Monday, March 22, 2010

On opened doors

The Hill Times has the latest roundup on the opposition's strong stand on parliamentary supremacy. And there shouldn't be much doubt that it should be willing to push ahead in requiring the Harper government to produce the documents already ordered on that front.

But without wanting for a second to back down on the detainee issue, I have to wonder whether it's worth also setting up similar questions on other issues - both as a means of forcing greater transparency generally, and to set up another track of document questions which don't carry any associated "national security" excuse.

For example...

To my recollection the Cons still haven't released publicly any documentation as to the anticipated or actual job numbers surrounding their stimulus plan - which must beyond doubt exist somewhere. And it's no secret that they've deliberately gummed up the access to information channels which would normally allow the public and the opposition to hold them to account.

So might now be the ideal time for the opposition parties to team up to order, say, the production of all documents related to the anticipated and actual job numbers tied to the Cons' stimulus?

One possible outcome would be for the Cons to turn over the documents without too much of a fuss - resulting in far more accountability for the Cons' actions than they're currently facing in a system where they're controlling who sees what. Applying that principle in different settings, the opposition would have the ability to start generally shedding light on the areas of government hidden by the Cons. And we might even reach the point where the Cons would decide it's easier to take a less aggressive stance on information suppression generally if they come to the realization that the truth will come out either way.

Alternatively and perhaps more likely, Harper could once again throw a tantrum and whine that if the opposition doesn't like it, they should vote down the government. But for the Cons, that would carry all the negatives of the Afghan document showdown (reinforcing the narratives of a petulant government which refuses to be held accountable) without the supposed mitigating factors related to national security. And indeed the Cons' complaints that the opposition is failing to focus on the economy - however misplaced to begin with - will look ridiculous if the Cons are at the same time withholding the information required to actually evaluate their actions.

Of course, the opposition's public focus should be on the substance of the issues raised rather than the process. But from a strategic standpoint, now would seem to be an ideal time to search out opportunities to demand documents being kept hidden by the Cons and fundamentally change the balance of power that's seen Harper keep a chokehold on Parliament ever since he took office.

Update: Janyce McGregor posted just last week on the government's job numbers. But while they nicely show that the Cons have stuck to a consistent party line, they're pretty much completely lacking in any supporting evidence - making the area all the more ripe for exploration.

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