3 min

Rule of law, will of Parliament – doesn’t really matter

By now, it’s no surprise to anyone who pays attention that Stephen Harper and company have no respect for the rule of law. We’ve seen this time and again, and it’s a problem that the general voting public doesn’t seem to care enough about to get outraged over. And now, it appears that they also have no respect for the will – or indeed supremacy – of Parliament. And that’s a big problem.

Yes, it’s over the Afghan detainee issue, but it’s not the detainees that are the problem – it’s the way that the Harper government is behaving. On the final day of Parliament sitting, the opposition passed a motion that ordered the government to turn over the unredacted documents to the special committee on Afghanistan – and the government is refusing to do so.

Remember, that it’s Parliament’s role to hold the government to account – and to do that, they need information on the government’s activities. And while yes, I will be the first person to argue that most MPs have let that role slip through their fingers, passed off to independent officers of Parliament while they focus on constituency matters like helping people in the riding with passports and immigration issues, this is one of those cases where they’re actually doing their job – and good for them. And yet the government is standing in the way, claiming “national security” and “Crown privilege.”

But Parliament is still the supreme authority when it comes to the laws of this country (so long as those laws conform to the Charter, of course, but this is not a Charter matter). The Conservatives have, in the past, been vocal about this foundational principle, especially when clashing with the courts, or when they were in opposition trying to impose their will on the government. But how very different it looks from the other side.

It’s also indicative of just how much this government has become resistant to accountability or transparency – despite riding into office on a wave of promising more and delivering less. Far less. (Look at how they are punishing good work by refusing to renew the terms of both the Military Police Complaints Commissioner and the chair of the Commission of Public Complaints Against the RCMP). Both of these offices have been complaining of the level of secrecy, and trying to shine a light on problems, and are in essence being fired for it.

And yet, the public doesn’t seem to care, because the political culture in this country has reached a toxic level of apathy, fed by government messaging which accuses the opposition of political opportunism for doing its job – or worse, of Taliban sympathies, or collusion with separatists, or the like. And with the media focused more on polls and the horserace than the actual issues – like the fact that the government is so resistant to oversight that they’re flouting the will of Parliament – we have a serious problem.

But will anyone actually do anything about it? If the government continues to flout the rule of law, or the will of Parliament, then it is in the Governor General’s domain to remove the Prime Minister, or dissolve Parliament and call for another election. But such actions would be met with more howls of unelected officials overstepping their bounds, and so on.

I try not to dwell on how bleak it looks – but sometimes it’s hard not to.

Elsewhere, the government is contemplating a revamp of our security certificate laws. I’d say it was about time, but considering the kinds of revisions this government has been making to laws lately, I’d rather say it’s certainly time for a lot more scrutiny of just whatever it is they come up with – and just how many times they’ll accuse the opposition of being sympathetic to terrorists if they don’t vote for it.

While I’m thinking of it, I’d have to say that sartorially speaking, I think that the most improved award should go to Liberal Kirsty Duncan, who stopped wearing those oddly coloured bulky jackets, and is finally learning to wear make-up for the camera. In fact, she’s made a remarkable turnaround when it comes to her wardrobe choices – almost Lisa Raitt-like. And an honourable mention does have to go out to Megan Leslie, who has improved enough that she went through the entire fall sitting without wearing some of the more eye-searing colour combinations like the coral pink dress with the bright teal tights. She still has a ways to go, but snaps for taking those important first steps.

This week – As it happens, the Senate is still sitting this week – trying to get through those bills the Commons pushed through at the last minute, no doubt – so I just might drop by there tomorrow (as they don’t sit on Mondays).
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