Monday, March 21, 2011

High-Level Contempt for Canadian Parliament (I was naive)

I was naïve until today when my innocent eyes were pried opened by the report of a Canadian parliamentary committee. I have seen the light.

As an antidote to depression brought on by wars, rebellions, meltdowns and earthquakes, I spent much time in the last week watching the Canada's CPAC channel. I have giggled at clever Kady witticisms, been awed at Tabatha eloquence, questioned the legal legitimacy of Bev Oda's Autopen and twittered my own naïve tweet/rants in response.

The big show was called the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs (sometimes known by the Twitter hash: #PROC).
A couple weeks ago the Speaker of the House of Commons passed on to that noble committee the thorny question of just how contemptuous -- or ^NOT contemptuous -- the 'Harper Government' is of the Canadian parliament, the Canadian electorate and the country as a whole. We observers -- whether watching CPAC from a Brick Warehouse LazyBoy, iPhoning tweets at work or reading the coverage in our local Sun tabloid -- were entertained by the attempts at wit as the members (at least 'some' and perhaps des membres) slogged through witness list towards the final report conclusion.
The evidence showed the Minister in Charge of CIDA was guilty of nothing more than having been appointed way over her level of competence. She had risen to a position that expected to her read and initial the executive summaries of 760 memos last year! (That is more than two signatures each and every day. Imagine the carpal tunnel injuries if she had attempted to do that by hand!) Therefore, the Minister used her smarts and her smart phone as she drove herself around Thunder Bay. Instead of using a real legal-type pen to legally sign all those memos, she simply directed her assistant -- or perhaps an office temp or the night janitor -- to push the button on the office Autopen and let it do the signing.  Ms. Oda can honestly plead not contempt but simple incompetence.

In addition, in this country at least, the Mulroney Doctrine has established the legal principle that full honest and open disclosure doesn't require exposing every little possible illegality but only requires exposing the narrowest possible answer of the question as asked.

At the same time though, the testimony before the PROC clearly showed that the Harper Government -- meaning the privy council working collectively under the direction of Stephen Harper -- was operating in contempt not only of the elected members of parliament but was also contemptuous of the institution of parliament and the country of Canada as a whole. In the vernacular, they sent a big fuck-you to the people of Canada, their elected representatives and the Speaker of the House.

Now I finally get to the sad moment where my naivety was revealed and my eyes opened. I was reading today's Report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs regarding the Question of Privilege Relating to the Failure of the Government to Fully Provide the Documents as Ordered by the House. On Page 7, there is a paragraph that starts:
Also on March 16, 2011, the Hon. Rob Nicholson, Minister of Justice, and the Hon. Vic Toews, Minister of Public Safety, along with a number of departmental officials appeared before the Committee to give testimony. 
I suddenly realized who were are dealing with. This is not some anonymous cabal flicking a middle finger to the Canadian public. Here was the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Public Safety -- in other words the authorized head lawyer / chief law-maker along with the prosecutor in chief / head cop of the Queen's Privy Council of Canada  -- presenting a contemptuous and obviously report to our elected representatives!
In respect of the testimony of the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Public Safety, a number of questions arose from some Committee members. There were also comments, including that members found it difficult to understand why the FINA deadline was not respected, and why it took the government four months to provide FINA and Parliament with the information that it had requested.

There is much detail on the next couple of pages, but lets summarize by saying that after watching last weeks testimony and reading today's report, I can easily imagine Mr. Toews and Mr. Nicholson snickering over their morning coffee as they reviewed those obviously inadequate binders which they intended to slap before the committee as 'evidence'. They must have know that this was not the answer that the speaker had asked for. 

My eyes are open. The only thing those binders proved was the utter contempt by our head cop and chief lawyer towards the committee process and committee review by our elected representatives.