Saturday, May 10, 2008

Free speech on the Hill certainly not free these days

By virtue of the Ethics Commissioner's controversial ruling, that some bloggers have started writing about today, MP Robert Thibault is being prevented from further speaking in Parliament about the Mulroney-Schreiber affair. Thibault has been sued by Mulroney. Therefore, the Ethics Commissioner has ruled that pursuant to the Commons' conflict of interest code, Thibault now has a "private interest" in the matter and is conflicted out from speaking further. And as the Jurist points out, if the opposition seeks to amend the ethics code now, in order to rid themselves of this ridiculous limitation, the optics will be terrible. Oh, it's quite the scene, man.

So following on with the logic of the Ethics Commissioner, recall that on March 13, 2008, the PM sued the Liberal Party of Canada for $2.5 million over the Cadman statements made on the Liberal party website:
"Harper yesterday filed a statement of claim against the Liberal Party of Canada after party officials refused his demands to apologize and retract their accusations, posted on the Liberal website, that he knew of 'Conservative bribery.'"
Now what does this mean for the Liberals? That only their party website and official party communications are barred from speaking of the Cadman matter? Or what? Liberal members surely have a "private interest" in how the controversy develops due to the financial jeopardy of the party over the lawsuit, if we take the Ethics commissioner's ruling to its logical conclusion.

You can see where this precedent is taking us. The lawsuit threats are abundant these days and form part of Conservative strategy.

Score one for Mr. Mulroney, paving the way for muzzling of opposition MP's. And a big black mark for freedom of speech in our democracy.