Dr. Dawg

Holding my nose...

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…and defending Mark Warawa, Member of Parliament. He’s got a point, and anyone who can put his hobbyhorse issue in parentheses for a moment and look at the bigger picture would be well advised to do so.

Those who insist on making abortion the only concern here might try to imagine a Canada in which abortion laws resemble those just passed by some seedy old white guys in North Dakota. A brave advocate for women’s rights, with the blessing of her constituents, wants to launch a private member’s bill that would make abortion safe and legal. She has the arguments ready—backstreet casualties, ruined lives, traumatic trips abroad, unwanted children.

But she doesn’t get to present her bill. It’s ruled “non-votable” by a vetting committee, including members of her own party, on the flagrantly spurious grounds that abortion is a health matter and therefore falls under provincial jurisdiction. Bloody but unbowed, our heroine decides to rise in the House to make a member’s statement on the issue, a longstanding privilege held by Members of Parliament.

No dice. Her party simply won’t permit it.

Need I remind some folks on the progressive end of things that we have been fighting the so-called democratic deficit for years? That the concentration of power in the Prime Minister’s Office, begun under Trudeau, consolidated further by Jean Chr├ętien, and brought to its logical conclusion by the ruthless Stephen Harper, is a profound violation of both democracy and Westminster traditions? That Members of Parliament are not part of a “team” run by a coach and accompanied by cheerleaders, but individuals selected, however imperfect the process may be, by voters—and who are or should be responsible first and foremost to them, not to a party, not to a clique, not to a tyrannical Prime Minister and his enforcers?

This is the country of prorogation, where the people’s representatives can be sent packing anytime by Prime Ministerial fiat. Where the “upper house” is stacked with the Prime Minister’s cronies, bagpersons and trained seals—the louche, the lame, the lowbrowed. A regime that operates in the dark, making “responsible government” a thing of the past. One of high-living, unaccountable Cabinet ministers, Parliamentary watchdogs stymied or sacked, a Parliamentary process gutted by omnibus bills and a hyper-partisan Speaker.

Are all of these things OK when it’s our folks in power? Is our passionate concern for democracy really just a facade erected to advance our own political agenda? Or is it what it should be—a principled, radical critique of the anti-democratic rot that the Liberals introduced and that the Conservatives perfected?

By all means, let’s be gleeful that cracks are appearing in the monolith, that assorted biters are getting bit, chickens are coming home to roost and what went around has now come around. It’s fine stuff indeed, and one dreams of being a fly on the wall in Coach Harper’s office about now. But we should be cautious about applauding the very misuses of power that we have been decrying just because that power happens to be exercised in our favour for once, for whatever reason.

“The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house,” declared feminist Audrey Lorde. Yup.

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on March 27, 2013 10:40 AM.

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