Thursday, August 14, 2008

Someone's squirming

So let me get this straight. Harper's Conservatives have made a total mockery of the work of the Commons Ethics Committee this week, displaying an unprecedented level of contempt for the working of Parliament. Evidence has arisen that his party has counselled witnesses not to attend. And the Conservatives have "succeeded" on that front, given that many witnesses, indeed, did not attend. That is, if you can call the terrible optics and affront to democracy they're demonstrating any kind of success. Further, one of the most senior Conservative officials showed up at the hearings, unscheduled, to attempt to dominate the hearings, only to be escorted out by security when he refused to leave the table. They are likely to face a contempt proceeding as a result of their Ethics Committee hijinks. And all this has to do with the very serious business of how the Conservatives broke election spending rules in the last federal election.

Yet Mr. Harper has the nerve to stand in front of the microphones today and blame a "dysfunctional" Parliament on Stephane Dion? And threaten to take steps to undo his fixed election promise? Wow. Something is very wrong with this picture. (Video of Harper, here.) Here's what Harper said, replete with his tell, "frankly." When Harper says "frankly," something dark usually follows:

"Quite frankly, I’m going to have to make a judgment in the next little while as to whether or not this Parliament can function productively," Harper said, without elaborating on his plans.

And stated in his usual charismatic, charming manner that has endeared him so to the Canadian public.

This statement that he is considering pulling the plug on Parliament would require him to go to great lengths to undo his commitment to the October 2009 fixed election date. He would perhaps have to repeal that law and resort back to the traditional prerogrative of the government to set election dates. What a major, hypocritical reversal that would be. If he were to try, that would be a great time to defeat the government right there - assuming it'd be a confidence measure, of course, as everything is these days.

Or perhaps he's threatening to go to the Governor General with an extraordinary request to dissolve the Parliament on the basis that his minority government has become unworkable. That's what his language suggests today. Calling the committee system chaotic - of his own doing, of course - and whining about Mr. Dion:
"Two of the three opposition parties don't support the government and say we should be defeated. Mr. Dion says he doesn’t support the government but won't say, you know, whether he will defeat us or not," Harper said.

"I don’t think that’s a tenable situation."

Well, Steve, in fact, it's one of your very own making. As a result of boxing yourself in with your fixed election date and giving Mr. Dion this power. And the parliament would indeed work if only someone would govern as a minority parliament requires. Compromise through mature governing, in accordance with the voters' minority parliament choice.

Going to the Governor General would be contradictory for Harper. He likes to tout his record and all they've achieved...yet he's going to cry "untenable?" Huh? If I were Michaelle Jean, I'd be lining up the constitutional advisors. She may have options to consider if Harper follows through on his macho bluster. Like asking Dion to form the government if Harper can't.

Harper playing this hand today is a clear indication that he and his party are very concerned that the longer his government survives, the worse it will get. The immediate concern appears to be the damage that the Ethics Committee hearings have done and will continue to do to the Conservatives' standing. So much so that he wants to be done with any kind of investigations into his government, despite the incredible wrongdoing that's come to light. Overspending in the last election by over $1 million, attempting to get that money back in rebates from the Canadian taxpayer and then doing everything in his power to shut down any kind of accountability for it. The Bernier hearings will occur this fall. And as we all know, the Conservatives back in the House as they will be this fall are not a good look at all.

It's a tremendous show Steve's putting on, a very anti-democratic one.