In the late eighteenth century, the British Parliament debated a famous resolution, worded simply as follows, “That the powers of the King are increasing, and ought to be reduced”. Since the time of the Glorious Revolution a hundred years before, Britain’s Parliament was seized with a major issue: the powers of the monarch were growing with patronage, and a corrupt electoral system.
The issue before our Parliament today is remarkably similar. No Prime Minister in history has gathered so much power for himself. His cabinet and caucus cower in fear of retribution. He appoints cabinet, caucus chairs, regional caucus and hundreds of jobs throughout the public service. From the Governor General to Officers of Parliament, there are no limits or checks to his choices. Mr Harper’s reach extends across the country. Business leaders worry about raising a voice for fear of reprisal. Local media that are “out of line” get punished.
Just this week the Liberal House Leader was told by his Conservative counterpart that an Opposition Day was being shifted to a Friday because an earlier motion had compared the Harper cuts to the Ontario Harris Government’s cuts that led to the Walkerton tragedy. That “went too far” and so wings had to be clipped.
The latest budget bill is yet another example of what is wrong with Parliament. The bill changes 70 laws, guts environmental protection, kills off a multitude of agencies and raises the age of retirement to 67 from 65. Shortly after introducing the bill the government limited debate and this massive, 400-page monstrosity will head to committee for a pro forma discussion. The Senate is debating the subject matter of the bill in a range of committees but no such largesse was permitted in the House of Commons.
The only thing that can change this over time is the election of a government seriously committed to limiting the power of the Prime Minister, that agrees to share power with Parliament and the people. We’re now living in a democracy with dictatorial tendencies. Are Canadians ready to make a change?
- Bob Rae