Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault has launched a Charter challenge to the Harper government's destruction of gun registry data. Steve Sullivan writes:
The Federal Court had to decide whether to believe the government’s assurances that it would not destroy the data while Legault’s case proceeds. It chose discretion over faith — it signalled, effectively, that the Harper government’s solemn word of honour wasn’t going to be nearly good enough this time. Justice department lawyers tried to convince the court that there was no need for the government to produce a physical copy of the records because the Public Safety minister had made “four separate undertakings” to preserve them.
On Monday, the court told the government to deliver the goods by 10 a.m. Tuesday so they could seal the information until all court challenges are dealt with.
The Harper government does not like being reminded about its obligations:
In 2009, when the will of Parliament was to replace his government with a Liberal-NDP coalition, Harper went running to the Governor General with his tail between his legs. In 2011, when the will of Parliament held that Harper’s government should immediately turn over data on the cost of corporate tax cuts and crime bills, it refused — and was found in contempt of Parliament as a result.
What is the source of this obstinacy? The man who insists that the government bear his name:
Stephen Harper seems to have learned just one lesson, and that one early on: winning is all, while rules are for the weak. We all knew kids like that on the playground growing up — the ones who would change the rules mid-game if they were losing, or burst into tears and run home. Most people outgrow that kind of stuff. Harper turned it into a career.
He really believes that rules can be changed at his whim:
His government changed accelerated parole laws for first-time, non-violent federal offenders already in prison serving their sentences. The Supreme Court told him it was unconstitutional and out of bounds. Harper ignored them. When a Conservative MP introduced a private member’s bill to extend the time between parole hearings for violent offenders sentenced after the law’s passage, the government amended it to apply it retroactively so offenders already serving their sentences might have to wait five years for their next parole hearing — even though the law at the time they were sentenced set the period at two years.
The courts know their man. And they keep reminding him that he can't unilaterally change -- or make -- the rules.