Today is January 23rd, 2010. As Montreal Simon pointed out, that's the fourth anniversary of stephen harper's coming to power! I'll be attending the anti-prorogation rally in Hamilton's Gore Park between 1-4 pm today.
I'll be going because while I believe that our political system is debased, it is not totally debased. I believe that if we let this system die it will mean that things will get worse for ordinary people (like me and the people I love) not better. Our system has within it the means to hold stephen harper accountable for his criminal behaviour in Afghanistan. harper has engaged in an unprecedented level of political brinkmanship in order to escape from his own self-created crises. He is testing the limits of executive power and he is stretching those limits to dangerous levels.
As was clearly the case with the Harris government in Ontario in the mid-1990s, our archaic, decrepit first-past-the-post electoral system can give ideologues with minority support, massive majorities with which they can ram through inhuman, idiotic legislation with no restraints. We elect temporary dictatorships in our system when we have majority governments.
But when the electorate is so divided, when the mood of the country is so contentious, and no one party can even approach the levels of support needed for a majority government, then we get minority governments and these governments are expected to exhibit the degree of maturity necessary to gain the agreement of at least one other political party to pass its legislation. Should a minority government attempt to impose the political will of its own narrow constituency, without regard for the opinions of anyone else among the electorate, they will be defeated, their hold on power will be suspended and perhaps lost, as the voters go to the polls again, hopefully to elect a government that can demonstrate more maturity, self-restraint and regard for the opinions of others.
harper's 2008 prorogation represents the loss of that power of parliament and the people of Canada. Conceivably now, whenever a minority government finds itself in trouble, it can go to the Crown and ask for an escape-hatch from its problems. In our system, the Governor-General, representing the Crown in a constitutional monarchy, is supposed to act on the "advice" of the prime minister (an elected Member of Parliament, enjoying the confidence of the largest single bloc of the people's representatives). What harper did in 2008 was to exploit this attempt to graft democracy upon the carcass of monarchy, which has made the technical head-of-state compelled to accept the "advice" of the leader of elected representatives, in order to enjoy the anti-democratic power of the Crown to thwart a more real democracy. Some worry that the Governor-General established a dangerous precedent with this action, but I believe that since there are no rules at this level of action, there s also no rule that precedents must be respected. The Governor-General acted in one way in 2008 and can act another way in the future.
To add nausea to his cynical abuse of power, harper also stridently labelled the proposed Liberal-NDP coalition against him as a "coup." In defining standard parliamentary practices as illegitimate, harper demonstrated contempt for the system of government he claims the authority to lead. More than this, in calling a proposed coalition a "coup" and going so far as to condemn the coalition as dependent upon "socialists and separatists" harper added brazen, shameless hypocrisy to his list of crimes. harper himself had proposed a "coup" to the Governor-General, supported by "socialists and separatists" when he was trying to defeat a Liberal minority government.
Having extricated himself from a defeat brought on by his own arrogance and stupidity, harper proceeded to behave as if he had learned nothing from the experience. Strike that. He had learned that he could again stretch the accepted bounds of executive power should he find himself in political trouble again. harper accepted the demands of the saner parties for some sort of stimulus package to mitigate the major recession, and used it primarily as a means to reward constituencies that had elected harpercon MPs.
Then, the drip-drip-drip of the scandal of war crimes in Afghanistan began to wear away at harper's invulnerability. It was the Liberal Party of Canada that in 2001 first got us embroiled in the cauldron of violence in Afghanistan. It was the Liberal Party of Canada that demonstrated the deep historical ignorance (or wilful disregard for the likely human consequences) by handing over prisoners to the torturers and murderers in the US military until the 2004 Abu Ghraib scandal (and subsequent revelations of torture and death at the Bagram facility in Afghanistan) made that arrangement politically unpalatable. Inexplicably trusting the oafish Chief of Defence Staff Rick Hillier to craft a prisoner-transfer agreement with the barbaric Afghan government (comprised of former enforcers of the Soviet-client state in Afghanistan, and their former enemies, the Mujaheddin "warlords" who had torn the country apart following the Soviet's retreat to the extent that the insane, fanatical Taliban were welcomed by many for bringing peace and clamping down on corruption), the Liberals stupidly ratified a dangerously shoddy agreement that failed utterly to allow Canada to meet its obligations under international law to ensure that people we captured and turned over to the Afghan government were not abused. That was in 2005.
In January, 2006, the harpercons won power in a minority government. Craven harpercon apologists such as the Patrick "Asshole" Ross are lamely trying to argue that the harpercons inherited a Liberal-created mess (true) and that they then worked honestly (and manfully) to right the wrongs of their war criminal predecessors. In reality, the harpercons inherited a Liberal mess and proceeded to engage in even more enthusiastic disregard for international law and human rights than the Liberals.
In May, 2006 diplomat Richard Colvin arrived in Afghanistan. He found that Canada was rounding up and handing over to the Afghan NDS in far larger numbers than British and Dutch NATO allies, that we kept sloppy records, that we didn't monitor what happened to our prisoners, that we were dilatory in informing the ICRC about them, and by 2007 it was evident that we'd simply lost contact with 50 of the 200 prisoners we'd taken. Furthermore, the NDS (led by the former chief torturer for the Soviet regime) began to complain about the low-level of intelligence possessed by the people we'd handed over (a sign that they were most likely completely innocent farmers or other innocent bystanders).
In response to Colvin's warnings, scum like Patrick "Asshole" Ross bleat stupid nonsense about Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters being "trained" to make accusations of torture against their holders even where none had occurred. So, according to "Asshole" dimwit fuck-heads like stephen harper, Gordon O'Connor, Peter MacKay (ad nauseum) are completely justified in disregarding the warnings of someone like Richard Colvin. Of course, the FACT that the USA tortures, that the Afghan NDS is led by the Soviet's chief-torturer, that scores of informed groups were warning about human rights abuses in Afghanistan, it would only stand to reason that a serious government of non-shitheads would take Colvin's warnings and investigate them.
That would be a government that doesn't hang on every stupid word belched out by uber-idiot Rick Hillier, who was bitching and whining in 2007 how concerns about human rights and Canada upholding its obligations under international law were upsetting "the troops" who wanted Canadians to forget that the Afghan government is a corrupt, torturing monstrosity, and think happy thoughts about schools and candy and soccer-fields.
The harpercon government issued blanket denials of any and all allegations of abuses, lying to parliament that the Red Cross was keeping Ottawa up-to-date on the conditions of our prisoners, blocking the Military Police Complaints Commission from investigating abuse allegations, including reports from the CF themselves of Afghan police and military raping children, until a series of independent reports, including from the Globe & Mail, detailing widespread abuses FORCED the harpercons to announce in 2009 that they'd signed a new "local" agreement with the provincial government in Kandahar, which supposedly solved all of these problems although the harpercons contradict themselves repeatedly about what the agreement says.
As a result of the inability of the MPCC to get evidence and testimony due to harpercon obstruction, the issue is transferred to the Special Committee on Afghanistan of the House of Commons, which the dirty, gutless fuck harper proceeds to disregard. The innocent and blameless (according to "Asshole") harper then defies Parliament itself, refusing to turn evidence over to the Special Committee citing "national security."
Having initiated a new political-constitutional crisis, harper responded to his falling poll numbers by deciding to ask for yet another prorogation, in order to foil investigation into his possible complicity in war crimes.
Avoiding the demand of parliament for evidence on the executive's behaviour in wartime is NOT what the prime minister's right to prorogue is to be used for. More disgustingly, harper this time merely phoned in his demand to the Governor-General. The Governor-General, who is supposed to consult widely about what to do, what is in the best interests of the country, instead limply agreed to harper's unconventional demands.
Again, Patrick "Asshole" Ross spews the opinion that harper is under no obligation to walk into traffic at the oppositions' insistence. Actually, "Asshole" he is. The prime minister does not have the right to conduct a war with absolutely no oversight and no accountability. That's a big part of what this is all about. And the prime minister does not have the right to commit war crimes with impunity. The prime minister DOES NOT HAVE THE RIGHT TO COVER UP EVIDENCE OF WAR CRIMES. That's what this is about. Imbeciles like "Asshole" might believe that a government can use all the powers at its disposal to cover up war crimes, but they don't.
This prorogation is an attempt by stephen harper to get away with using Canadian taxpayers' money to engage in war crimes to prop-up a corrupt, dictatorial, incompetent, unelected puppet-government. That is not Canada. That is not the country we want.