Thursday, May 31, 2012

David Wilks and Dr. Faustus

When David Wilks backed down last week -- declaring that, despite his previous comments, he supported the Harper government's Omnibus Budget Bill -- Canadians got an inside look at how raw power is exercised in Stephen Harper's Ottawa. Andrew Coyne writes:

Two things are illustrated by this episode. One, that amid the general decline of Parliament, the most degrading state of all is that into which MPs of the governing party have fallen. There was a time, after all, when even a prime minister had to mind his back bench — 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 used 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.

 Secondly, Coyne tells us:

Wilks’s trip to the woodshed should teach us is that the abuse of power embodied in the omnibus bill did not begin with it, nor will it end there. In a parliament worthy of the name, aware of its ancient rights and zealous against their encroachment, such a bill could never pass. The present abuse of power, that is, was only made possible by previous abuses: by the arrogation of powers in the Prime Minister’s Office that are rightfully Parliament’s, the long process of erosion by which the legislature was effectively subjugated by the executive, if not subsumed within it.

The truth is we no longer have responsible government in Canada. That is, the people we elect are no longer responsible to us, the people who put them there. That was apparent from the day Stephen Harper took office. David Emerson was elected as a Liberal, then immediately joined the Harper cabinet as a Conservative.

The sad saga of David Wilks reminds us of what people will do to be close to power. Like Doctor Faustus, they will sell their souls.


Anonymous said...

Though I admire Wilks for his frank words, now that he has been emasculated anew, he does have a choice.

Resign as a CON MP and sit as an independent.

He'd at least have a couple of years of pseudo-fame vs. another 3 years of mushroom club anonymity (reminding us of the re-programming in the book 1984),

Fat chance.... but David, please go for it.

Owen Gray said...

Good advice, Anon. Now is the time for Wilks -- like Garth Turner before him -- to show some courage.

Lorne said...

Hi Owen,

As a retired English teacher, I can't help but think of the play Macbeth when I ponder the democratic decline of our country.

When he detects an unwillingness on the part of Malcolm to return to Scotland to purge the country of the great evil being perpetrated by Macbeth, Macduff lets out a soulful cry:

Bleed, bleed, poor country!
Great tyranny, lay thou thy basis sure,
For goodness dare not check thee;

As I'm sure many bloggers do, I feel a real sense of urgency approaching desperation regarding what Harper Inc. is doing to Canada, surreptitiously but in plan sight, if you catch my drift.

However, it seems that despite the kind of analysis provided by Coyne and many others, and as observed in a Lawrence Martin piece the other day in The Globe, the undeniable pattern of the government seems not to move people.

What are we to do to convey a sense of urgency to people who, quite understandablly, are too busy working, making ends meet and raising families to get involved in raising their political awareness?

Owen Gray said...

Unfortunately, Lorne, MacDuff only confronted Macbeth after he had paid a terrible price -- "All my pretty chickens and their dam in one fell swoop?"

We may, indeed, have to pay a terrible price for Harper's ascendency. The longer he reigns the worse things get. We can only hope that Canadians will rise and march toward Dunsinane.

thwap said...

I honestly don't see why any MP would stomach such craven subservience.

Owen Gray said...

It's hard to understand, thwap, why Wilks would bow so meekly.

Consider the price he has paid.