Saturday, January 02, 2010

The reviews are in

I'll expand on the topic later. But for now, James Travers:
No one should be more concerned about this Prime Minister's controlling methods than Conservatives. Power so expediently abused in high office becomes a cruel constraint when an election is inevitably lost.

Stephen Harper understood that in opposition. As a Reformer he preached the gospel of parliamentary primacy. As a Conservative leader using memories of ethical failures from the Chrétien era to defeat Paul Martin, Harper promised, hand over heart, to restore accountability.

That, of course, was then. Now the Prime Minister is singularly dominating national affairs. As a new year begins, there will be no one here to ask annoying questions about war and spending or distract attention from the modern Roman circus of Olympic Games.
Systematically, and without explanation, the Prime Minister is testing every limit on his power. Along with successfully shuttering Parliament for the second time, he's neutering committees charged with the primary democratic responsibilities of safeguarding the treasury and forcing the government to explain its actions. He's challenging independent rulings against how Conservatives funded their 2006 election and how this government treats Canadians in trouble abroad.

Politics is an uncompromising blood sport played to win within loose rules. By learning Liberal dirty tricks, adapting to changing circumstances and reinterpreting every regulation in his favour, Harper is proving to be a shrewd and accomplished contestant.

Far less clear is what he accepts as legitimate constraint, the line in the democratic sand not to be crossed.

Last year ministers threatened to go over the head of the de facto head of state if Governor General Michaëlle Jean allowed a coalition of "Liberals, socialists and separatist" to use their Commons majority to topple his minority. This winter Harper is essentially making the argument that Parliament is getting in the way of his government governing.
Whatever happens in the coming months, one reality is inescapable. In taking politics to a different, hyper-controlling and partisan level, the Prime Minister is creating a dangerous legacy...

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