Today Michael Harris, a veteran journalist, tracks the rapid disappearance of Canadian democracy under the Harper regime.
Only the courts can save us, Harris argues—a rather thin, non-elected reed to shelter us from a vast barrage of deceit, thuggishness and (Godwin be damned) outright Gleichschaltung, from the hustings to Parliament to the RCMP to the “indentured media” (love that phrase) to that last bastion of hard-won independence, the federal public service.
The details of the Conservative ugliness and thuggery that went on in Borys Wrzesnewskyj’s riding of Etobicoke Centre in 2008 and again in 2011 is essential source material for future paleohistorians of Canadian democracy.
“We are all Borys Wrzesnewskyj now,” says Harris, and that pretty well nails it. At the Parliamentary level, the recent refusal of the Clerk of the Privy Council to provide vital information to Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page marks the beginning of the end of the hard-won independence of the federal public service from direct political interference.
(Well, maybe not. This was predated by the disgraceful MacKay episode, and no doubt other examples of flagrantly improper conduct will be unearthed by those paleohistorians.)
At this point, the Opposition, Lord love ‘em, might just as well pack their bags and go home. Harper has the Speaker in his mitt as well, to the point that MPs (strictly enjoined under Parliamentary rules from open criticism) are becoming increasingly angry at Andrew Scheer’s nakedly partisan performance in the Chair.
The last vestiges of responsible government are now gone. With omnibus bills, time allocation and the utter unaccountability of Ministers of the Crown the Opposition is rendered inert. Even its time-honoured right to ask questions and receive answers from the government of the day has now vanished down the memory-hole, helped on by Speaker Scheer.
Harper is effectively ruling by decree at the moment. And he has a small army of thugs on the ground messing with our right to free and fair elections.
Michael Harris asks just about all of the right questions. But will they be answered? I confess considerable pessimism on that score.
Elections Canada is sitting on a wealth of material about the conduct of last year’s elections in over 200 ridings that it has neither the resources or, possibly, the will, to investigate. Its recent go at Dean Del Mastro was cheerful news, but was dampened somewhat by the fact that Del Mastro’s alleged misdeeds took place during the 2008 election—four years ago. The tortoise just isn’t winning the race here.
The courts, as well, do not inevitably rule on the side of democracy, and new judges are being appointed by the PMO all the time.
What does this all mean? We’re in deep trouble in this beloved country of ours. Real journos—like Michael Harris, Lawrence Martin, Ottawa Citizen reporters Maher and McGregor, Dan Gardner, Kady O’Malley, Andrew Coyne, and even Jeffrey Simpson—are in effect cataloguing the demise of what was once an orderly if annoyingly fustian democratic system. But they’re voices in the wilderness of journamalistic groupthink.
July 1 will be here in less than two weeks. Happy Canada Day, everyone.