Monday, March 15, 2010

The ground is not ready

The terms of reference for the detainee document review has been released and predictably they just prove that the whole exercise is a stall tactic.

Equally predictably many in the Liberal blogsphere are demanding that the Liberals table the Contempt of Parliament motion and dare Mr. Harper to call an election over it. Of course, they assume that such an action would be political suicide so he would not do it.

Such assumptions are wrong because they are based on a false premise. It is believed that if the Conservatives call an election to prevent being held in Contempt of Parliament and to prevent the release of what could be very damaging documents that the electorate will punish the Conservatives badly.

What many are forgetting is leading up to the dissolution of Parliament the Conservatives would be screaming that they are doing so in the interests of National Security. Meanwhile, the Opposition will be screaming about Parliamentary Supremacy. Considering how the Conservatives managed to exploit Canadians' ignorance of their own political system to make the idea of a coalition government very unpopular 14 months ago Liberals should not be too confident that they will come out on the winning end of an argument between National Security and Parliamentary Supremacy.

At the very least there are enough Conservative apologists in the media who would help the Conservatives muddy the waters enough to neutralize the detainee documents issue as an election issue. That would mean the election would be fought on other issues and as many in the same Liberal blogsphere have pointed out the Liberals do not seem to have many policies to campaign on at the moment.

So, putting forward the Contempt motion right now might be problematic because the Canadian people are not prepared for it. Remember, the opposition to proroguing the House in the country, earlier this winter, centred around MPs taking a "holiday". The detainee documents were barely on the radar for most ordinary Canadians.

The groundwork needs to be done before this issue can really be used to hurt the Conservatives. Unfortunately, that has not happened and it is pretty late in the game to begin doing so. The Liberals had almost three months to do just that and to develop a coherent plan of attack when Parliament resumed and they failed to do both.

As an aside I am having serious doubts about Mr. Ignatieff. He is faced with a principle opponent who is making all sorts of serious political errors. If Mr. Harper were facing someone with even half of the political instincts that Misters Chretien, Trudeau or Mulroney had he would be toast. Fortunately for him he is not facing that. Mr. Ignatieff is making it easier for him.

The Conservatives will still probably lose the next election because they are just getting old and tired and it is showing. However, it will be a rather indecisive defeat which will have us dealing with yet another weak minority government.

Finally, do not fear for Parliament. The Canadian Parliament has been in existance since before Confederation. There is very little that the current dickhead and his minions can do to really harm that institution. It will be in existance long after Stephen Harper's government is tossed into the dustbin of history.

You should only fear for Parliament if the next Liberal government, saddled with a minority government and facing a hostile House decides that Mr. Harper was on to something in his actions of the past 15 months. That is when I will begin worrying about Canada's Parliamentary Democracy.


Blogger Eugene Forsey Liberal said...

Iggy has many faults, which I have written about at length. But this is a supremely silly and counterproductive post. Apparently, you do not understand parliamentary democracy. Precedent, once set... And it would seem you underestimate Canadians. A fight between Sean Avery Cons & typically unwilling Larry Robinson Libs, over democracy and trust? Canadians will choose the Larry Robinsons every time. Every time. And we have Dryden;)

March 15, 2010 7:34 PM  
Blogger Joan said...

It is time to start acting from conviction and morality, rather than political expedience. We have been reacting to the Harper dissolution of our Canadian values ever since he has been our PM and I, for one, am getting tired of our less than honest, principled responses. Let's, finally, do the right thing, demand the documents and live with the consequences. Our every move should not be predicated upon the possiblity, or not, of an election.

March 15, 2010 8:09 PM  
Blogger ottlib said...


Sorry, but Canadians' reaction to the coalition makes me believe you are wrong. National security is something everybody can relate to. Parliamentary supremacy not so much.

Parliament is not a court of law. There is no binding precedent. If Stephen Harper wants to defy it that does not bind any succeeding government.

If any government does take his example it will be because he gets away with it.

Which brings me to Joan. Stop being naive. If you are looking for people doing the right thing you are looking in the wrong place. Politics has always been about doing what is possible not what is right. If the two happen to converge it is almost always as a result of a coincidence.

The only way Stephen Harper gets away with it is if the Opposition goes off half cocked and forces the issue before proper preparations are made to make him pay.

The Fall of 2009 should have proven to all Liberals that Canadians need to be educated about their own system. Until that happens potentially provoking an election based on some arcane concept is not the slam dunk many Liberals believe it would be.

One possible consequence of doing so is Stephen Harper wins an election. At that point the documents are irrevocably gone. Parliament will never see them and the whole argument about Parliamentary Supremacy will be destroyed by the electorate, perhaps permanently.

This has to be done properly which means some sober thought has to go into it. It would have been great if the Liberals would have been proactive on this but they were not. Now they have to react and that reaction better be well thought out and not just of the knee-jerk variety.

March 15, 2010 10:37 PM  
Blogger marie said...

Good posts ottlib and also clever responses. I respect your knowledge and your thinking and I tend to agree with you but we are so very anxious to see the tail end of the Harper Con regime the sooner the better.

The problem with waiting to long is confirming many Canadians ideas that what the Cons promote as truth which most of their talk isn't, that Ignatieff is the wrong person for PM.

I for one have an open mind and may just feel a little of the same doubts but I will not abandon ship quite yet. Mr. Ignatieff has to be up front,if he has a point to make, do it and be done with it. Maybe the ground is not yet ready but the soil needs to be tended, and fertilized in order for the seeds to grow.

March 16, 2010 4:07 PM  

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