Harper’s Shame: For the first time in the history of the Canadian confederacy, and in the history of the entire commonwealth, a Prime Minister has been found in contempt of parliament. This means the Stephen Harper government has abused the parliamentary privilege, which is the partial legal immunity we give to our legislators to help them do their jobs. Why does this matter? It basically means that the government (meaning the elected ruling party) has shown a flagrant lack of consideration for the right of the Canadian people, via their elected representatives, to government transparency.
“Privilege” in this context denotes the legal exemption from some duty, burden, attendance or liability to which others are subject. It has long been accepted that in order to perform their functions, legislative bodies require certain privileges relating to the conduct of their business. It has also long been accepted that these privileges must be held absolutely and constitutionally if they are to be effective; the legislative branch of our government must enjoy a certain autonomy which even the Crown and the courts cannot touch.
-Supreme Court of Canada ruling (1993), retrieved from Wikipedia
An earlier post, regarding not voting, was encouraged largely by misgivings about the way in which the Harper government operated. Remember, there is a strong philosophical argument for consent to government even if you did not vote for the winning candidates or party. Playing the game implies that you agree with the rules.
The exact reason (Globe and Mail article from Monday) Harper’s government was found in contempt was for not releasing information on a crime bill, even when prompted by other MP’s. My understanding is that if a normal citizen were in possession of this information and did not divulge it in the expected manner they could possibly be charged with offences under the Access to Information Act, Financial Administration Act, or the Department of Justice Act. Parliamentary privilege doesn’t include exemption from criminal prosecution. I’m not familiar enough with criminal law to really say any more, but I don’t expect any the specter of criminal charges to be raised in light of this contempt finding. The same may not be true if Bev Oda is found in contempt of Parliament.
So why is the guy who ranted about not voting throwing in chips on the political game at this point? Because the beginning of an election is exactly the time to start gathering enough information to decide if you think voting is worthwhile or not. This decision should not be made lightly. If you do decide not to vote it should be every intent of putting a great deal of effort into making your political views heard in other ways. Blog, rant on facebook, or lambaste your local candidates with the reasons you think they are full of crap. In other words, if you don’t want your agency felt in the conventional way, become a shit-disturber instead. Rock the boat, or more fittingly capsize the canoe (this is Canada after all). Whatever you do don’t let yourself get caught up in anomie or disinterest. These are trying times with the specters of unrest, both political and economic, continually on the horizon. If you don’t pay attention nobody else is going to do it for you.
Don’t let this election be decided by retirees, we’ll be around to mop up the mess long after they’re gone.
Social media could decide this election. Be the ones making the decisions.
Thousands of young people, mostly Muslims, are dying right now for the right to have what we may be letting slip through our fingers.