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2011 Election

Government contempt seems absent in the campaign so far

In an earlier piece I wrote about the importance of running on substance and winning or losing on that substance, as opposed to running on fear or hope alone. I stand by that, but must make a momentary digression.

On March 25th, 2011, there was a historic moment in Canadian history when the Conservative federal government was found to be in contempt of Parliament for the first time ever since Confederation. We are in the midst of an election at this moment based on that momentous vote, and other than post-session media scrums where the parties discussed why this had happened, I have seen no reference to this at all.

Please don’t misunderstand me: I don’t think the Opposition parties should make this the focal point of their campaigns, and certainly none of them have. But come on! There is no larger example to cite when talking about Harper’s contempt for democracy than this, and yet the Liberals, the NDP, the Bloc, and the Greens remain largely silent on this issue. Why? Maybe they should not place this front and centre on their websites, but splashing it into a speach every now and again won’t hurt.

Where is Canada’s Joe Biden, quietly whispering on the campaign trail how this is a “f**king big deal?”

You won’t beat Harper on the economy, and you won’t beat him on jobs, because you have no record, dear Opposition parties. You called this election on ethics because you didn’t want 2011 to be run on the economy like in 2008. You won your turf war, and you signaled how the election would be framed – why are we still waiting to see how you intend to do this?

(UPDATE 15:41 Apr 6): I just saw that Andrew Coyne tweeted a great article written by Dan Gardner for the Ottawa Citizen on the absence of the contempt issue on the campaign trail so far, which, as you know, were my sentiments exactly. But Gardner is a much better written and I, and puts these idea’s into sync beautifully, which articulates the horror of this all the more.

Gardner spoke with U of T political scientist Peter Russell, who argued that “a Conservative majority would be worse” because

“it would send a bad message about Parliamentary democracy if a government brought down for contempt, very serious contempt, on the finding of a Speaker, is rewarded with a majority. I think it would encourage Mr. Harper and maybe those after him to be contemptuous of Parliament. And then I think we’re in real trouble.”

And this is exactly the reason why I am flabbergasted that the every Opposition leader is not shouting this point at every whistle stop. This is especially true of Elizabeth May, decrying the undemocratic nature of her being left out of the Leader’s Debate, but not hammering home the contempt issue and making the all to obvious connection between the two. No, Harper is not responsible for May’s being excluded from the debate, but it speaks to a larger democratic deficit in Canada at the moment.


About awreeves

Environmentalist Geography MA Nonfiction MFA Citizen


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