Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s contempt of Parliament

Sometimes we have to fight for our democracy and this is one of those cases. Canadians have ourselves to blame if we don’t hold Stephen Harper accountable for his government’s contempt of Parliament. And lets not forget his abrupt suspension of Parliament two years ago to prevent a confidence vote! We, as Canadians, need to hold Harper accountable for his contempt of our democracy. If we keep letting him get away with it, one day it will be too late.

For the record.

* From CBC,

“There’s a case against the government for breach of privilege after it refused to hand over detailed cost estimates of its anti-crime agenda, and a minister may have misled MPs, House of Commons Speaker Peter Milliken said Wednesday in a ruling reasserting Parliament’s authority.

Milliken ruled there was a “prima facie breach of privilege” — in other words, enough evidence to send two separate motions back to MPs to decide the next step.”

* Globe and Mail Editorial,

“Contempt in its ordinary meaning is not terribly far off the legal one, and it is that ordinary meaning – lack of respect, intense dislike, scorn – that offers a useful guide to understanding Wednesday’s ruling by Speaker Peter Milliken. The government has scorned Parliament, and shown a lack of respect to the people entrusted by Canadians to represent their interests, in refusing a committee’s request for detailed information on the costs of federal law-and-order legislation. Mr. Milliken’s ruling that the government “on its face” breached parliamentary privilege will now give rise to a vote on contempt.

The government has also shown contempt for its own reformist underpinnings. One of its core promises was to let legislators of all parties be more effective and productive representatives in Ottawa. Yet how can they be if they are denied basic information on the costs of the government’s program?

It was the second time in just under a year Mr. Milliken has been obliged to make the point that Parliament has an unconditional right to demand information from the cabinet. The first time involved documents requested by a parliamentary committee relating to the military’s transfer of Afghan detainees. Mr. Milliken wound up quoting his own ruling from last April: “No exceptions are made for any category of government documents. . . . it is perfectly within the existing privileges of the House to order production of the documents in question.” How many more times will he have to repeat himself?

* TorStar,

“Of the two matters he addressed Wednesday, the so-called Bev Oda affair is the more notorious.

Opposition MPs charge that Oda, a junior foreign affairs minister, deliberately misled a Commons committee over exactly who was responsible for cancelling a $7 million grant to the international development charity KAIROS.

While not going so far as to agree with the opposition, Milliken ruled that her actions did appear to be an attack on the rights of MPs and gave the go-ahead for a parliamentary watchdog committee to look into the matter.

Given that parliamentary committees are controlled by the opposition, the result will almost certainly be a motion to censure Oda.

Milliken’s second ruling deals with a substantively more serious matter, the ability of MPs to find out how much government actions cost.

In this case, another committee had complained they were stonewalled in efforts to discover how much the government’s proposed corporate tax cuts, as well as its so-called crime-fighting agenda, will cost.

Milliken agreed and authorized the watchdog committee to determine whether Harper’s ministers should be censured here, too.”

* National Post,

“In both cases, the Speaker cited exhaustive precedent for his findings and in both cases he is on firm ground.

There are legitimate concerns about the unravelling of Canadian democracy, never better expressed than by the late Toronto Star columnist Jim Travers in an award-winning look at the way governments of all shades have eroded parliament’s ability to safeguard public spending and hold ministers to account.

Yet the institution has just proven how robust it remains. The House of Commons was being asked to wave through spending when it had no real idea about what the money was being spent on. The opposition demanded more information and one hopes all MPs will now have some idea of the cost of the legislation they’re voting upon. Similarly, the opposition felt Ms. Oda was less than forthright during her committee appearance and will now have the chance to censure her.

The real unravelling taking place is the Conservative Party’s strategy of running the country out of the Prime Minister’s Office — a black hole at the centre of government that absorbs power and emits very little information that might prove inconvenient. The fingerprints on both files inevitably lead back to the PMO.”

* Also see Bloomberg BW


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