A blog to give a voice to our concern about the continued erosion of our democratic processes not only within the House of Commons and within our electoral system but also throughout our society. Here you will find articles about the current problems within our parliamentary democracy, about actions both good and bad by our elected representatives, about possible solutions, opinions and debate about the state of democracy in Canada, and about our roles/responsibilities as democratic citizens. We invite your thoughtful and polite comments upon our posts and ask those who wish to post longer articles or share ideas on this subject to submit them for inclusion as a guest post.
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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Delay, Obstruct & Spin

This blog focuses upon our democracy so we will not go back to the start of this convoluted story but review it from the point where the harper regime started ignoring, and doing everything it could to avoid, the wish of the majority of parliamentarians way back in early December 2009

On Dec10 2009 The Star said:-
Under a motion approved on Thursday night, opposition parties won release of documents in their uncensored form, including:
All documents mentioned by diplomat Richard Colvin, right, in a sworn affidavit in October and all documents prepared by the foreign affairs department in response to Colvin.
All memos sent to the minister of foreign affairs concerning detainees from Dec. 18, 2005 to the present.
All documents related to a Federal Court case on detainee-treatment being pursued by Amnesty International and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association.
All documents produced to the Military Police Complaints Commission in its Afghanistan hearings and all annual human rights reports by Foreign Affairs on Afghanistan. 
Then the real ducking and weaving started........
It took till Late February before any real movement took place on this file, Harper having prorogued parliament in the meanwhile, and early in March I wondered :-

Will the throne speech bring cooperation or confrontation, will the newest motion to have the Harper regime produce the requested documents to the parliamentary committee (or be charged with contempt ) be tabled as is and adopted, 
Eventually on April 28th we came to this:-
In a momentous ruling that forcefully affirms Parliament’s ancient right and duty to hold the Prime Minister and cabinet to account on the public’s behalf, Speaker Peter Milliken has found that the government violated the privileges of the House of Commons by refusing to hand over uncensored documents that may shed light on the Afghan detainee question. The government was wrong to claim, on national security grounds, that the Commons lacked the authority to demand the files, he ruled.
Milliken wisely gave Harper two weeks to work out a political resolution that will give MPs access to the files without jeopardizing national security or international relations. The government signaled it is willing to consider that approach.
After much maneuvering trying to find loopholes to continue withhold documents from our parliamentarians a last minute “deal in principal” was reached on May 14th and I wrote this:-

A Victory for Democracy ….. or maybe not?

Many of the recent headlines have been proclaiming a win for democracy including some Liberal blogs and even the Liberal Party web site after an all-party deal was reached on the Afghan detainee files , I am not so sure about that.
As a number of observers have noted this may well be but a small step forward in an ongoing war, Poggie sums it up quite well like this :- A deal "in principle" is not a final deal .........
......"Panel of Arbiters" will make its own "final and unreviewable" determination as to what will actually be released”a . This tentative agreement would seem to leave much room for yet more “maneuvering” and takes the final say about what will or will not be released out of the hands of the parliamentary committee......
Members of Parliament will be able to look at them both in their redacted and unredacted form,” Nicholson said, adding the parties agreed to a May 31 start.......

Then just a week later I said its Not worth the paper its written on!
Anything agreed to by the Conservative regime that is!
The Star reported just last week that the agreement in principal regarding the Afganistan Documents included this:-
Committee members will have access to government officials from appropriate departments to provide briefings and contextual information and reasons for protecting information.”
The Globe and Mail reports today that :- “The Conservative cabinet has decided to ban its political staffers from appearing as witnesses before committees................”
Now on June16th a “Final Deal” is reached (with NDP dissenting & some observers saying that the Harperites still have too much wiggle room) just days before the summer recess. Will the yet to be chosen committee sit over the summer, will the existing redacted documents be placed before the "Panel of Arbiters" (who have yet to be named) for consideration before parliament resumes, will every document requested result in a long drawn out struggle before being seen? Will all the militarily documents being “processed” in Kandahar be repatriated in a timely manner and how many will get “lost” in transit? Will it all be further “delayed” with a election call, a proroguing or a vote of non confidence upon parliament resuming in the fall? There is altogether to much room for further delays, obstruction and spin to feel optimistic about anyone being held accountable on this file in the foreseeable future.

This whole saga is far from done but I think it is safe to predict three things. 1) The harper regimen has something VERY damaging to hide, 2) We will not get to the bottom of this and learn the truth for several years - if ever, and 3) Our parliamentary democracy will never be the same again.
When a governing party goes through this much trouble to avoid the wishes of our elected representatives and is not found in contempt of parliament then I for one can only hope that a more democratic friendly regime (yes, a coalition would be good) comes to power. I am not holding my breath on that happening any time soon either!
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1 comment:

thwap said...

It's a very depressing way to end what could have been a show-down of principles.