Friday, November 19, 2010
The Jig Is Up
On Wednesday, the unelected Senate -- that chamber of "sober second thought" -- killed a climate change bill which had been passed by the elected members of the House of Commons. Its demise was made possible because the Prime Minister did precisely what he had fumed about in the past: he packed the Upper Chamber with his own partisans.
Liberal senators did not call for a vote to pass the bill. They voted to bring it to the floor for debate. The Conservatives simply killed the bill. The Prime Minister made no attempt to defend the tactic. He condemned the bill as a job killer. And he reaffirmed that his government's environmental policy was to wait until the Americans decided to act on that file.
The vote will not go down in history as a profile in courage. But, since its inception, this government has acted like a gang of school yard bullies. One does not look to them them for courage. However, the vote again illustrated that this Prime Minister and his minions are no democrats. During the previous week -- in yet another illustration of his faith in autocracy -- Mr. Harper announced that the policy of extending the Canadian mission in Afghanistan is an executive decision. Parliament, he said, could debate the decision; but it had no right to vote on it.
This is the same man who prorogued Parliament twice in the last four years. On both occasions, he was on the ropes. If votes of confidence had been allowed to proceed, his government would have fallen. This is the man who sneered when Jack Layton suggested talking with the Taliban -- the very policy which is now being pursued. This is the prime minister who dismissed as spineless the Liberal suggestion that the Canadian mission to Afghanistan be extended in order to establish the foundations of a civil society in that woe begotten corner of the globe. The Prime Minister's hypocrisy is stunning.
It is abundantly clear that Stephen Harper's word is worthless. It is the Canadian equivalent of monopoly money. Jim Prentice understood that his mission as the Minister of the Environment was to do nothing. He decided to go to where the real money is. It's beginning to look like Peter Mackay is ready to return his property to the bank and leave the game.
Consider who will be left: John Baird -- full of sound and fury -- can claim no great legislative achievements. Jim Fahlerty's record is depressingly consistent: as both a provincial and a federal Minister of Finance, he has left mountains of debt in his wake. And Tony Clement has proved that he can dance to whatever tune the prime minister chooses. He simply can't compose one of his own.
The Harper government has managed to survive. But it has run from every challenge -- until the United States has acted. And then it has chimed in with a timorous "Me, too." It has marked time. The jig is up.