Thursday, December 31, 2009

Many reviews are in

Michael Behiels:
It is becoming patently obvious Harper now presides over a minority government that can all-too-readily be characterized as a not-so-benign dictatorship. Harper successfully exploits the first-past-the-post electoral system -- which he and Flanagan denounced as immature -- and the ideological and political divisions within the opposition parties, to impose his unflinching will on his cabinet, caucus, and what he characterizes as an utterly dysfunctional House of Commons, one made so by the government itself. With his appointment of yet more Conservatives to the Senate, Harper will exercise full and unfettered power over Parliament, a power which he will readily use to cow the judicial branch of government with his so-called tough-on-crime legislation.
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Harper's continued use of such bold, provocative and intimidating tactics proves that he is morally convinced that the end -- unfettered power for his Conservative party and government and the wholesale destruction of the centrist Liberal party -- justifies the means.
Susan Riley:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper's decision to shut down Parliament for his own partisan convenience -- no more nasty questions about Afghan detainees, no more challenges from a "Liberal-dominated Senate" -- is shocking, but hardly surprising.

It is an expression of this prime minister's contempt not just for Parliament, but for government.

So much for those urgent Tory crime measures that will die on the order paper; so much for an adult debate on the deficit, or pension reform, or Afghanistan after 2011. The assumption is that we will be so wrapped up in the Olympics we won't notice the long silence from Ottawa. We will, in fact, welcome it.

If Harper is right, we deserve the government we aren't getting. This is a richly-blessed country with a well-educated, relatively prosperous population and a degraded political culture. And until its citizens move from apathy and cynicism to outrage and involvement, nothing will change.

Instead, we have seen a decline in political discourse from the theatrical jousting of the Mulroney era, to the crankiness of the Chr├ętien years to the imbecilic insults and bald-faced lies that dominate politics in the age of Harper.
The Halifax Chronicle-Herald:
Traditionally, majority governments prorogue Parliament when they legitimately run out of items on their agenda. But Mr. Harper is now perversely, repeatedly and cynically using such mechanisms to suit his own partisan agenda.

Prime ministers have much overt and covert power at their disposal. But to use the Constitution as a convenience store — and as a means to buck the system or to duck accountability — is to debase it, something that doesn’t faze Mr. Harper.
Andrew Coyne:
The government’s professed rationale, that this is all about economic planning, is obvious bilge: nothing prevents a government from planning and meeting Parliament at the same time, or certainly shouldn’t. The informal justification its supporters are putting about is scarcely better: it may be inconvenient to the government that its appointees do not yet control all Senate committees, but that is no reason to shutter Parliament. It is a motive, not a defense.
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Each time Parliament allows one of these abuses to pass, its power is reduced a little more. Indeed, so diminished has it become that it is hard for some observers to muster much indignation at this latest assault: it’s only Parliament, after all. It’s exactly this sort of whittling away by degrees that has allowed closure, for example, to be invoked more or less routinely to cut of Parliamentary debates, where once it was to be used only in the most extreme circumstances. It was the improper use of closure, recall, that set off the wild, four-week brawl known as the Pipeline Debate. Now, nobody can be bothered.

The time has long since passed for Parliament to take a stand against its own evisceration. The really substantive issue is whether the government will yield to the Commons demand that it produce the Colvin documents, and perhaps that fight can be resumed in March. But proroguing to delay that day of reckoning, possibly in hopes of sneaking through another snap election in the interval, is worthy of some sort of Parliamentary rebuke, which is why the symbolic measure (and it could only be that) of MPs meeting in another place came to mind.
The Ottawa Citizen:
Like many an absolute ruler before him, he might find it convenient to dismiss the people's representatives when they get in the way. Despite appearances, though, he's not an absolute ruler. Eventually, he'll have to face an election.

Harper's Conservatives once promised a more open and transparent government. Instead, they take every opportunity to be cynical, secretive and radically partisan -- even when they don't need to be. It's become an ugly habit. The Afghan detainee controversy only became a problem for this government because of its defensive response. The Harper cabinet created a public-relations nightmare for itself, and is now trying to wriggle out by creating another.
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We don't pay our members of Parliament not to show up for work. If Conservative MPs don't want to go to the trouble of attending committee meetings, or even going through the motions in question period every day, there are plenty of would-be MPs from other parties who would gladly take their place.
James Travers:
Apart from those partisan advantages, the timing could hardly be worse for a dark Parliament.

While Canadians struggle with recession's aftershocks, Harper risks being seen as more interested in maximizing a sporting spectacle Conservatives are doing everything possible to make their own.

Less likely to be noticed but no less important, the Prime Minister is piling on fresh evidence that accountability is a fiction, an election promise easily made and forgotten.

Whatever else it achieves, suspending Parliament first and foremost blinkers oversight. Having tried and failed to blame abuse reports on a bureaucrat just doing his job, Harper is now trying to push it under the carpet for two critical months and perhaps much longer.
The Calgary Herald:
Prorogation is a gap between sessions of a legislative body, during which time the body's activities are suspended and the usual slate of political business (the proposal, debate and passage of bills and motions) is largely wiped clean, to be started from scratch in the next session.

This is a measure which ought to be used only in times of crisis, before elections or in instances when a government believes it has completed its legislative agenda. None of these conditions apply at present. Harper's misuse of prorogation will only heighten cynicism about the political process. Many Canadians already cynically believe that their elected officials accomplish next to nothing. Now, that belief will be borne out for two months.
Stephen Maher:
Why should we labour while the television will be filled with athletes from around the world straining Lycra and breaking records in the ice rinks and snowy mountains of British Columbia? So on Wednesday, a spokesman for Mr. Harper announced that there is no need for anyone in Canada to work during the Olympics.

Workplaces will be shut down — except for emergency services — for a two-week national holiday.

Hurray!

Oops. Sorry. I’ve just received a clarification.

Actually, you do have to keep working. It’s just members of Parliament who don’t have to work.

My mistake.

You will be pleased to know that your parliamentary representatives can put their feet up and give the luge the attention it deserves.

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