Friday, January 29, 2010

The reviews are in

William Neville:
Essentially, Harper is suggesting that government gets better the less Parliament does.

That argument has been made explicit by no less an authority than one of Harper's senior pit bulls, Jason Kenney, who last week commented, "As a minister, I often get more done when the House is not in session. That's not to say Parliament is unimportant, but from a ministerial point of view, I think any minister in any government will tell you that's probably generally the case."

Could the message be any clearer? Presumably with no Parliament at all, the Conservatives could do one hell of a job.

This is an extraordinarily pernicious doctrine. In fact, to call it a doctrine is to dignify it: It is pernicious nonsense. From a party that has made a fetish of wanting less government and more accountability, this confounds the convictions they have always professed to have. The truth, obviously, is that they love power and unchecked power especially. Little wonder that poll after poll suggests that a large majority of Canadians want Parliament sitting because, for all its imperfections, it is the only way in which a government -- this government -- can be held accountable on a day-to-day basis.
Despite his frequently made claims to being an economist, Harper has always lived on the avails of politics and is an archetypal professional politician who has had no significant career outside politics and, within which has been narrowly focused on ideology, strategy and tactics. Coming, as he does, from the one-party state of Alberta he has never shown any sensitivity to nor understanding of a parliamentary system whose functioning depends on recognizing the legitimacy of opposition, the existence of constitutional conventions and limits, or that there are lines that governments may not cross.

He demonstrated this ignorance a year ago in precipitating a crisis that almost brought him down, and he is demonstrating it again now over prorogation. He combines the stubbornness of the control freak with the ignorance of the know-it-all. Harper, in a sense that his sternest critics may never have imagined, is a dangerous man.

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