Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Questions are a burden to others, answers are a burden to oneself

For years, we've known that Stephen Harper is a control freak who insists that every utterance of everyone speaking for the government be vetted through the PMO, but methinks he has now gone a bit too far
 First, it was gagging backbenchers so that the ignorant, knuckledragging rednecks let's be kind and say the "less sophisticated, less media-savy" among his Reform Alliance colleagues didn't start ranting about racial minorities and commies under the bed "get off message" and embarass  the "New Government of Canada." Then, after he realized he a had a few of these loose cannons in the Cabinet, ministers were told to zip it, that anything that had to be said would be said by the PMO. After all the press were hostile and prone to asking "gotcha" questions and-- let's face it-- your average Parliament Hill journalist engaging a Reform-Tory Cabinet Minister in a battle of wits is pretty much attacking an unarmed target.
Having shut out the press to the degree possible, Harper then decided that even Parliamentary committees should be served a nice big mug of STFU, and the party put out a manual for Conservative members that explained how to block committee business, even completely shut things down by being obstructionist arseholes if things weren't going their way. When that didn't work well enough to keep 
a committee from demanding information about the way Afghan detainees were being dealt with and whether Canadian troops could face accusations of war crimes for the negligent way their superiors had decided to organize things, Harper shut down Parliament and hoped the whole thing would blow over.
It didn't.
Next he tried the classic American conservative argument -- that everything was a matter of national security and  tippy-top secret to protect our wonderful troops and if you wanted to violate that sacred trust and find out what the elected government had ordered the troops to do on the nation's behalf,  well clearly you were a troop-hating pinko bastard who hated freedom -- Wolverines!!!
Then the Speaker of the House stuck a pin in that particular trial balloon.
Now, Harper has decided that ministerial aides and other senior staff answer to no one but the PMO and the Minister and couldn't possibly be called upon to answer questions by Parliamentary committees. The spin he is trying to put on this is both hilarious and ironically true. The justification for this notion that just because they draw a government salary, civil servants shouldn't ever have to explain their actions to Parliament is that the Ministers are ultimately responsible for what is done in their ministry. This is true -- and just you wait and see how responsible some of these schmucks are going to be held if their underlings are ever made to testify under oath about the crap that goes on at the behest of their bosses.

So if Dmitiri Soudas is able enough to command a handsome taxpayer-funded salary as the director of communications for the Prime Minister of Canada, he can damn well answer a few questions about his job from the House of Commons Ethics Committee. Parliament is supreme and if it summons him, he better show up, otherwise he will be guilty of Contempt of Parliament. And if Michael Ignatieff , Gilles Duceppe and Jack Layton won't  go to the mat on this, then they won't go to the mat on anything and we might just as well let Harper appoint himself dictator-for-life and be done with it.

Also, what Dave said -- that goes double for me.

crossposted from the Woodshed

No comments: