently an independent check on the power or the Prime Minister is “silly” and “hardly worth comment”.)

So the Conservatives held up the study of the bill for a stunt. Fine. The committee then decided to propose amendments based on expert testimony – as is their prerogative. But when they then asked the full Senate to fast track the vote on the amendments – which may or may not have passed – the Conservatives refused unless they dropped the amendments. Because they’re the party that wants to bring democracy to the Senate, don’t you know? And now the votes won’t happen until October 20th, because Parliament doesn’t sit next week for the Thanksgiving break.

But despite the fact that they have been consistently holding up the process, they immediately turn around and accuse the Liberal senators of a) delaying the bill, and that it means that b) Michael Ignatieff personally is “soft on crime.” It’s quite a leap in logic, I know.

So what did we hear about in House? Conservative MP Shelly Glover standing up to denounce Ignatieff being “soft on crime,” even though a) the Senate actually does have some degree of independence. She should look that up; and b) she falsely claimed that the amendments would continue the “2 for 1” time served provisions, when in fact the compromise amendment was for a “1.5 for 1” provision that was intended to allow judges some measure of independence in sentencing. But hey, since when does truth matter in the House of Commons? And when the Liberals tried to ask about things like H1N1 in Question Period, Harper instead turned to hammer them about C-25 – when his party has been causing delays, and when the Senate is an independent body, same caucus or not. (Harper has also been playing the crime card with the Bloc over their refusal to support a Conservative Private Members’ Bill on human trafficking).

The intellectual dishonesty is appalling. And yet, judging from the poll numbers, Canadians are buying it. And no, I don’t get it either.

(Also very interesting was the way the story was reported. In The Canadian Press, it was an account of the silly buggers played by the government. In the Globe and Mail, it was all about how it proved Ignatieff was a weak leader for not keeping his Senators in line in the face of sinking poll numbers. Seriously? That’s informed journalism?)

Also interesting was this CBC blog hit about how one of their producers got a phone call from Pierre Poilievre’s office, conducting a poll about a) support for an election at this time, and b) who they would support, with helpful and unsubtle prompts about all the wonderful things the government is doing. Also, apparently it’s no longer the Liberal party one can vote for – it’s the “Ignatieff-Bloc-NDP coalition.” Seriously? Seriously!? That’s pretty instructive about just what kind of messaging the government is shaping.

Elsewhere, the Liberals are demanding the Conservatives end to the government’s blatantly partisan advertising about their “Economic Action Plan” – which the government still insists isn’t partisan and that they’re just informing Canadians about things that are important to them, while Harper tries to correct Her Excellency about her use of the term “Head of State” in her UNESCO speech earlier in the week. Because he’s an expert in the way things work in a Westminster democracy, what with his presidentialisation of his position, merging party and state, and of course insistence that he can take things “above the head” of the Governor General when it suits him. Yeah, I really think we should be totally taking his word for it.
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