Eight hundred years ago this week, King John was forced to sign the Magna Charta. But today, Errol Mendes writes, King Stephen is trying to place himself above the document which is the foundation of parliamentary democracy:
And yet, in the actions of the Harper government we see all too many instances of powerful people trying to set themselves above the law. How else can one read an attempt by the government to hide inside a massive omnibus budget bill a law that would retroactively invalidate an investigation into unlawful conduct by the RCMP — an attempt to re-write the application of the law in the past?
Harper's contempt for parliamentary democracy continues to mushroom:
What are we to think when the prime minister’s office, the highest in the land, colludes with supposedly independent members of the Senate in an attempt to alter an independent audit by an outside accounting firm of senators’ allegedly improper expenses?
When the federal government prohibits donations to political parties by corporations and trade unions with the aim of preventing big money from stealing elections — and then spends millions of dollars in public money on thinly-disguised political ads — can that be interpreted as anything but a gesture of contempt for the law?
When a government elected on a promise of accountability and transparency works to undermine every independent officer of Parliament charged with keeping the government open and transparent (the nuclear safety commissioner, the parliamentary budget officer, the chief military police complaints commissioner, the acting privacy commissioner and, most recently, the correctional investigator), is it exercising power on the people’s behalf, or merely to trash its enemies and settle scores?
Mr. Harper laughs off these abuses as picayune obstacles that get in the way of the greater good. Mendes warns:
That’s how it starts. When a government’s abuse of power is laughed off as a “loophole”, a mere detail, we’re watching the foundations being laid for arbitrary government — for government operating outside the rule of law. The kind of government the Magna Charta was supposed to free us from.
The man who preaches the virtues of democracy around the world doesn't practise it at home.