Marauding Elephants: Not Built for Democracy

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By Ralph Goodale
Member of Parliament for Wascana

In a most abusive way, Stephen Harper is trying to discredit the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada.

His government has been rebuked by several Courts multiple times now -- and rightly so -- for behaviour that was illegal or even unconstitutional.  Hard-line right-wingers are aggravated that they cannot just ignore the law and get their own way on everything they want.  The latest spat is over their bungled attempt to appoint someone to the bench who clearly failed to meet explicit statutory requirements.

To vent his rage, Mr. Harper has engaged in direct and deliberate smears implying that Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin made or attempted to make some "inappropriate" intervention with respect to that impugned appointment.  The facts, publicly reported, show his allegation to be patently false.  It's a malicious insinuation designed to undermine Canada's most senior judge.  It's personal, it's nasty and it's fundamentally dishonest.

Such an attack on the independence and integrity of the Supreme Court is utterly unprecedented in Canadian history.  But it's not out of character for this government which all too often behaves like a herd of marauding bull elephants.  They seem to think their current, but temporary status as a "majority" in the House of Commons gives them the authority to run roughshod over everything and everybody else.

Never mind that their electoral mandate comes from just 24% of eligible voters.  Never mind the law and the constitution.  Never mind the Courts.  Never mind the provinces.  Never mind the most basic principles of British Parliamentary democracy.  Mr. Harper believes he has some "divine right" to do anything he wants.  But he's wrong.

For its integrity, our system of governance depends significantly on a number of independent "watchdogs" whose responsibility it is to protect the public interest from raw abuses of political power, and sometimes from the sheer stupidity of renegade politicians.  A watchdog's job is to have the guts to get to the truth and to stick to the truth regardless of the consequences. 

Stephen Harper has been in serious conflict with virtually every one of Canada's watchdogs.  Here's just a partial list:

*        Elections Canada and not one, but two Chief Electoral Officers

*        The Ethics Commissioner

*        The Information Commissioner

*        The Nuclear Safety Commission

*        The Veterans Ombudsman

*        The Chief Statistician of Canada

*        The Military Complaints Commission

*        The RCMP Complaints Commission

*        The Parliamentary Budget Officer

*        The Auditor-General of Canada, past and present ...

The list goes on.  And now it includes the Supreme Court and the Chief Justice.

When he runs afoul of one of these watchdogs, or the law, the constitution, or some other democratic convention - Mr. Harper typically goes on the attack.  He resorts to character assassination.  No person is exempt from his vitriol.  No principle of decent behaviour is sacred.  No tactic is too low.

A person with such little restraint, such poor judgment and such disrespect for all other Canadians is not likely fit to govern.

JULY 2018

Vol. 12 - No. 12


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