01 June 2012

Abuse of Parliament

Andrew Coyne is a generally conservative commentator, but he has been highly critical of Stephen Harper's seeming contempt for Parliament. Here's his most recent broadside: Degradation of Parliament is complete.
There was a time, after all, when even a prime minister had to mind his backbench - or at any rate, when the caucus had not yet been reduced to a mere appendage of the government. We think of them now as more or less the same thing, but they are not, in principle, and did not use to be in practice. Until the Second World War, before an MP could take up an appointment to cabinet - I mean an MP of the governing party - he had to resign his seat and run in a byelection. The reason? His role had changed. He was no longer a watchdog on the government, as MPs of whatever party are supposed to be, but had become a member of it. As such, he was obliged to seek the permission of his electors - of his bosses, you might say. That is how people thought.

Compare to today, when MPs, at least on the government side, have long ceased to perform any such watchdog role - when those few, indeed, who have not been made a part of the government in some capacity have been suborned into behaving as if they were, handing out cheques and officiating at ribbon-cutting ceremonies just like real ministers of the Crown.

As for the current government's omnibus budget bill, C-38, Coyne is right. Such bills are mischievous, as American experience has demonstrated time and again. Perhaps we need an old-fashioned backbench revolt for a change.

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