After much prodding by other bloggers, I set this up for my own writings. The name is in honour of the two women that mentored me throughout my life on politics and intelligence issues, as well as being wonderful family members, now alas deceased. I hope to live up to their standards at this site.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Harper is *NOT* above the rules of ethics/conduct as established by Parliament and he *MUST* accept that

I love the argument I am hearing John Williams make on Politics right now. That Shapiro is incompetent for initiating this investigation and Harper can ignore his investigation because Harper broke no rules. In other words he is presupposing Harper's innocence before any investigation, because to determine that no rules have been broken as the reason not to have any investigation is circular reasoning. As well, Harper asked Shapiro in January 2006 to investigate the Income Trust scandal of the Liberals, so he certainly had the opinion then that Shapiro was credible enough to investigate other Liberals but is too partisan to investigate a Conservative because he is a Liberal appointee? That does not pass the basic logic test either. This idea that Harper broke no rules is not for the CPC to determine, especially regarding the ethics rules of Parliament. It is the determination of Parliament that the Ethics Commissioner is the final authority on whether such rules have been broken and not MPs or even the PM. That was the whole point of making him an Officer of Parliament a few years ago instead of just accountable to the PM of the day. When MPs file complaints for investigation it is the responsibility of the Ethics Commissioner to first determine whether any basis for an investigation exists if so to then start a preliminary investigation, and if that finds sufficient evidence to have a full investigation and to issue a report. Three MPs filed complaints regarding the Emerson affair. Incidentally, I have seen the CPC defence of why no investigation of Stronach's crossing, what I have not seen is any evidence that any MP filed any complaints about that crossing with the Ethics Commissioner in the first place. I remember John Reynolds complaining to a Law Society on Peterson, but I do not recall any MPs complaining to the Ethics Commissioner. Therefore if no complaint was filed then trying to compare the responses to Stronach by Shapiro versus this incident with Emerson is a false comparison right from the start and is a bogus defence to boot. Incidentally, I have seen this complaint that Shapiro refused to investigate Valeri because it was between Sessions and he had no authority, but I have yet to see the actual quote from Shapiro stating this. After all the last Session ended and the election campaign started immediately afterwards. If he refused to start an investigation during an election campaign because it could be seen as improper influencing the election results that makes sense and also means that once the election ended then he could investigate again. I would love to see the exact wording of this so if anyone reading this post can provide such I would greatly appreciate it since to date this is the only defence I have seen that might actually have any merit to it.

Remember, the Auditor General is also a "Liberal appointee", responsible to Parliament and not just a given PM, is appointed much the same way as the Ethics Commissioner is and is an Officer of Parliament just as the Ethics Commissioner is. Imagine the uproar from all sides if last year that would have occurred if Martin chose to ignore the AG 's investigations. There is no real difference here. Both are Officers of Parliament, both are appointed by PMs, and both are supposed to be independent of the PMO/government. One can complain about Shapiro's actions to date in this office, but the reality is he *IS* in that office at this time, he *IS* bound to follow the requirements of that office, and all MPs including the PM *ARE* bound/required to cooperate with his office when an investigation is launched. Yet Harper has refused to do his duty in this regard twice now out of two investigations involving him by the Ethics Commissioner, last year into the Grewal fraud of which he was up to his neck in, and now the Emerson crossing as a first act of Harper's as PM. Yet he has determined he is above investigation. Wasn't the biggest objection to the Liberals by Conservatives the inability of Liberals especially leadership level Liberals that they saw themselves as above the laws that governed the rest of the country/Canadians/Parliament?

Harper is just doing everything he can to destroy any credibility for honesty, principles, and accountability he had from the last election. That he is managing it in such a short time right after the election is incredibly damaging for him and his party, and instead of recognizing this he continues to make himself look like he is above the same considerations of prior PMs and Parliamentarians. This degree of arrogant presumption is in ways even more offensive than the arrogance we saw from Chretien and even Martin, and it is how Harper is defining himself as a PM and his party as being willing to be a cult of personality instead the party of principled conviction that was sold to Canadians since the genesis of the CPC. Given this is the weakest minority government in Canadian history the degree of hubris this is demonstrating is breathtaking in its scope.

I knew Harper was arrogant, but I used to think he had some ability as a political strategist. No more. It is not just his decisions but his lack of preparing the groundwork for them and lack of willingness to face Canadians openly and sell these ideas. He cannot govern this country in a minority situation from a bunker and only come out when he wants to say something and then retreat again, it simply will not work. This is especially true these days given the example of similar governing style we see from our American neighbour's Executive and the incredible aversion/revulsion any comparison to the Bush Administration brings up in most Canadians, especially when it starts to show up in our governmental practices. Harper and the CPC have claimed that any comments about being Americaphiles planning Americanization of the Canadian governmental system was simply scare mongering by the opposition parties especially the Liberals. Same as the hidden agenda stuff. Yet Harper's actions since the day he was sworn in have been nothing but underscoring the idea that these comments of hidden agenda and Americanization desire actually have weight/merit. That is incredibly idiotic politics. This was Harper and the CPC's best chance to prove that all of these concerns were groundless, that it really was nothing but baseless fear mongering and a smear campaign. Instead of taking that opportunity to destroy that rhetorical weapon against them instead they strengthen it, why I have no idea. If they think that this will all be forgotten by the next election then I have to say they are dreaming. There has been too much controversy from the first day onwards by Harper and the CPC and this refusal to deal with the Ethics Commissioner is just the latest example for it all to be forgotten, especially if the election is within the next two years.

After all if Harper is so confident he did nothing unethical or against the rules and codes of Parliament then he should welcome this investigation to put this issue behind him and his party. The only reason most people refuse to be investigated is when they know they have something to hide, and I guarantee you the average apolitical voter is likely seeing it this way as well. Conservatives can argue partisanship and competence all they like and while it may well carry weight within their base it will not work well at all outside that base, including I suspect those voters that voted CPC last time to remove the Liberals and to give Harper and the CPC a chance to see whether they are what the Liberals/NDP/BQ have said about them or whether what the CPC/Harper has said was the reality. So far Harper and the CPC have consistently helped make the opposition parties case about the CPC and Harper appear to be the one closest to reality. How that works to the advantage to Harper and the CPC in increasing voter support for a majority next time out is something I cannot figure out, and I am a fairly decent political strategist and analyst myself. This notion I see many within the CPC base about how Harper is playing chess while everyone else is playing checkers may be comforting, but I think it is also wishful thinking.

Harper has to appeal to those not already supporting him and his party to make a majority government, so decisions that only look good to his base and not anyone else, and for that matter rationales/reasoning that only makes sense if one is already a CPC/Harper partisan does nothing to increase the CPC/Harper base of support in the voting public. So far his actions appear more inclined to alienate new people than welcome them, and as well to make this a shorter than expected Parliament. While I agree that Canadians are not eager to have another election anytime soon, if they feel this government is acting in a manner they find offensive the CPC will be shocked at how soon the next election ends up being. Harper has clearly violated the standards of ethical/responsible governance he has preached about for years. I remember last year he and his party telling Canadians about the "clean cut Conservative government" where such controversies would not be a hallmark, yet the hallmark of the Harper government to date is nothing but controversy and questions of ethical conduct. That does leave an impression, and having Harper playing the Cheney live in a bunker approach to the media and Canadians generally outside of photo ops only will strengthen that image. One only hides from view when someone has something they do not want to be seen or to be asked about. That is something human beings of any political stripe will feel the truth of in their bones/subconscious level and works against Harper and the CPC. None of this is complicated political sense/reasoning, so why does it seem that Harper and many of the CPC cannot grasp this except to call it smears, Liberal propaganda, etc, which only looks like making excuses to those same apolitical voters out there.

The CPC ran a very slick campaign that they got away with last time precisely because they did not have a record as a government. That will not be true next time, and the record to date is one opposition strategists are likely drooling over so far for all the fodder it gives them to attack Harper and the CPC on their credibility on ethics and governance issues. Not smart, not at all.

If Harper had been smart he would have complied with Shapiro's investigations, now though he will have to accept being branded as an arrogant hypocrite whose talk of ethics is only for the other guys and not for him and his on this issue. Even if Shapiro had ruled against him Harper could then have raised the partisan card, but by using it as a defence from any scrutiny at all it looks like what it is, a straw argument/deflection to prevent any examination of his actions, as if he was unaccountable to anyone except in an election day vote. Unfortunately for him Parliamentarians, even PMs are accountable to the laws of the country, the code of ethics governing Parliamentarians, indeed to Parliament itself at all times and not just in an election cycle. The more he acts to the contrary the more he damages himself. As a partisan opposed to Harper's agenda and that of the CPC as it currently exists this is great news for me. As a Canadian interested in responsible and good governance I find this horrifying. I may not be surprised by it since it matches what I feared would happen, but that does not mean I take any delight in being right. There are things where I would prefer to be wrong about, and how bad a government would be for our country is certainly one of them when that group is the government of the day.

At this rate I can't wait to see what is in the Throne Speech and the Budget that will help the opposition parties and further weaken the CPC and Harper.


Anonymous CuriosityKilledTheCat said...

A pox on both their houses, say I.

There are two issues which interest me here.

We need to clean up Parliament so that corruption and breach of faith exacts a penalty on the MP who commits those deeds and if needs be the party represented by that MP. If having an Ethics Commissioner with an independent mandate, a clearly defined mandate, and powers to enforce his or her rulings, is an effective way to guard the guards, then good, go ahead and form one.

(By the way, I would like the Ethics Commissioner to have the power to bench an offending MP for less serious misdeeds, so that the MP cannot vote for a defined period).

The second issues is a political one, and is Harper’s call. His refusal to cooperate with the current Ethics Commissioner, despite having won power by proclaiming himself Mr Clean fighting Mr Corrupt, sends out loud signals to many: does this man have a double standard? Does he regard himself as above the rules and laws?

We have seen how the imperial presidency is busily dragging America back into the dark ages. Are we in for an imperial prime ministership under Mr Clean?

One way to show that he believes he is not above the law is for Harper to cooperate with the Ethics Commissioner on the Emerson walkabout.

Tue Mar 07, 10:01:00 AM 2006  
Anonymous john said...

Scotian, I think if you were politically astute you would know that sometimes you (the average joe) don't know all the facts. You have again prejudged the whole event on your simple frustration that it didn't happen the way you wanted it to. This post is no different than the last one. You can subtly compare the CPC to the Republicans over and over but the rhetoric is tiresome. You make the argument that he is guilty and then proceed ad nauseum to tell us why that is wrong and how the Canadian public will not stand for it... What if he is not guilty? Wander down that road for awhile and see what you come up with.
Perhaps, just perhaps, he is willing to take a little heat now to make the system better as a whole?
That being said, there is no doubt he is not communicating his intentions very well to the public but to my knowledge, he campaigned on passing a new accountibility act as his first peice of business when parliment resumes. Parliment has not resumed yet so calm down before you have a heart attack. Your country is not falling apart at the seems, the sun will still come up tomorrow... Judge on what you know to be true and leave the guessing to the fortune tellers.

Tue Mar 07, 10:53:00 AM 2006  
Blogger JD said...

Firing Shapiro would be a political mistake for Harper. It would be like a little "Saturday night massacre" a la Nixon.

Tue Mar 07, 06:40:00 PM 2006  
Blogger Scott in Montreal said...

The optics are surely terrible. I wholeheartedly agree that if Harper believes he did nothing wrong, he should jump at the chance to meet with the Commissioner, especially since the voice of the people is demanding better answers about Emerson, and the hijacking of the democratic will of that riding's voters. He replaced his communications guru only to be poorly served on this matter. This (and Fortier) has the potential to mar this government for its entire term.

Wed Mar 08, 12:03:00 AM 2006  

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