So much for Parliamentary Reform. Under the leadership of Stephen Harper, Parliament now takes a step into the past and will see Harper appoint the chairs of Parliamentary committees in direct contradiction to reforms introduced last year.
Harper's appointment of Maurice Vellacott as chair of the aboriginal affairs committee is expected to be confirmed, not by a secret ballot, but by a Harper fiat sometime next week. As pointed out by Stage Left and Canadian Cynic this constitutes more than a broken promise on the part of Harper. It is perhaps the worst possible choice as chair for that committee.
But, there's more.
Harper violently opposed prime ministerial appointments of committee chairs in 2002. In fact, he wanted deeper reform. This excerpt from Hansard details the position Harper took and the demand for more parliamentary reform.
In fact, it was Paul Martin who led the charge for parliamentary reform and steered changes through House procedures which gave MPs more power. Harper was all in favour then. It would be strange that Harper the reformer would suddenly dispense with procedures which he so adamantly demanded in favour of direct control if it weren't for two things: He is less interested in the democratic process than he is in having power; and, he is an unrestrained control freak.
That Harper is nominating committee chairs at all flies in the face of the reformed House Standing Order 106, a change in procedure that he not only supported, but demanded.
And there's even more.
Vellacott is a raving wingnut. He regularly issues anti-abortion press releases and has a history of taking issue against aboriginals. His latest press release, accepting the appointment, comes in advance of any announcement from Harper's office and clearly caught out the PMO.
Mr. Harper's spokeswoman, Carolyn Stewart Olsen, said other Conservative MPs are free to trigger a vote by putting their names forward to challenge the government's recommendation.When pigs fly.
"I don't believe there's any kind of restriction at all. If someone else on the committee wanted to stand for chair, they probably could stand for chair and then the vote would be a secret-ballot vote," she said. "I don't believe there would be any objection from the [Prime Minister's] office, as long as they were qualified to chair a committee."
Vellacott openly campaigned for this position. In January he produced an open letter to Harper asking for a role as a committee chair or vice-chair.
In his two-page letter, Vellacott says he'd prefer to be appointed either a vice-chair or chair of the human resources, aboriginal affairs, foreign affairs or health committees.And he did not want a cabinet post. Why? Well it would get in the way of his mouth, wouldn't it.
He also says he's concerned that if he were appointed to a senior cabinet role, he would be prevented from speaking his mind on certain issues, such as "ethnic outreach, marriage, family and life."In other words, he doesn't want anything standing in the way of his ability to force-feed us his personal views and the social conservative agenda, the likes of which most Canadians find distasteful.
"Because I'm an avowed fiscal conservative, but also a social conservative ... I don't know to what extent a more senior role would tie my hands on certain foundational issues for our country," Vellacott writes.
Welcome to the 20th Century and a new democratic deficit, courtesy of that great reformer, Stephen Harper. The hidden agenda is unfolding right on schedule.