Editorial

Plenty of Shame to Go Around

The trend toward "routine" annual parliamentary resets will prove hard to resist for whichever party ends up in power after the next election.

By Ryan McGreal
Published January 05, 2010

Shame on Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister of Canada, for once again sidelining parliamentary democracy in the interest of raw partisan political expedience.

Prorogue 1.0

Almost exactly a year ago, just weeks after an election that granted the Conservative Party a large minority of seats in the House of Commons, Harper prorogued Parliament for a month to avoid facing a motion of non-confidence by a coalition of two opposition parties supported by the third.

He had lost the confidence of the House after delivering a mini-budget update as a confidence motion in which he proposed to eliminate the public, per-vote funding of political parties, a move that would hurt the donation-starved Liberals much more than it would hurt the Conservatives.

When the opposition parties announced that they would introduce a motion of non-confidence and ask Governor General Michaëlle Jean for a chance to form a coalition government supported for 18 months by the Bloc Quebecois, Harper in turn asked Jean for permission to formally end the two-week-old parliamentary session and start a new session on January 26, at which time his party would table a full budget.

Incredibly, Jean agreed to this despite the fact that Harper had lost the confidence of the House, his Government had barely started its business - let alone concluding it, and another Member had the confidence of a majority of MPs to replace Harper as Prime Minister.

Harper took this opportunity to assail the Coalition with false accusations of illegitimacy. He attacked the Liberals for taking up with "socialists and separatists" and called the Coalition a "coup" in the making.

By the time the new parliamentary session began in late January, the Liberal Party had replaced lame-duck leader Stéphane Dion with Michael Ignatieff and cooled its enthusiasm for a coalition with the NDP, swayed in part by the relentless assault of the Conservative Party's democratic disinformation campaign.

Prorogue 2.0

After last December's prorogue, observers worried that this would create a precedent of allowing a Prime Minister to play a Get Out Of Jail card to avoid facing the House of Commons. Exactly a year later, we see the same Prime Minister abusing the same de facto power in essentially the same way.

Prorogation concludes a parliamentary session and provides a break before the start of a new session. It does not dissolve parliament itself but clears out any unfinished parliamentary business - bills, committees, investigations - so that the new parliamentary session that begins after the recess starts fresh.

Traditionally, the Prime Minister will request a short prorogue after the government has completed its legislative agenda so MPs can take care of constituency business and the government can develop its next parliamentary agenda.

Harper claims he called this year's prorogue to talk to Canadians about the economy in advance of tabling this year's budget. This is plausible enough, but it ignores the myriad of ways this prorogation unshackles his government from accountability to the House of Commons.

In particular, the prorogation disbands the parliamentary committee into what the government knew about the torture of Afghani detainees and when, an investigation that was proving highly embarrassing for the government after revelations by a senior diplomat that Canada knowingly handed detainees over to be tortured.

In the meantime, Harper avoids having to face Question Period during a period of international press coverage in Canada.

More important, he has a free hand to appoint partisans to the Senate and achieve a majority in Senate committees to smooth the passage of Conservative legislation - including a likely re-introduction of last year's controversial tough-on-crime drug law.

Shame on Michael Ignatieff

Shame also on Michael Ignatieff and the Liberal Party, that gang of incompetent opportunists pretending to a grand tradition of principled liberalism. It was under Ignatieff that the Liberals distanced themselves from the Coalition, then granted themselves a way out of their promise to topple Harper's government, and finally capitulated with only a lame demand that Harper agree to report periodically to Parliament on how the budget worked out.

This is rather like demanding that a book have pages, or that the sun must rise tomorrow. It's already Harper's responsibility to report periodically to Parliament.

In any case, even this was too much to expect from either the government of knaves or their mealy-mouthed enablers across the chamber.

Ultimately, Harper's seizure of additional executive powers to his own office is simply a continuation of a thirty year concentration of power under the PMO that started under Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and continued unabated under Progressive Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien.

This newest trend toward "routine" annual parliamentary resets will prove hard to resist for whichever party ends up in power after the next election.

Shame on Michaëlle Jean

Shame particularly on Michaëlle Jean, the Governor General of Canada who twice confirmed the irrelevance of her office by failing and failing again to hold the Prime Minister accountable to the House of Commons.

The Governor General is an important, if usually symbolic, part of Canada's system of parliamentary democracy. As the official representative of the head of state, the GG is responsible to ensure that the affairs of state are conducted in a constitutional manner.

This includes ensuring that the government - the appointed Prime Minister and his appointed Cabinet - retains the confidence of the elected House of Commons.

Instead she allowed him to thwart the very institution that exists to ensure he maintains the confidence of the elected House.

There is no precedent in Canadian or even Commonwealth history of a head of state agreeing to allow a Prime Minister to prorogue parliament to avoid a motion of non-confidence.

In granting this corrosive power to Harper, Jean has failed the most important constitutional role of her office and should step down immediately.

Shame on Us

Finally, shame on the Canadian people for not understanding the most basic mechanisms of Canadian parliamentary democracy. During the course of the 2008 crisis, some two-thirds of Canadians either believed that the Coalition of the Liberal Party and NDP supported by the Bloc Quebecois was unconstitutional or else did not know what to believe.

The Conservative Party, of course, buried the country in misinformation and slanderous weasel words - amplified and broadcast by such luminaries as the editors of the National Post and subsequently diffused into more common use - to confuse and befuddle us into accepting their dishonest, unconstitutional gambit to hold onto power.

But there's no excuse for two-thirds of Canadians not to understand how our own governmental system works. Shame on us for failing in our duties as the citizens of a democracy.

In our indifference to the crippling of the most basic democratic controls in our country, we cede the executive control of our own country to scoundrels and megalomaniacs.

Brief Parliamentary Primer

In federal elections, voters elect the House of Commons - a group of 308 elected representatives from every constituency in the country.

The MPs appoint a Prime Minister (usually but not necessarily selected from the House of Commons) who can claim the confidence of the House of Commons.

The Prime Minister in turn appoints a Cabinet of Ministers (usually but not necessarily selected from the House of Commons) who oversee the various federal portfolios and who collectively determine the government's legislative policies.

The Prime Minister and Cabinet together comprise the Government. The government must regularly face the the elected House of Commons in confidence votes to demonstrate that it still maintains the confidence of the elected House of Commons.

This is the most fundamental democratic accountability in parliamentary democracy: the accountability of the appointed government to the elected Members of Parliament.

Normally, the Prime Minister is the leader of the political party with the largest number of MPs in membership. If one party controls more than 50 percent of the seats in the House, that party can form a straightforward majority government, and its leader can safely count on the ongoing confidence of the House.

However, if the Prime Minister's party has less than half the seats - normally called a minority government - the only way the Prime Minister can maintain the confidence of the House is to persuade enough opposition Members to vote along with the Government to form a majority of votes.

This requires a minority Prime Minister to satisfy the demands of the opposition parties on confidence matters. It also means that minority governments are less stable and long-lasting than majority governments.

In the case where a Prime Minister loses the confidence of the House of Commons, the Governor General has the option either to dissolve Parliament and call a general election or to dismiss the Prime Minister and offer someone else an opportunity to gain the confidence of the House and form a new government.

Traditionally, if a government falls in a vote of non-confidence shortly after an election and someone else has a credible claim to the confidence of the House, the Governor General will allow that person an opportunity to form a more stable government before dissolving parliament and forcing another election.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

94 Comments

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By Tammany (anonymous) | Posted January 05, 2010 at 15:14:27

Surely much of the shame should be apportioned to Paul Martin, who appointed Jean as a further declaration of the Liberal party's beholdenness to political correctness.

Jean's repeated failures to act in the best interests of the nation show that the office of the GG needs to be comprehensively reevaluated. No more laughably unqualified party apparatchiks.

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By prorogued (anonymous) | Posted January 05, 2010 at 16:11:29

What an outrage! The question is, will Canadians do more than join a facebook group and bitch on comment forms? We need to kick the outrage up to the point that it really hurts this nasty government and even drives them from power. Enough is enough. I've watched for 3 years, going on 4, while this guy steamrolls every check and balance in his path.

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By Tammany (anonymous) | Posted January 05, 2010 at 17:10:37

There was a time when the sort of strong arming, deceit, and character assassination practised by the Conservatives was truly foreign to the Canadian political scene (which is not to say that Canadian politics were ever genteel). However, I would speculate that Canadians have become so inured to this roguish style of politicking (primarily through over exposure to the American political narrative) that very few of us today feel any real sense of outrage at Harper's shamelessly underhanded attempts to retain power.

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 05, 2010 at 17:11:21

call me crazy, but I enjoy life better when none of these clowns are around.
Maybe they can prorogue for a couple of decades.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted January 05, 2010 at 23:48:48

It is no longer about the people, it is about the "party line" and who is behind them. Fortress North America? Security and Prosperity Partnership?

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By woody10 (registered) | Posted January 05, 2010 at 23:52:52

lol, Sorry but no matter who is in there, we get screwed. Pick the best of the bunch and go with it. They all end up doing basically the same thing anyway. I don't mean to sound trivial but really. Who's better, Liberals?? Look at the deceit from Mcguinty and crew, or the gun registry fiasco, NDP?? Rae days and on and on. We are actually better off with continual minority governments, it's a little less perverse.

[Comment edited by woody10 on 2010-01-05 22:53:41]

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By Mr. Meister (anonymous) | Posted January 06, 2010 at 02:35:03

They are all crooks otherwise they would have real jobs. As much as Harper's moves stink, they are all legal and above board. They just reek.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted January 06, 2010 at 11:32:31

Lots of fun in Rick Mercer's piece in today's Globe:

In Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai's government faces fierce opposition at every turn. Many of his cabinet choices have been rejected in a secret ballot by the more than 200 parliamentarians who sit in the legislature.

Simply closing it down and operating without their consent is not an option; to do so would be blatantly undemocratic or at the very least downright Canadian.

If Mr. Karzai suspended the legislature on a whim, we might be forced to ask the question why Canadians are dying to bring democracy to that country.

And by fun I mean tragedy.

[Comment edited by Ryan on 2010-01-06 10:34:27]

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By shaddupsevenup (registered) | Posted January 06, 2010 at 11:55:52

I wrote to my MP (Christopherson.D@parl.gc.ca) and asked him what he was doing to preserve democracy in Canada and whether he was taking a pay cut.

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By Overblown (anonymous) | Posted January 06, 2010 at 11:57:47

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted January 06, 2010 at 12:14:14

Good job rehashing Conservative talking points Overblown. Too bad you're dead wrong on both talking points.

  1. Public disapproval over the detainees issue is strong and growing. The more people learn about what's been going on, the more outraged they get. If no one cared, the Conservatives could of just let the committee investigating Afghani detainee torture do it's business and be ignored by the public.

    Also the detainees might be terrorists, but we have no way of knowing that without, you know, putting them on trial. So much for "law and order" conservatism.

  2. The government wasn't elected by the Canadian public at all. The House of Commons was elected, and less than half of the MPs are Conservatives. Also only 37.6% of votes cast were for a Conservative candidate.

    Know what that means for a Conservative government? They have to accept the fact that they need to compromise on legislation to get majority support.

Of course, the Cons and there paid and unpaid mouth pieces (like you) don't want Canadians to understand how our government really works. Then they'd realize they're being....Conned.

[Comment edited by z jones on 2010-01-06 11:14:44]

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By mattchall (registered) | Posted January 06, 2010 at 12:58:00

Overblown >> I agree with your 1st point to a degree in that Afghanistan is a sovereign nation, or in theory anyway. We are "guests" in THEIR country. All prisoners detained by NATO or other forces must be handed over to the ANP. That is international protocol. If we don't like it we can leave or start our own Gitmo (no thank you).

Point 2, you are out to lunch on. z jones has hit the nail on the noggin! Minority governments must compromise or face non-confidence votes. Proroguing Parliament to stack the senate??? What ever happened to the cause of an EQUAL, ELECTED and EFFECTIVE upper house? The Libs and Cons are 2 sides of the same bent coin.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted January 06, 2010 at 14:01:59

Mattchall wrote:

I agree with your 1st point to a degree in that Afghanistan is a sovereign nation, or in theory anyway. We are "guests" in THEIR country. All prisoners detained by NATO or other forces must be handed over to the ANP. That is international protocol. If we don't like it we can leave or start our own Gitmo (no thank you).

We are signatories to the Geneva Convention which states:

Article 12

Prisoners of war are in the hands of the enemy Power, but not of the individuals or military units who have captured them. Irrespective of the individual responsibilities that may exist, the Detaining Power is responsible for the treatment given them.

Prisoners of war may only be transferred by the Detaining Power to a Power which is a party to the Convention and after the Detaining Power has satisfied itself of the willingness and ability of such transferee Power to apply the Convention. When prisoners of war are transferred under such circumstances, responsibility for the application of the Convention rests on the Power accepting them while they are in its custody.

Nevertheless if that Power fails to carry out the provisions of the Convention in any important respect, the Power by whom the prisoners of war were transferred shall, upon being notified by the Protecting Power, take effective measures to correct the situation or shall request the return of the prisoners of war. Such requests must be complied with.

Article 13

Prisoners of war must at all times be humanely treated. Any unlawful act or omission by the Detaining Power causing death or seriously endangering the health of a prisoner of war in its custody is prohibited, and will be regarded as a serious breach of the present Convention...

That is international protocol.

[Comment edited by highwater on 2010-01-06 13:04:21]

[Comment edited by highwater on 2010-01-06 13:07:08]

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By frank (registered) | Posted January 06, 2010 at 14:12:58

While it may be a fact that minority governments are supposed to compromise or face non-confidence motions, why is the Liberal party to chicken-$h!t to put one forward? First thing back is a budget. If Ignatieff has any cajones at all he'll pull one then, if he has any sense, he wont. As for compromise, sure, but facing complete neutering of bills or bogging down legislation as much as possible? That's not compromise, that's heavy handed politicking by opposition parties.

As it stands, 37 of the 64 bills before parliament will start over...not all 64. It also clears the slate for a tough on crime bill that the liberals have bogged down with trying to pansy up.

As for stacking the senate, I'd rather just delete the senate.

And regarding the Afghan detainee issue, international protocol is international protocol...as mattchall says, I'd rather that than our own Guantanamo Bay.

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By frank (registered) | Posted January 06, 2010 at 14:14:16

Translation of Highwater's post... hand them over unless you KNOW they're being tortured.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted January 06, 2010 at 14:44:36

Translation of Highwater's post... hand them over unless you KNOW they're being tortured.

Nope. Don't hand them over unless you know they're not being tortured.

International law is very clear on this. Stop blowing smoke to cover up our government's crimes against humanity.

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By mattchall (registered) | Posted January 06, 2010 at 16:59:40

highwater >> Thanks for the quote from the GC; it clears up our responsibilities , but it still leaves us with the question of what to do with "detainees". Do we build and operate our own jails in foreign lands like another country we all love so much? Do we pretend everything is OK and keep handing them over to the ANP? Or do we just pack up and go home? I'm inclined to think that more resources for better training (and pay) for the ANP to bring them out of the middle ages is the best long term solution. Perhaps there should be and embedded ANP member with every patrol so they can take responsibility from the time the suspect is captured. The real issue here is not us handing them over, it is the fact that the ANP uses torture to extract info.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted January 06, 2010 at 17:48:07

I don't have an answer for what to do with detainees, but I do know that your second option, pretending everything is ok, is a war crime.

And no, the real issue here is us handing them over, as we have a very clear moral and legal obligation to ensure that we are not handing them over to be tortured. That is our responsibility as Canadians. Yes, it's deplorable that the ANP practises torture, but it is irresponsible (not to mention a war crime) to pretend that we are helpless in the face of this fact and must continue to hand detainees over in the hope that the ANP will adopt more enlightened practises. Quite simply, under international and Canadian law, we are not allowed to hand detainees over to them knowing that they torture.

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By C. Erl (registered) - website | Posted January 06, 2010 at 21:20:38

In response to everyone asking their MPs to take pay cuts:

To clarify, prorogue simply means the House isn't sitting...MPs will still be in their ridings, attending events, helping constituents with issues they have, even if they aren't in the House.

Yes, the proroguation is a dictoral abuse of power and the Prime Minister should be held accountable on the Afghan issue, the deficit and his draconian crime bills, but to ask your NDP member to take a pay cut while they're still doing their job, despite the Prime Minister's efforts to try and forestall democracy in this country? That's a touch misinformed if you ask me.

If your MP simply sits on the couch watching television all day instead of doing their job, yeah, they should take a pay cut. But if they are doing their best to perform their job in lieu of this suspending of Parliament, they should receive their full pay.

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By Jason_ (anonymous) | Posted January 06, 2010 at 22:27:03

Will you all hold the Liberals and New Demoncrats to the same standard or are you all just Conservative bashers? I don't agree with proroguing per se but all of you think that this is being done to shut done specific processes. This has been an ongoing practice for years. I'll wait for the outcry when Lord Iggy prorogues.

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By Undustrialo (anonymous) | Posted January 06, 2010 at 22:44:01

Parliament is a total joke, this just proves it.

The population voting on issues, legislation and policy...that would be democratic. This is just an inane, and expensive popularity contest, like a high school student council with better pensions. Even with 90%+ popular opinion against laws (new or old), there is absolutely nothing we can do to stop them. Municipal amalgamation in Toronto lost a vote by 3:1. Marijuana prohibition's had the support of roughly 10% or less of the population for years or decades. A "majority government" runs the country with the support of roughly 20% of the Canadian people (a third of those that voted, with some of the lowest turnouts ever, of the population who is even allowed to vote).

There is nothing democratic about Canada's government. Yes, we vote, but so did the Soviet Union. It is simply a holdover of centuries-old British colonial administration, that's why the Senate and Governor General - institutions created specifically to prevent democracy - still exist above the elected House of Commons.

If I were them I wouldn't be proroguing things again, people might just catch on.

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By woody10 (registered) | Posted January 07, 2010 at 00:20:48

A few points (to be bashed, I'm sure, lol) The major problem in the far east is bringing the majority of the people into our century. Most are relating to life about 500 years ago, where a mans life was virtually worthless. Killing was a way of life and religion was literally EVERYTHING. I know we have some people like that in the west (not the killing part) but the majority, no. "East is East and West is West and never the (two) shall meet" an old quote, but still very relevant (unfortunately). As far as the government is concerned, I understand the majority (guessing) on this site are not conservatives, but really, Iggy as Prime Minister? Please, we are considered on the lower end of the G-8 as it is, don't make us sink lower. Like it or not, Harper is our best bet right now (McKay would be my choice but....) and at least he talks the talk, not just drivel like the others. God help us if Jack Layton ever came to power. And lastly, I agree with Undustrialo, this is not a true democracy, the British sytem is in my opinion, better than the Americans. But we have to get a better turnout to prove it. (It ain't gonna happen tho.) stick with the Minority government and take the ride. The Majority Liberals in Ontario are shoving the HST down our throats, against popular opinion. Thats what majorities do.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted January 07, 2010 at 05:58:44

I do not think Harper is our best choice and I do not like Iggy either. I do like some of the issues that the NDP stand for. I was watching CPAC, the day they were discussing the 10 per centers and to be honest all I saw was the Cons and Libs, who do the same thing, pointing fingers at each other, acting like 5 year olds. It is disgusting that either party uses this type of negative propaganda to bash each other. The only sane voices that day were the two NDP reps, one being Wayne Marston from our own home town.

There are bigger things going on at a global level, that I do not like or agree with, period. Until this changes, we will not move forward. We must rid our planet of the Industrial Military Comples, that their only point of existance is to create fear, steal resources, maim, kill, torture, you name it.

I disgree with the US policies, period. It is not to blame all those in the US, as many have the same feelings, like I do and as many Canadians and people across the globe.

Think of your children, your grandchildren, your great grand children, to the world we are setting up. Is this what you really want to see?

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By Laurier (anonymous) | Posted January 07, 2010 at 06:16:12

C. Erl said, "Yes, the proroguation is a dictoral abuse of power and the Prime Minister should be held accountable on the Afghan issue, the deficit and his draconian crime bills, but to ask your NDP member to take a pay cut while they're still doing their job, despite the Prime Minister's efforts to try and forestall democracy in this country? That's a touch misinformed if you ask me."

NDP members only job is to protect their job...what have they done for the city? Nothing.

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By frank (registered) | Posted January 07, 2010 at 08:50:45

@Laurier...they send me those stupid orange coloured flyers that I never asked for every month in my mail... I think that's about it!

As for Afghan detainees... there is no proof that the alleged torture has taken place. From what I read every allegation of torture so far has been either not true or unproveable. (not sure what word to use there) Also @z jones... What that says is hand over the prisoners to a power that's able to apply the convention until it's proven that they can't and in those cases it's responsible to ask for them back. As far as the second paragraph is concerned that was already established by the UN before any transfers had taken place. Regarding your comment about blowing smoke to cover up the government's "crimes against humanity", if the smoke you accuse me of blowing covers them up, then they aren't really issues. My opinion is my opinion and is based on just as much, if not more research than yours... I just don't enjoy crying "the sky is falling" based on some accusations by people who may or may not be telling the truth. I don't blindly trust the words of people and so I base my opinions on interviews and articles written by others as well, not just detained prisoners (can they really be that credible) and a diplomat who waited 4 years to actually say something publicly. If it bothered him that much we should've had the poor man blathering at the parliament doors back in 06-07 when he first "discovered" the alleged torture.... I mean if the head of the Red Cross says things are ok and a diplomat says otherwise what makes the diplomat's word more credible?

I think some people need to take a course on law before hanging any particular party out to dry. Lots of people cry foul when they see a conservative government ALLEGEDLY committing what hyperbolists call "crimes against humanity" all the while forgetting that their own favourite party was complicit in the detention of POW in places like Guantanamo Bay.

I don't have an oar in the fight really. I don't align myself with conservatives or liberals or ndpers or greens or....anyone. But I think it's disgusting and a rush to judgement when people don't apply the same standard they are applying now to everything.

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By frank (registered) | Posted January 07, 2010 at 09:06:22

I know how to make people mad... Here goes:

If a POW is established to be a terrorist operative then I'm all for them being brought to within an inch of their life to get information from them. It's our job to show that we're better than those we're capturing and ousting in order to make life better for civilians there and IMO, keeping said terrorist alive is. From what I've seen a terrorist has no qualms taking the lives of innocent people including their own countrymen if they don't follow them so allowing that person to live is a step up...

Terrorism and the "security" issues resulting from it is becoming a booming industry and quite frankly I'm sick and tired of it. If you recall, we didn't pick the fight, it was brought to us. I'm sure I don't need to post videos of Sept 11 to refresh your memories... It's all fine and dandy to put nations on your hit list but when you pi$$ them off like Sept 11 2001 did the US and then cry foul when they fight a bit dirty - even tho it's far less dirty than you fight, I'm sorry...there's no excuse for that.

Here's an idea... build a giant compound...big enough to fit everyone that's "innocent". Make it a high security area and screen everyone coming in. Give them a year to move there temporarily then systematically move through the rest of the country shooting everything that moves. After that, they can go do what they're trying to do now, rebuild a country, in relative peace.

[Comment edited by frank on 2010-01-07 08:07:06]

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By frank (registered) | Posted January 07, 2010 at 09:06:52

hee hee, that oughta turn some liberal (small l) stomaches!

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted January 07, 2010 at 09:27:36

Frank writes: If you recall, we didn't pick the fight, it was brought to us. I'm sure I don't need to post videos of Sept 11 to refresh your memories... It's all fine and dandy to put nations on your hit list but when you pi$$ them off like Sept 11 2001 did the US and then cry foul when they fight a bit dirty

You sure about all this? Could it be of been a false flag operation? Lots of questions, no answers. Since the people cannot get the real truth about JFK, do you think we will ever get the truth about 9/11?

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By frank (registered) | Posted January 07, 2010 at 09:38:36

Quite sure since it's the only plausible explanation and I'm not a foil hat conspiracy theorist, merely a civil engineering technician. For something like this to be orchestrated as a "false flag" operation and be kept secret would take an INSANE amount of logistics that would be impossible to keep hidden in today's age.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted January 07, 2010 at 09:58:45

OK, Frank, I'll bite.

If a POW is established to be a terrorist operative then I'm all for them being brought to within an inch of their life to get information from them.

First, the only legitimate, reliable way to establish that a POW is a terrorist operative is to charge him with crimes and put him on trial in a court of law. That's how we do it in the 'free world', following a principle that dates back to 1215 CE.

Second, setting aside the ethical implications of bringing someone "to within an inch of their life", the empirical data is quite clear that torture does not yield useful information, by which I mean information that is truthful, accurate, or actionable.

To put it bluntly, when you bring someone to within an inch of their life, they will tell you anything to make you stop torturing them. They will fall overthemselves admitting to fantastical crimes and plans and plots they did not commit.

If you recall, we didn't pick the fight, it was brought to us.

The occupation of Afghanistan is only peripherally related to 9/11, and the case for invading on the grounds of retribution and/or security was never strong. We're in Afghanistan because it's a key logistical and strategic linchpin for Western dominance over the Middle East and its energy resource flows.

It serves particularly as the only viable alternative route around Iran, which has pretensions to being a regional power. Unfortunately, the Taliban were unreliable partners. They were highly effective at quashing the Afghani heroin trade, but impossible to do business with - as Zalmay Khalilzad (later the US ambassador to Afghanistan) discovered and reported after going to Afghanistan in 1998 on behalf of Unocal Oil about constructing a major pipeline.

That's why we're in Afghanistan. The rest of the noise our leaders make about freedom and democracy and all that stuff is just jingoistic nonsense.

[Comment edited by Ryan on 2010-01-07 09:00:18]

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By frank (registered) | Posted January 07, 2010 at 10:18:57

Ummm, Ryan...point number 1, it's not the free world there. Point number 2, putting aside the ethical implications of releasing said terrorist to blow up school children or splash acid in schoolgirls faces, the society you're speaking about doesn't operate the way it does here and thus correlations and studies performed on people here rarely apply. While someone who's within an inch of their life may say anything, a person who's been captured and isn't at that point is more likely to spill their guts if they know you're willing to go that far to get the information.

While what you put forth as a primary goal for invading Afghanistan, I don't fall for. It is most likely a common goal with the war on terror. The northern regions of Afghanistan are a hot bed of terrorist activity and like it or not, that's what they're fighting. Don't worry, I understand the oil arguments but I also hear and read interviews from reporters who have gone to the country early in the war and later in the war and they invariably comment on the changes in life and attitudes that are starting to take place in the common people.

While I'm not supportive of the US policy I laud the fact that hopefully when the dust settles the Afghani nation will be a democratic nation where women are allowed to do what they want without fear of punishment. Quite honestly, if the only goal of the US was to get oil and in the process a democratic nation was formed, I'd still be happy.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted January 07, 2010 at 10:44:23

point number 1, it's not the free world there.

Doesn't matter. If we're there, we take our law with us - as highwater notes above.

putting aside the ethical implications of releasing said terrorist to blow up school children or splash acid in schoolgirls faces

Nope. We don't get to determine that they're terrorists unless and until we charge them with crimes and put them on trial. Once we convict them, we can throw them in prison.

the society you're speaking about doesn't operate the way it does here and thus correlations and studies performed on people here rarely apply.

The studies are on suspected terrorists picked up by the US and subjected to "enhanced interrogation" - the very people to whom you claim the studies don't apply.

a person who's been captured and isn't at that point is more likely to spill their guts if they know you're willing to go that far to get the information.

You're reasoning from a priori assumptions, and the evidence does not support your conclusion. At this point - particularly in light of all the evidence we have that torture does not yield useful information - you're just rationalizing.


By the way I upvoted your comments even though I disagree with them, because I appreciate the fact that we're having a civil discussion.

[Comment edited by Ryan on 2010-01-07 09:48:05]

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted January 07, 2010 at 10:48:31

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By frank (registered) | Posted January 07, 2010 at 11:26:45

Ryan, my supervisor is Pakistani, attended school in Kabul. My information comes largely from discussions with him about their way of life. In fact, his suggestions are either blow the place up, or stay long enough to instill a change of life in the generation that's growing up now.

While I agree they should be charged and tried, that's not our responsibility...that is the responsibility of the ANP. If they are torturing them, something that still isn't proven, then either we have to take that part over (the judicial system and by extension the gov't - something we're trying not to do) or allow them to run the government the way they see fit. If they choose to stay corrupt, then we leave. The UN in principle is great, in function it's lousy.

Many times studies can show things that just don't happen. How many times have government's been elected by landslide victories when studies of public sentiment show they aren't supported?

Grassroots take your tin hat off. There will always be people who disagree... but just because they disagree doesn't mean they're right. You're talking about a country that was suffering under inept leadership that couldn't tell it's rear from a hole in the ground and is yet able to somehow create a smoke screen to hide truths from people for 9 years. Truths that would be worth millions of dollars to any media outlet? What happened to all the thousands of people who would be needed to keep this secret? I'm not even going to bother continuing the argument. People who see UFOs and jump on conspiracy band wagons are impossible to convince otherwise.

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By frank (registered) | Posted January 07, 2010 at 11:34:58

But...we're way off topic now lol! Government being prorogued ticks me off because I pay them a lot of money to WORK!

On the other hand, it's not that big of a deal and it's been done many many times before. Business will resume as usual, the bills will go through again and the study into the allegations will go forward...

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted January 07, 2010 at 11:37:19

"A few points (to be bashed, I'm sure, lol) The major problem in the far east is bringing the majority of the people into our century. Most are relating to life about 500 years ago, where a mans life was virtually worthless. Killing was a way of life and religion was literally EVERYTHING."

Absolute and utter nonsense. It's just as much 2010 in Afghanistan as it is here. There is no mythical "progress line" in human history which charts the line from barbarism to high civilization - such myths were banished from academia decades ago because, like torture, they're great for proving a point but hold next to no value when hoping to discover the truth. Up until the beginning of the war with the USSR, Afghanistan was quite modern by the region's standards - socialist if anything else. It's interference from the superpowers which created the hell that exists there now, Though the Taliban (ironically) bears many similarities to Spain during the Inquisition, it is not a feudal theocracy - it's a postmodern wor-torn hell-hole.

Using the perceived "backwardness" of local inhabitants (of a different colour, language and religion) as an excuse to invade and occupy a country is racism, nothing else.

And as for the "terrorists" point - being Muslim, or from Afghanistan, does not make you a terrorist. The fact that some militant Islamic groups or individuals do things like throw acid in the face of schoolgirls or bomb civilian targets does not make all Muslims guilty of such. Being part of an Islamic government (such as the Taliban) or insurgent group (which does battle with foreign occupation forces) may make you the "enemy" of our (occupying) forces, but certainly doesn't make you a terrorist. Like it or not, we are not "guests" in their country, we are a foreign occupying military force which has made a lot of mistakes. A 20-year-old in Afghanistan today would have been 11 back in 2001 when the towers fell, and has since spent the length of their teenage years watching bullets fly and bombs drop. 9/11 can clearly not be used as a justification for torturing such people. "They" did not start anything. A small group of hijackers did. Has nearly a decade of occupation brought us any closer to catching the people responsible and putting them on trial?

Where, exactly, is Osama Bin Ladin, anyway? Does anyone still care?

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By UrbanRenaissance (registered) | Posted January 07, 2010 at 11:52:34

While we're all tossing 9/11 links around here's one you may find interesting grassroots, it's a Popular Science Investigative Report. They consulted with over 300 experts in aviation crashes, structural engineers, image analysis, etc. to debunk the 16 most common claims by 9/11 conspiracy theorists.

The biggest nail in the 9/11 conspiracy coffin in my eyes is the scale of it. If this was some dastardly plot then it was single most brilliantly planned and flawlessly executed operation in the history of humanity. Hundreds, maybe thousands of people would have been directly or indirectly involved and not a single one of them has come forward for their 15 minutes or left even a single shred of evidence? Doubtful.

[Comment edited by UrbanRenaissance on 2010-01-07 10:56:05]

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted January 07, 2010 at 12:03:33

UrbanRenaissance wrote:

The biggest nail in the 9/11 conspiracy coffin in my eyes is the scale of it.

For me, the 9/11 conspiracy story simply fails Occam's Razor. Also: if they could pull off 9/11 as an inside job, how come they couldn't manage to sneak any WMD into Iraq?

Having written that, I would not be surprised to discover that certain high-level members of the Bush administration realized some kind of terrorist attack was going down and decided that allowing it to happen would serve their interests.

Frank wrote:

But...we're way off topic now lol! Government being prorogued ticks me off because I pay them a lot of money to WORK!

Good point. Staying on topic is hard!

it's not that big of a deal and it's been done many many times before.

True ... but generally prorogation happens when the Government has concluded its parliamentary agenda and wants to take a legislative breather to develop a new agenda. This prorogation comes while several active legislative and other parliamentary activities are still in progress. It also comes just a year after a previous prorogation that was unquestionably designed to prevent parliamentary accountability.

Finally, it comes from a government that has taken the long bipartisan trend toward concentration of executive power under the PMO and intensified it into an occult art, complete with pervasive secrecy and full-spectrum obstruction of normal parliamentary oversight - including a detailed process for disrupting and neutralizing parliamentary committees.

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By UrbanRenaissance (registered) | Posted January 07, 2010 at 12:20:20

Staying on topic is hard!

LOL, no kidding, stuff like 9/11 or Moon landing conspiracies just bother me.

Getting back on topic however, you're absolutely right Ryan. Prorogation itself isn't the issue, its a perfectly legal move by the PMO. The issue is the fact that its clearly being used for partisan gain and is setting a very dangerous precedent for any future governments.

Personally I think it's more the GG's fault than Harper's. It's the duty of the GG to reign in (no pun intended) exactly these sorts of shenanigans. Up till now all she's been good for is letting the PM do whatever he wants and getting her picture taken eating seal.

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By frank (registered) | Posted January 07, 2010 at 12:25:14

Ryan, if I were the Cons, I would want a breather to. Have you watched a parliamentary session lately? It's not possible to address issues with people shouting in your face about other issues. When Parliament returns they will have a new budget...one that spends the rest of the EAP money and according comments made in an interview with Harper, begins addressing the deficit. From what it sounds like that's a tall order and this break may provide those ministers time to look at their portfolios and determine cost saving measures that they would miss if they were trying to fend off opposition party terriers. You wrote, "generally prorogation happens when the Government has concluded its parliamentary agenda"...my argument is that it's been impossible to do so.

What the first prorogation did was give the opposition something to think about rather than just banding together to overthrow a government that they didn't like. It also allowed the other side of the house time to contemplate the situation they were in and hopefully opened their eyes to the fact that they needed to work together. From the same interview Harper seems to understand that saying that Canadians have given them a minority mandate and they will try to work under those conditions.

While you say it's done to prevent accountability, I don't see how it does anything other than postpone it. No life/country decisions can be made when there's no sitting parliament. What it hopefully will do is let cooler heads prevail, on both sides of the house so that when the committee does start looking into the Afghan issue they can do so swiftly and effectively without hot heads breathing down their necks and yelling in the background.

Although I am not a full supporter of the methods being used by the current government I'm sick and tired of neutered legislation and pointless politicking as well so I think it's good that some bills will have to go through their proceedings again.

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By michaelcumming (registered) - website | Posted January 07, 2010 at 12:25:17

I agree completely with this article. There is so much shame to go around that it boggles the mind. Harper's anti-democratic instincts are obviously honed to a fine degree. It's the core of his brand. They seem to come from a dark place that I don't quite understand. But what about the opposition and the Governor General? Do they care at all about their reputations? What's next for the Conservatives? Burning down the Parliament buildings and making it look like the opposition did it? [cf. Reichstag fire of 1933].

The first prorogation debate was filled with gross inaccuracies, now the sequel. I've never taken constitutional law but I expect the PM to at least know the basics. This is really not a partisan issue. You would think that a Conservative party would have at least some respect for the basics of a parliamentary system.

Saying that Canadians do not care about detainee abuse or the role of parliament in making a government accountable is the height of cynicism and likely untrue. This will come to backfire on those who promote such silly ideas. Remember what happened to Mussolini?

Democracy will die in Canada not with a bang but with a whimper. It's obviously time to join something a bit more vocal than a Facebook group.

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By frank (registered) | Posted January 07, 2010 at 12:33:32

Michael, a little hyperbolic I believe. Gross inaccuracies? Prorogation is nothing new, and it's possible for any Canadian to find non-partisan facts about it by typing it into a Google search box. The Cons do have respect for the parliamentary system in fact they're using it to their benefit. Who says Canadians don't care? I havent heard it. What we do want is justice, not a rush to judgement based on allegations of detainees and a diplomat...hence the committee investigating it.

My suggestion would be to do more research and educate more Canadians on the legality of what's going on before being vocal. Being vocal about something you don't understand hurts your cause much more than just doing nothing does.

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By michaelcumming (registered) - website | Posted January 07, 2010 at 13:05:54

Any evidence of the current Conservatives having much respect for the parliamentary system is clearly thin on the ground frank.

Of course prorogation is legal. It's just that in this situation and context it is clearly toxic for democracy in Canada -- whatever your political stripes.

Your suggestion to remain silent pending further education has been ignored.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted January 07, 2010 at 13:11:55

Not sure we should be blaming the GG. Just read in the G&M that constitutional experts agree that she had no choice, and the way he did it, in a phone call rather than a formal visit, showed great disrespect for her office. But then he has utter contempt for parliament (ie. the people's representatives), so it's not surprising he would have contempt for the office of the GG as well. Does Harper have respect or reverence for any of our institutions?

Honestly, I'm at a loss to understand his motivations. His recent actions don't even come across as tough-minded. To be tough-minded, you have to have a soul, and I think Harper has lost his, and for what? Political gain? I think this latest prorogation will ultimately cost him more than it will benefit him. It's almost like he can't help himself. Like the proverbial shark that can't sleep, he can't seem to resist the urge to consolidate power for its own sake, even at considerable political risk.

Thus endeth the stream of consciousness portion of this post. Now onto this:

If they are torturing them, something that still isn't proven...

What total and utter BS. The sworn testimony of senior Canadian officers and documentary evidence, as well as red cross reports, have vindicated Colvin. Even General Natynczyk was forced to recant his previous denials in the face of the evidence. If there were no proof, why did Harper go prorogue? Why not have a full and open inquiry if there's nothing to hide?

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By frank (registered) | Posted January 07, 2010 at 13:13:36

You're entitled to your opinion...

Suggesting something is toxic implies that the reverse would be a benefit. What exactly do you feel are Canadians being deprived of between now and March 3?

Obviously you're entitled to do as much blathering as you please, however your arguments carry far less value than those of a person who knows what the heck they're talking about.

[Comment edited by frank on 2010-01-07 12:20:34]

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By frank (registered) | Posted January 07, 2010 at 13:18:00

highwater....there is going to be a committee that looks into it. have you any clue what things would cost if every allegation resulted in a full and public inquiry??? You can bet your money on the fact that if the committee finds wrongdoing and they can't make changes, the opposition will call for and get a formal public inquiry.

Please list your references for recantation of comments... Thanks

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By frank (registered) | Posted January 07, 2010 at 13:19:13

highwater...split your post up, i want to upvote the first part lol...

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By frank (registered) | Posted January 07, 2010 at 13:24:26

I think we should send the Dog after Osama!!! He wouldn't stand a chance :D

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By michaelcumming (registered) - website | Posted January 07, 2010 at 13:24:32

Harper does appear to be his own worst enemy. He takes things that one step beyond that which he could expect to get away with -- resulting in great political risk to himself. This could be evidence of a truly dictatorial personality, or it could be that he is not quite as politically astute as people think, (or both of these things may be true).

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By highwater (registered) | Posted January 07, 2010 at 13:25:26

Please list your references for recantation of comments

Were you out of the country in December? It was splashed all over the national news. A good 3 day news cycle. If my references were obscure, I would happily provide links, but anyone who has casually glanced at a newspaper in the last month knows that Colvin has been vindicated by a number of sources.

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By frank (registered) | Posted January 07, 2010 at 13:26:09

I bet I can find a National Post expert that disagrees with the G&M experts...

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted January 07, 2010 at 13:27:04

Frank wrote:

You wrote, "generally prorogation happens when the Government has concluded its parliamentary agenda"...my argument is that it's been impossible to do so.

If it's "impossible" for a minority government to push through its legislative agenda, what this tells us is that the minority government needs to adjust that agenda enough to secure a majority in the House.

That's the way parliament works, but Harper wants to govern his minority as if he had a majority. He's having difficulty pushing through his agenda because he refuses to produce an agenda that the opposition can live with.

We have plenty of evidence of opposition parties voting along with the Conservatives on myriad bills over the past three years, so you can't claim the opposition just wants to block him for partisan reasons.

In fact, my essay criticizes the Liberal Party for doing too much to enable the government when they should be looking more critically at government legislation - like the crime bill, which fails the most basic empirical tests of effectiveness in its original form. (Not to mention for being part of the steady transformation of Canada's parliamentary system into a de facto executive system.)

Frankly (er, no pun intended), I don't see a big difference between the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party - particularly with the right-leaning, pro-business end of the Liberal Party in ascendance again under Ignatieff's banner.

It's a real shame that Stéphane Dion was such an ineffective politician, because he was quite a good policy wonk.

Canada would have been well served adopting a carbon tax to start driving the balance of incentives toward investment in new industries with better long-term prospects than sifting sand for dirty crude.

Instead we're actually moving retrograde while the rest of the industrialized world positions itself for a fast approaching economy of declining oil production, aggravated global warming and forced sustainability.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted January 07, 2010 at 13:30:32

have you any clue what things would cost if every allegation resulted in a full and public inquiry???

Every allegation of what? We are not talking about misuse of funds here. We are talking about WAR CRIMES. If that doesn't warrant an inquiry, what does pray tell?

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By highwater (registered) | Posted January 07, 2010 at 13:32:33

I bet I can find a National Post expert that disagrees with the G&M experts

It wasn't 'G&M experts'. It was military personnel. Why do you hate the troops? ;)

[Comment edited by highwater on 2010-01-07 12:36:14]

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted January 07, 2010 at 13:34:16

I bet I can find a National Post expert that disagrees with the G&M experts...

Maybe you can get one of the National Post experts who wrote about the Coalition:

ah, "elections" -- who else remembers that quaint method we once used to pick prime ministers?

Need I belabour further the point that elections are not and have never been the method - quaint or otherwise - that we use to pick prime ministers?

[Comment edited by Ryan on 2010-01-07 12:34:42]

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By frank (registered) | Posted January 07, 2010 at 13:44:15

Ryan, that was my point... They're journalists working for organizations who support different viewpoints...

Hate the troops? I was talking about your reference to G&M experts and the governor general. If I felt I had the perseverance to go through BT I'd be an engineer in the Armed Forces. Not sure where that's coming from. What I was trying to say was that if they didn't know it was going on and someone on the other end had said something, then the communication broke down somewhere in the middle....the committee is attempting to find that out but it's kind of hard when buffoons on both sides don't and won't shut up and think. Hopefully cooler heads can prevail and all the bellowing, finger pointing and he-said-she-said can be put aside when parliament resumes.

If the opposition likes they can even make the throne speech a matter of confidence and oust the right wing dictatorial Mussolini-like Harper preventing his budget that will almost certainly spiral our glorious achingly Liberal country into absolute perdition.

[Comment edited by frank on 2010-01-07 12:46:21]

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted January 07, 2010 at 13:50:34

They're journalists working for organizations who support different viewpoints...

There's a huge difference between making statements that support a different viewpoint and making statements that are empirically false.

There may be an honest, factual case for Harper's 2008 prorogue that respects parliamentary law, but I haven't seen it.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted January 07, 2010 at 13:51:29

Hate the troops? If I felt I had the perseverance to go through BT I'd be an engineer in the Armed Forces. Not sure where that's coming from.

Guess you missed the ;) after that remark. I wasn't serious, but you did state that there is no evidence of torture when in fact there is, and it comes from the military personnel who you admire, so it's surprising that you would dismiss it as coming from a supposedly biased source.

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By frank (registered) | Posted January 07, 2010 at 14:10:12

Ryan if it was legal there'd be a lot more lawyers in Ottawa. What you term respect in this case is simply your version of it. If I argue from another viewpoint... If I was Harper I would be saying that the disruption in the house right now is ludicrous and detrimental to the parliamentary process especially since a committee is already looking into it. So then my choice would be first to stop the poo flinging as much as possible, call a time out and then head back into the fight later.

I can't find any article quoting soldiers saying they knew that detainees were being tortured. You will have to excuse me as I try to gather my thoughts this year. My earlier statements regarding no torture were based on my position after this whole thing came out in mid 2009. If you take a peek at my postings you'll notice I wasn't around for part of Nov and most of December. During that time period I also wasn't able to get into the news much. I do recall, however that my opinion regarding the allegations had changed slightly and I seem to have not taken that into account, but I still maintain that the crap that was going on in the House was preventing the committee from performing it's duty in an appropriate manner and that this prorogation, while being pure politicking and self serving may in fact be a benefit. Sorry for the confusion.

Once again, what would happen between now and March 3rd that can't be taken care of afterwards.

As far as bills in readings go, when the opposition parties demands that legislation be changed drastically before proceeding it's as helpful as the party in "power" refusing to change it. When there's no compromise on either side you get stalemate...which is what was happening. So a time out has been called...if only it could be a time out with no pay...then maybe they'd learn a better lesson...and by them I mean EVERY politician in the House!

I didn't miss the ;) I was just not sure where the comment came from. Has anyone here seen the Generation Kill series that aired last year? Fantastic look at how command fails the common soldier. Please don't mistake my arguments for support for any particular party. I just don't want people jumping to conclusions until the committee has completed its review and I fail to see how prorogation has incredibly damaged our ability to continue to function. Personally, I'd love to see a new lot of politicians in parliament...at every level - doing the job that they're supposed to do, not living up to a politicians reputation.

[Comment edited by frank on 2010-01-07 13:14:33]

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By michaelcumming (registered) - website | Posted January 07, 2010 at 14:23:35

I think the main issue is that Harper does not appear to understand the inherent nature of being a minority government, where the government must learn to work with their opposition in a non-disingenuous way. This is what he appears not to get.

It appears to be a counter-productive approach both for his own fortunes as well as the country's.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted January 07, 2010 at 14:27:29

Once again, what would happen between now and March 3rd that can't be taken care of afterwards.

Well for starters, Parliament's Standing Orders call for Parliament to sit for 135 days/year. As a result of Harper's action's, the most they'll be able to manage this year is 110, and that's if we don't have an election. So there's that. Again, utter contempt for our institutions and due process, coming from someone who is supposedly all gung ho about 'law and order'.

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By frank (registered) | Posted January 07, 2010 at 14:48:06

Michael, I can agree with you on that, but it also appears that the opposition parties fail to understand their position. They are there to work the the minority ruling party to govern the country...so far I've seen little of that as well. It's both side's fault... And it's generating a general disgust with politicians.

Highwater, that doesn't really answer the question. That might affect the legality of the move. Can you tell me where you found that? I went to look it up and the thing is huge.... Perhaps then I can find out how you get to the 110 as well... From the looks of it, the last time Parliament sat for 135 days or more was back in 1995.

http://www2.parl.gc.ca/Parlinfo/Compilat...

[Comment edited by frank on 2010-01-07 13:49:25]

[Comment edited by frank on 2010-01-07 13:50:01]

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted January 07, 2010 at 14:48:52

According to the federal government, prorogation means:

The principal effect of ending a session by prorogation is to end business. All government bills that have not received Royal Assent prior to prorogation cease to exist; committee activity also ceases. Thus, no committee can sit after a prorogation.

[...]

The Standing Orders provide for the automatic reinstatement of all items of Private Members' Business in a new session. Committee work may also be revived either by motion in the House, or in committee, depending upon the nature of the study.

The question is: what happens to the committee after prorogation? The House of Commons Procedure and Practice tells us:

Committee mandates and powers may derive from standing or special orders, but they are in effect only during a session. When Parliament is prorogued, Members are released from their responsibility to attend the House (and its committees), all orders of reference lapse, and committees effectively cease to exist. The only aspect of a committee’s work which survives prorogation is a request for a government response to a committee report.

The House may choose to reconstitute a special committee or re-adopt a special order of reference to a standing committee at the beginning of the next session so that the work may be completed. To do this, the House adopts an order of reference containing the same elements as those used originally, along with a provision that evidence adduced in the previous session be referred to the reconstituted committee.

Where bills have been reinstated in a new session, the House has on occasion referred the evidence adduced and the documents received in the previous session to the new legislative or standing committee to which it had referred the reinstated bills.

Given that one of Harper's goals during the prorogation is to appoint five new members to the Senate to achieve a governing majority, I suspect that the composition of the special committee on Afghanistan following the prorogation may be more conducive to Harper's interests than the committee that just ceased to exist.

After all, there's no reason the new motion to define the special committee's mandate, powers and membership must be identical to the motion that established the previous committee.

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By frank (registered) | Posted January 07, 2010 at 14:58:22

Ryan, that doesn't imply that everything has been taken care of...it means that nothing gets done once it's prorogued...

That's pure speculation... the public interest and opposition party scrutinizing in the investigation nearly guarantees that the new special committee's mandate will be identical. Only time will tell. If it's not, then the Conservatives will almost definitely face a non confidence vote, related or not, in order to force an election. Regardless, there's no point in calling out that the sky is falling based on premonitions. It is prudent to ensure that interest is maintained in the matter in order for Harper to feel compelled to keep the same mandate, but not to speculate.

As far as the Senate goes, adding 5 new Conservative members brings the total Conservative number 3 above the Liberals. There are, I believe, 2 independent and 3 who identify with the now defunct PC party. Still doesn't guarantee anything really...

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By highwater (registered) | Posted January 07, 2010 at 15:01:50

Frank, I got it from an article in the Globe, which I imagine means that Parliament's Standing Orders have a well-known liberal bias.

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By frank (registered) | Posted January 07, 2010 at 15:08:17

haha, Highwater, Parliament's Standing Orders are online here:

http://www.parl.gc.ca/information/about/...

The index is massive. I found the part about committees but not the part about how many days they should sit. Once again, if that is the number, Parliament has been breaking the law since 1996.

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By frank (registered) | Posted January 07, 2010 at 15:20:06

I found a calendar that showed that there were going to be 136 sitting days in 2010. I find listing of days they can't sit but no mandatory amount... The number might be incorrectly calculated or the wording could definitely be spun. I don't trust any one news organization anymore...

http://www2.parl.gc.ca/housechamberbusin...

In 2009, they were scheduled to sit for 129 days and actually sat for 130...

[Comment edited by frank on 2010-01-07 14:22:32]

[Comment edited by frank on 2010-01-07 14:23:22]

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted January 07, 2010 at 15:25:08

Are there still questions regarding the Afghani torture case? Yes. The inquiry is not finished.That's why we should finish it. Given the rigamaroll our country was put through over a few ad sponsorships under the liberals, you'd think war crimes would be an issue. But then again, law-and-order types always want to be exempt from their own harsh judgment.

And as for demanding concessions in legislation, that's exactly the job of opposition parties representing the majority of parliamentary seats.

The decades of liberal majority rule has led this country into a paralyzing fear of the chaos that might erupt if parliament actually had had to do work together to write legislation. These people are paid very very well to collaborate and represent us, and all they're doing is bickering like children over their own petty agendas.

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By woody10 (registered) | Posted January 07, 2010 at 15:28:08

So people write off conspiracy theories because of this and that proof, and someone would have come forward or there would be proof somewhere. People have come forward but have changed there testimonies (Why?) How about a 7 story building collapsing for no reason? A jet that was supposedly destroyed still flying? Several floors of both buildings closed for days on end for no reason the two weeks before the attack? Bushs' brother taking over security a day or two before and getting rid of all extra security for some reason? Most federal offices closed the day of? No 7oo series airplane parts at the Pentagon? Traffic poles still standing directly in the flight path of said plane at the pentagon? There's more but lets not waste any more space. But when it comes to the proof of the torture, there are no pictures, first hand accounts (other than the prisoners who are, hmmmmm, prisoners!) There has been pictures of torture before with the Americans and Canadians. Please, let's be reasonable.

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By frank (registered) | Posted January 07, 2010 at 15:28:22

Demanding concessions may be the job of the parties however neither side was cooperating. It's like union fights here... Where one side proposed a modest 3 percent increase in wages and the other returns with a demand for 10% or we walk of the job... I'm sick of it! So peace for a bit is just dandy with me.

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By frank (registered) | Posted January 07, 2010 at 15:30:22

woody10...read the article someone linked above in PM. I'll take the word of 300 experts over a few unqualified theorists any day. Or write a conspiracy theory article we can post on - that issue is done here.

[Comment edited by frank on 2010-01-07 14:32:16]

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By woody10 (registered) | Posted January 07, 2010 at 15:32:31

I was a bit overboard, I'm sorry. But it was relating to the whole torture thing. Don't get on me Frank, I'm the one up-grading most of your posts, lol.

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By frank (registered) | Posted January 07, 2010 at 15:36:49

LOL, I had an idea you were trying to get at that. I read your post twice to try make sense of it... Sorry.

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By z jones (registered) | Posted January 07, 2010 at 15:46:41

"Where one side proposed a modest 3 percent increase in wages and the other returns with a demand for 10% or we walk of the job"

Have you ever even been in a union? These days it's more like the union is asking for a 1.5% increase in wages and the company is demanding a 20% pay cut and no more pensions.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted January 07, 2010 at 15:52:58

But when it comes to the proof of the torture, there are no pictures, first hand accounts (other than the prisoners who are, hmmmmm, prisoners!)

Again with the full on BS. There is evidence. The Chief of Defense Staff has himself acknowledged it. Were you out of the country in December too?

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By frank (registered) | Posted January 07, 2010 at 15:53:39

Thank God, no and I'm glad the union we do deal with is actually pretty restrained. My numbers were meant to demonstrate a point not using specific instances. I've never heard of a company proposing a pay cut and loss of pension to unionized employees. I think you're going a bit too far the other way.

[Comment edited by frank on 2010-01-07 14:55:54]

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By TreyS (registered) | Posted January 07, 2010 at 15:55:38

Bottom line. Is that Canada has done okay during the PC minority gov.

After Martin/Chretien years.. I just can't vote for Libs anymore, not Federally. They are all Professional Politicians. The Libs do whatever it takes to get votes. Our own council members are just waiting for the call from the Liberal Party.... because Hamilton almost guarantees a Lib seat. With the exception of do-nothing Chris Charlton. Has anyone ever heard of anything from her since she was elected after 10 tries? No. And for those who keep voting for David Christopherson... quit wasting your vote on a professional politician. Where is he?

At least the PC's are clear on the issues. Vote for them or not. Or vote for a fence-sitting, how-the-wind-is-blowing Liberal Party. Forget the NDP, they were irrelevant 20 years ago.

What is needed is a reform to our Parliamentary Democracy. I would rather we take a Congressional style (US) of democracy. It allows our elected public officials to vote how they please, regardless of Party lines. Believe it or not, the US style allows for members of the Senate and the House Congress to vote outside of partisan policies. In Canada, if a member votes outside of the Party... they are removed and become and Independent. Not so in the US. What the US calls 'Partisan' is standard policy in a parliamentary system. Any country that adopted the UK Commonwealth style of Democracy.

In fact the US has more 'parties' then Canada. Canada has PC's, Libs, NDP and Green.

The US has, (from R to L) Libertarians, Conservatives, Republicans, Moderate Republicans, Blue-Dog Democrats, Democrats and Liberals and Independents. Giving US voters a choice between 8 political views. *Note: the "Liberals in the US = our NDP. Verify how much more right-wing the US is then in Canada. ie: George W. Bush = a Party that doesn't even exist in Canada. Harper at most = a Moderate Conservative is a "Blue Dog" Democrat.

The Liberal "machine" would have you believe that Harper is another Bush. Hardly. Harper is a Blue-Dog, or in Canada we call a Blue-Liberal or Red-Conservative. Harper's Party right now is as central as you can get, Look at his policies and convince me otherwise. The problem is his image is very conservative... but with working-family tax cuts, northern sovereignty, and reduced GST and thought-out depression spending, the PCs have done well.

I would like to make an observation. The PCs do very well in the west, Ontario is always the swing vote and the Maritimes are mixed between Libs and PCs. Nova Scotia usually going PC.

Then we have the PQ. Their objective is to break apart Canada. Currently Canada looks sweet to break apart. West = Conservative. Central=Liberal. Quebec=Seperative and Maritime=mixed. The best objective for the Separatists would be support Regional Parties. Canada has never been so Partisan geographically. Count on the the PQ to support the PC not on policy but to further divide the Country.

Quebec would love to see the West want to divide from Canada as much as they would. If we keep going on this BS Parliamentary BS path... we'll see Quebec and Western Canada separate. Leaving Ontario and Maritimes to give it up too.

Stimlulus

Keep in mind that with every dollar the gov spends on domestic programs, it takes 6 transactions of those dollars to be re-collected under the PC stimulus plan. ie. Money flows. the economy keeps going. And the deficit shrinks -- money that the Liberals asked for -- budget will be balanced in few years.

If the Liberals spent the same amount of $ in stimulus money it would be spent on non-programs and not be re-collected as taxes for 5 or 6 years. This is what I'm saying. Go ahead and foolishly vote Liberals next time. Do you think the Libs wouldn't have gone into a deficit?

So the US voted an Lib/NDP as president in other words. These elected officials are either a Republican or Democrat... granted it seems like only a two party system exists, but when in fact it is a 6 or 7 party system. Because members of Congress are free to vote how they want, regardless of Party. Talk about Partisan. A Parliamentary system is far more "partisan" then a Congressional *US system.

Note: I still believe in an appointed Senate like Canada -- a second sober vote, only because they have the appointment for life so they can vote regardless of trying to get re-elected or to tow the Party lines . Because in the words of George Washington "sometimes the people don't know what's right". Note: GW started out the US democracy without Parties.

Rant Over

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By z jones (registered) | Posted January 07, 2010 at 16:26:32

Our own council members are just waiting for the call from the Liberal Party.... because Hamilton almost guarantees a Lib seat.

Um there are four ridings in Hamilton, and ZERO of them have a Liberal MP. The ultimate council member waiting for a call from the Liberal party (Larry DiIanni) ran last election and got clobbered by Wayne Marsten.

At least the PC's are clear on the issues. Vote for them or not. Or vote for a fence-sitting, how-the-wind-is-blowing Liberal Party.

So your saying clearly wrong is better than will change mind to satisfy voters (what we sometimes call "democracy")? Really?

Also their not PC's, they dumped "Progressive" from their name same time they dropped it from their platform.

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 07, 2010 at 22:44:12

Wow...78 comments.
Some of you really seem to care about whether or not all these windbags are getting airtime on CSPAN eh?? I'll take fingernails on a chalkboard, thanks. LOL

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By JonC (registered) | Posted January 08, 2010 at 08:26:49

Wow... three comments, none of them constructive.

Well known liberal mag The Economist chips in.

"Never mind what his spin doctors say: Mr Harper’s move looks like naked self-interest. His officials faced grilling by parliamentary committees over whether they misled the House of Commons in denying knowledge that detainees handed over to the local authorities by Canadian troops in Afghanistan were being tortured. The government would also have come under fire for its lack of policies to curb Canada’s abundant carbon emissions. Prorogation means that such committees—which carry out the essential democratic task of scrutinising government—will have to be formed anew in March. That will also allow Mr Harper to gain immediate control of committees in the appointed Senate, where his Conservatives are poised to become the biggest party."

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 08, 2010 at 09:13:36

actually, you'll notice that I only posted 2 comments. The other jason uses a capital 'J'.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted January 08, 2010 at 10:22:04

I found this article, people across the nation are planning rallies to be held on jan 23, 2010. The challenge has gone out to Hamilton, to get off its butt and be part of this.

http://www.rabble.ca/babble/activism/you...

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By z jones (registered) | Posted January 08, 2010 at 10:23:08

No Prorogue: http://noprorogue.ca/

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By JonC (registered) | Posted January 08, 2010 at 10:26:30

My apologies, that's only 2/3 as annoying.

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted January 08, 2010 at 10:34:58

Thanks Z Jones for the link, I think it is a great idea. The people will speak!

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By jason (registered) | Posted January 08, 2010 at 10:36:51

LOL JonC

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By frank (registered) | Posted January 13, 2010 at 09:08:18

Here's a pretty good opinion piece that pretty much sums up how I feel about it...

http://www.nationalpost.com/news/canada/...

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted January 13, 2010 at 09:52:26

FTFA:

It is impossible to disrespect Parliament by using a valid parliamentary rule to adjourn Parliament.

This is like saying it's valid for an employer to fire an employee without cause, because employers have always had the right to fire employees with cause.

Prorogation is valid in the proper context, i.e. of a Government that has completed its legislative agenda and wants to start its next agenda with a clean slate. Under the current context - in which a minority government suspends Parliament and resets its mission mid-way through an incomplete agenda to shun down legitimate parliamentary investigation of, and opposition to, its activities - is absolutely a disrespect of our Parliamentary principles.

Moreover, given all the games the Liberals played with parliamentary rules and powers to get their way when they were in office, Mr. Goodale and his colleagues are great ones to talk.

Irrelevant. The Conservatives campaigned on the promise that they would make a sharp break from Liberal abuses of power, including Parliamentary shenaningans and hazy oversight. Instead, they have actually gone far beyond the Liberals in their contempt for any kind of democratic accountability.

Yet it is also equally fair to argue that prorogation was forced on the Tories by the Liberal Senate.

Bollocks. The Conservatives have a minority government. That means they don't get to pass whatever legislation they want. The Senate is absolutely doing its job as a "sober second look" by pushing back on the ill-advised, poorly-written, over-politicized Conservative crime bill before it's passed into law.

One of the reasons Harper called the prorogation is to stack the Senate deck with recess appointments of Conservative ideologues. This is a double whammy of hypocrisy, since it goes against both Harper's promise to replace the appointed Senate with an elected senate and his promise that government decisions will be undertaken with democratic oversight.

Finally, a note of agreement:

If the Liberals dislike a Tory bill, they will now have to force an election by voting it down in the House -- something they have not had the stomach for in nearly four years.

The author is bang-on. The Liberals want to eat their cake and have it by criticizing everything the Harper government does but then rolling over and voting to support the government when push comes to shove. It makes the Liberals look weak and unprincipled, which has been an ongoing drain on their public support since 2006.

Of course, Harper knows that if he produces an intolerable piece of legislation and the Liberals vote it down, it will be the latter who pay the price at the ballot box with a public that has become as exhausted with frequent elections as it has become disillusioned about whether any integrity can still be found in Canada's Parliament.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted January 13, 2010 at 09:57:20

jason wrote:

actually, you'll notice that I only posted 2 comments. The other jason uses a capital 'J'.

This turned out to be a bug in the site code, which embarrassingly allowed an anonymous user to post a comment as if under the username of a registered user. I committed the fix to the site on January 9, so this shouldn't happen any more.

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By maxclover (registered) | Posted January 16, 2010 at 14:07:19

Excellent article. Excellent site.

Congrats Ryan

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By maxclover (registered) | Posted January 16, 2010 at 14:50:12

We used to have statesmen who could negotiate and persuade people with diverse interests to compromise and work together for the benefit of all. I wonder when we'll get another leader like that.

All we have now is Tiny Stephen (for clarification, scroll down on Rick Mercer's video site)

http://www.cbc.ca/mercerreport/video.htm...

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By Whoosh (anonymous) | Posted January 19, 2010 at 14:35:29

Oh, shame on the whole damned world.

Conditions have changed and it's not just that everyone is too stupid to get it but us. Due to the growth of media influence, a lot of it pre-dating the slide into the "information" age, most electors have more (media-related) contact with the party leaders than they do with their own, local, so-called representatives. It's not a recent observation that leaders get the locals elected, not the other way around. The fact that parliament wasn't designed to work that way simply points to how ineffectual that fossilized institution has become.

More people are engaged by celebrity news than political news. They turn to late-night TV comics for opinion commentary rather than to the grey pages of newspapers. A good tune or video affects our lives more directly than any paliamentary backbencher. I feel good during and after watching MTV. After reading my MPP's monthly mailing I feel mostly disaffected.

The game has changed. No point in reviewing the old rules.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted January 21, 2010 at 12:45:00

In response to all the apologists who claimed Canadians are happy with the Conservatives and don't care about prorogation, the Liberals just crawled into a statistical tie with the Conservatives in a new Ekos poll.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted January 21, 2010 at 12:58:13

(Please don't f*ck this up, Iggy. Please, oh please.)

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