A Difference of Opinion


This is a copy of my article for http://landmarkreport.com/ Wed Mar 23,2011

So the Canadian federal government is facing a non-confidence motion based on the budget, but we all know there is more to it than that. It’s not just a question of future spending, it’s a question of past activities. Whether this Government is in contempt of Parliament is the real issue pushing this agenda, and it is clear to this writer that they are.

Other Governments have circumvented the rules, or been less then straight forward with information, but none with the consistency of the Harper Government. And none with the arrogance that this party has shown for Parliament and the people of Canada.

The Harper Government came into existence by campaigning on ‘Accountability, transparency, and integrity’ yet while the party mouthed these words, they were circumventing the election laws regarding election spending with an in and out scheme that violated the laws for a fair and just election.

Immediately after the election, candidates who had claimed integrity were demanding taxpayer funded refunds for campaign contributions they had never received, nor spent — contributions that the federal party supplied and reclaimed to spend on additional national ads that were prohibited by law. Several of those candidate are currently facing charges, while the Prime Minister calls it a difference of opinion on interpreting the law.

One of the pillars of that same election campaign was the establishment of fixed election dates every 4 years that the Government enacted immediately. This was to prevent a political party from calling a snap election when their popularity was high, thus unfairly influencing the vote. Great idea, but within two years this law was broken when the Prime Minister called a snap election (in 2008) when his popularity was high, again claiming it was a difference of opinion on interpreting the law.

Within weeks, the new Harper Government attempted to change parts of the election act that would have handicapped all opposition parties, by removing the campaign refunds that every party except the Conservatives depend on for their existence. The opposition parties immediately offered to form a coalition government, as allowed under Canadian law, to prevent the eradication of political opposition to the Harper Government.

The Prime Minister, in a desperate move to hold on to power prorogued parliament, preventing political action against him and launched a smear campaign that completely ignored the realities of Canadian election law regarding coalition governments (another difference of opinion on interpreting laws,) calling co-operation immoral and vilifying the opposition through propaganda ads.

When this government was threatened again with something that could force them out of power, allegations of complacency regarding torture, the Prime Minister, again, prorogued, effectively silencing Parliament again while his government actively attempted to silence and defame the person who brought these concerns forward. The same government that promised protection to whistle blowers became the very thing they needed protection from.

Prime Minister is meant to mean “first among equals,” not “absolute ruler.” Yet this Prime Minister seems to feel parliament is simply a body that gets in the way of his agenda, a necessary evil that he must put up with or circumvent whenever possible. The party has certainly helped with that, by creating a play book on how to disable parliament, by coming up with new laws that effectively hobble parliamentary investigation.

For example, the Harper Government has stated that staff is not permitted to appear before parliamentary investigation committees…that the minister is fully responsible for the actions of their staff and they would appear instead. Yet, whenever a minister is found to have broken parliamentary rules, they blame a staffer (who is not allowed to appear to explain what happened) and dismiss that staff member.

The Conservative Party has now reached a contempt level that they can’t seem to differentiate between the party and the government: Handing out tax money using giant cheques with the Conservative logo, and sending inner party requests for money on Government letterhead. As well, they changed documentation to make it appear that staff (remember they are not allowed to testify) agree with the Minister’s opinions, and then lied to Parliament when confronted. Even to the point of mandating that the ‘Government of Canada’ be replaced with the ‘Harper Government’ on government documents, again calling that a difference of opinion on interpretation. One week the Prime Minister’s office claims that changing the name is business as usual, and then issuing a statement the next week that last week’s statement never existed, and there was no name change. Apparently a difference of opinion on the difference of opinion.

Has the Harper Government held Parliament in contempt? Absolutely.

Have they abandoned their ideals? Clearly

Do they deserve to continue to run this nation in this fashion? Emphatically I say NO.

Daniel O’Neail

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