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Saturday, January 16, 2010

a prime minister who thumbs his nose at Canadians ...

Just how stupid do they think we are? print this article
Lana Payne
LANA PAYNE Lana Payne RSS Feed
The Telegram

The Economist magazine is right. And Senator Fabian Manning just proved it.

The international magazine just printed two scathing articles about Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his decision and reason for proroguing Parliament.

The magazine accused Canadians ministers of not being able to walk and chew gum the same time.

It seems the matter of juggling a couple of balls is also a problem for some Canadian senators.

Let's be clear. Manning may have trouble walking and chewing gum at the same time, but most of us can manage it and a whole lot more for a lot less pay.

Manning dropped some of our money on a few worthy provincial projects last week, and repeated to the media, when asked, his boss's rationale for proroguing Parliament.

The federal minority government needs a break from democracy - oops, I mean from politics and Parliament in order to focus on the economy, get its budget together and examine how the economic action plan is doing. The reality is all of this can happen and Parliament can sit too. It always does.

The rationale is causing a lot of head-shaking across the country. After all, this is the same government that denied in November 2008 we were even in a recession - despite the fact that the rest of the world was grappling with how to deal with the greatest economic disaster since the 1930s.

Now, all of a sudden, the recession is the excuse to give democracy a smack.

In fact, the prime minister has expanded his justification for proroguing Parliament saying it was necessary in order to avoid instability.

How blatantly disingenuous can he get and just how stupid does he think Canadians are? Manning seems to also think we are a witless bunch.

But Harper's cowardly call to the Governor General to prorogue Parliament has given new life to the floundering leader of the Official Opposition. "The idea that democracy creates instability is ridiculous," said Michael Ignatieff. "What does he want? To cancel Parliament altogether so we can have the stability of a prime minister without any limits on his power? The reality is Parliament has to do its job, to hold the prime minister accountable. That doesn't create instability, that's just institutions working the way they should."

But that is the problem. Harper does not want Parliament to work. He has been thumbing his nose at the wishes of Canadians - a minority government to keep him in check - since being elected to his first minority in 2006.

And perhaps in his machiavellian brain, this is just another political stratagem to push the opposition parties into the election he says he doesn't want, but clearly does.

Or perhaps it really is about avoiding those embarrassing questions relating to the torture of prisoners handed over by the Canadian military to Afghan forces.

No Canadian government wants to be tainted with the brush of war crimes and the Harper government is fast running out of excuses about what they knew and didn't know.

The fact is, the government knew plenty. And we have obligations under international humanitarian law to ensure that prisoners of war are not being tortured or abused.

St. John's East MP Jack Harris, who is the NDP defence critic, has been critical of the government's attempts to stonewall an investigation into this issue.

Canada prides itself as being a leader in the field of international human rights and this matter could certainly end up tainting that reputation, he says.

Whatever the prime minister's reason or reasons for proroguing Parliament, a lot of Canadians are paying attention and, according to the polls, they are not too happy with the extended break.

They certainly don't buy the argument that the government needs to focus on the economy when closing down Parliament gives the government a virtual free ride, because now the prime minister doesn't have to answer any difficult questions from the opposition about its economic action plan.

In a normal and evolved democracy, we'd be able to rely on the media to assist in holding government to account. But that is tough with this prime minister, an expert at controlling media access and the message. Spin-doctoring has entered a new age.

And what of accountability and transparency? Remember, that was the Conservative mantra during the Liberal sponsorship scandal.

And while the Liberals handed the sponsorship matter over to an independent inquiry, this government has refused to do the same with the Afghan prisoner controversy.

In shutting down Parliament to avoid more questions about Afghan prisoners, The Economist called the prime minister's action a matter of "naked self-interest."

So where does that leave us? I fear it leaves up with an electorate even more cynical than before.

And it leaves us with a prime minister who continues to thumb his nose at Canadians and our democratic institutions like Parliament and the media.

But one thing is for certain, a lot of Canadians now know what proroguing means. Perhaps we can thank the prime minister for that.

Lana Payne is president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour. She can be reached by e-mail at Her column returns Jan. 30.

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My Canada includes rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Two Row Wampum Treaty

Two Row Wampum Treaty
"It is said that, each nation shall stay in their own vessels, and travel the river side by side. Further, it is said, that neither nation will try to steer the vessel of the other." This is a treaty among Indigenous Nations, and with Canada. This is the true nature of our relationships with Indigenous Nations of 'Kanata'.