Sunday, December 18, 2011

Justin Trudeau could have been describing Parliament’s session

There’s no real theme to the column, beyond a general sense of wonder.
First, burkas and citizenship. Foreign Affairs Minister Jason Kenney said this week that women would no longer be allowed to take the citizenship oath with their faces covered as part of their religious beliefs.
You can have a good debate about the burka and niqab and their place in society. There are concerns some women are forced into wearing them, making them instruments of oppression. Other women say it is a core part of their religious faith, mandated in the Koran. There are questions about how society changes when some people hide their faces in public.
But Kenney’s reason is goofy. He fears women might not actually be saying the citizenship oath.
Come on. New citizens have all studied and passed a test. We don’t now know whether they are taking the oath, or moving their lips. (Perhaps Kenney will mandate monitors to stand next to every person at the ceremonies in future.) It would be easy to have women wearing head coverings sign a written oath.
Even more offensive was Kenney’s response to questions about legal challenges to the edict. “I’m sure they’ll trump up some stupid Charter of Rights challenge,” he said.
There is nothing “stupid” about asserting the rights guaranteed all Canadians by law. Kenney’s contempt for the law, and those freedoms, is alarming.
Meanwhile, Liberal MP Justin Trudeau got in trouble this week by calling Environment Minister Peter Kent “a piece of s***.”
That, of course, reminded people of his father, then prime minister Pierre Trudeau, being accused of mouthing “f*** off” to opposition MPs 40 years ago.
Trudeau claimed then he was mouthing “fuddle duddle.” Justin Trudeau was more honest, jumping to his feet to apologize and retract his remarks.
So what riled him? NDP environment critic Megan Leslie had asked Kent a question about Canada’s withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol.
Kent responded by noting that “if she had been in Durban” Leslie would be better informed.
But the Conservative government had, for the first time in the history of Kyoto talks, refused to accredit opposition MPs as observers at the talks, denying them a role. Trudeau thought it a bit much that Kent would bar MPs, then criticize them for not going. (Green leader and Saanich-Gulf Islands MP Elizabeth May cleverly got herself approved as a delegate for Papua-New Guinea; Liberals and New Democrats could have shown similar initiative.)
Sadly, Trudeau’s rudeness was far from the low point of the just concluded parliamentary session. The Conservative majority has not brought civility or even a basic commitment to let MPs actually do the job of representing their constituents. Legislation has been forced through with minimal debate. There is an appalling lack of respect, civility or even basic decency in the Commons, in large part because the Conservatives seem to see evil enemies across the House rather than men and women elected by Canadians to represent them. (It does, of course, take two to bicker.)
As the session ended, the Conservatives confirmed they planned to increase secrecy by barring the press and public from more meetings of parliamentary committees. Conservative MP Tim Wallace said going behind closed doors “gives members of Parliament an opportunity to speak frankly.”
Wallace is acknowledging duplicity, perhaps dishonesty — saying one thing in public, and another when citizens don’t have a chance to know what’s going on.
Then there’s the stonewalling of the G8 spending scandal that saw border security funds diverted to often frivolous projects in Treasury Board president Tony Clement’s riding, Defence Minister Peter MacKay’s misleading explanations for his use of a search and rescue helicopter as a taxi to get him from a fishing camp in Newfoundland and other lapses.
It’s odd. The Liberals were booted out because the Conservatives promised something better. Now they’re turning into what they once condemned.
Footnote: The session ended with Speaker Andrew Scheer, a Conservative MP ruling that a party dirty tricks campaign aimed at Liberal MP Irwon Cotler was “reprehensible,” but not against the rules. The Conservatives were caught calling voters and falsely claiming Cotler had resigned and a byelection would be held. It was later revealed thatthe company hired to make the calls had also worked on Scheer’s election campaign.


BC Mary said...

Nice work, Paul.

More needed, on a regular daily basis. I've just read Robert Fisk!

Like Robin Mathews, Fisk is wondering where his "journalist mates" are, in the reporting of bank issues in the world-wide financial crisis.

Me, I just keep wondering where journalism is, with regard to the loss of BC Rail ... the terms of which still remain partially hidden. As with the bankers, I figure that secrecy is a red flag signifying hanky-panky behind closed doors which need opening.

Stanley B. said...

First let me say how pleased I was to hear someone (you're the only one) to call Jason Kenney on his utterly stupid rationale for banning burkas. I didn't hear Kenney's follow-up comment denigrating the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Look out folks, that's another target for the trash bin by the Harperites.

But now I need to take the media to task, and it includes you but only incidentally because of your role as a writer with the daily news outlets. With apologies, because I've long admired your writing and analysis.

Are you seriously surprised that this is what the Harper government has wrought? Really?? I'm not being facetious. I truly cannot believe that someone with your savvy and length of experience analyzing public issues can really be shocked, or even surprised.

All of this chaos that Harper has wrought on government and on the entire framework of the county was inevitable, and telegraphed for anyone who had an ounce of common sense and a few years under their belt.

Remember, this is the guy (Harper) who was found guilty of contempt of the Canadian Parliament. Our own Prime Minister. And still, Canadians elected him and his dangerous, brain-challenged thugs to a majority.

The Harper party was also found guilty of electoral fraud – during Harper’s leadership – in order to gain improper influence in an election. Harper hires ex-cons to the PMO's office. Does away with the Wheat Board, which would have been illegal, but hey he just changed the law. On and on it goes. Rules are for suckers, we're in charge now baby!

So now the media are fussing because someone said a bad word in Parliament?!? It's against the rules!!!

Are you kidding? Who gives a sh’t whether Justin Trudeau issues a swear word in Parliament? Hundreds of other rules with far more profound consequences are being broken by our leaders and authorities daily, and the media howling over a piece of sh’t remark? Are they children?

Anybody with half a brain knew this is what Harper would do if he got the majority he so panted over. The tactic is very familiar -- unleash shock and awe on the country. Then while everyone’s reeling and fussin’ over sh’t, change all the laws, or at least those that you can't get away with ignoring, re-jig the electoral map and process, and before long, baby, nobody remembers what rights anybody had before or, put another way, nobody knows what hit 'em.

It won't be as simple as just electing them out of office; Canada will have been bludgeoned beyond recognition by what the Cons are doing to our very fabric, and if we recover a sense of ourselves, it will be decades coming, not merely the next election or two.

I am now ashamed of Canada and Canadians, and I believe they must be among the stupidest in the world. As well as the most meek. What a combination.

The only checks and balances that we the citizens would have to counter Harper's choke-hold on us is the media. But sadly they have disappeared into the pockets of the power brokers.

The media owners use people like you Paul so that they can claim they're really, really getting at the issues. But the daily front pages and newscasts tell a different story, and that's all that most people remember.

The news media is now a shameful hand-puppet clinging to the coattails of power (and I include the Times-Colonist as a full member of that dismal, disgusting clutch of grinnin' and shuckin' pals of power). Just a couple examples:

CBC's political reporter Stephen Smart is married to Christy Clark's deputy communications director. Oh and his papa is a BC Supreme Court judge. Ya think Paul that we're going to get much holding of government to account in any real sense?

The Times Colonist avoids the BC Rail scandal and all the other tawdry, stinking scandals where the political, bureaucratic, law enforcement and legal industries collude to reward themselves on the backs of the poor and vulnerable, with the aid of complicit media.

BC Mary said...

Stanley B., you inspired me to have another look at Robert Fisks's column today over at my place. He's talking about the Middle East and the world-wide financial meltdown:

and he made this telling remark about his fellow journalists:

"But, forgive me, who are these creatures whose ratings agencies now put more fear into the French than Rommel did in 1940?

"Why don't my journalist mates in Wall Street tell me? How come the BBC and CNN and – oh, dear, even al-Jazeera – treat these criminal communities as unquestionable institutions of power? Why no investigations – Inside Job started along the path – into these scandalous double-dealers? It reminds me so much of the equally craven way that so many American reporters cover the Middle East, eerily avoiding any direct criticism of Israel, abetted by an army of pro-Likud lobbyists to explain to viewers why American "peacemaking" in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be trusted, why the good guys are "moderates", the bad guys "terrorists".

"The Arabs have at least begun to shrug off this nonsense. But when the Wall Street protesters do the same, they become "anarchists", the social "terrorists" of American streets who dare to demand that the Bernankes and Geithners should face the same kind of trial as Hosni Mubarak. We in the West – our governments – have created our dictators. But, unlike the Arabs, we can't touch them.

How many bazillion times have British Columbians said something similar: where's the media? are they blind? why don't they start digging for the real story of BC Rail? how dare they aid and abet something so massive, which looks so corrupt, and which has had a damaging effect upon our province? And now look at the dirty tricks being repeated!

Citizens have our own special duties in this time of danger. Many of us will keep trying. But the media could be heroes if they would simply do the job for which they are being paid.


Anonymous said...

The Conservatives have shown time and again the colour of their stripes. That took them from a minority to a majority in the House. Even dogs learn new tricks from positive reinforcement. What's next?

They don't seem interested in making Canada a better place for everyone - they don't consider that government's mandate. But to compensate they've made it their bent to morph Canada into a worse place for those they disagree with. They might not understand Science, or the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but they do understand Politics.

Raymond Graham

DPL said...

who was it that said"Power Corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Seems the Cons must have seen it. Some of the crazier reform alliance conservatives have the clout and will use it to the hilt. The words Good Government don't apply to that gang

Anonymous said...

Rumour has it that future parliamentary committee meetings will be held in the men's washroom in the basement of the Orillia Opera House.

Scotty on Denman said...

The Conservatives hold the Canadian electorate in contempt (even those who voted for them), they hold parliament and the courts in contempt; they hold their wards in contempt; they hold the provinces (except Alberta) in contempt; they hold the environment in contempt; civil service, small businesses and post-secondary education they also hold in contempt.

Neo-right parties work to get government out of the way of big, multinational corporate interests. They slag government relentlessly and bankrupt it intentionally once in power, disgusting and driving away voters and activist politicians alike.

So what is it Conservatives don't hold in contempt?
Sooner or later the praise given the military, the Monarchy and conservative religionists will ring hollow. Harper, while hanging the Queen's portrait and saluting the coffins from Afghanistan, has already abused the GG's office (improper prorogation) and army veterans (injury compensation, pensions and invasion of privacy.) Law and order? Nope; Harper thumbs his nose at his election fraud conviction. Big business is the only friend; the rest are patsies. Now that Harper's got his majority this too is becoming plain.

The Charter of Rights is constitutionally enshrined to protect our rights from contemptuous governments like the Conservatives. Trust Harper to treat it as contemptuously as he can get away with. Once binding, irreversible obligations are signed with global corporate interests, it won't matter anyway.

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