The Harperland version of democracy has slipped over the border from the knuckle-under-or-else whip system into soft fascism
Appeared in Business in Vancouver – April 9, 2013
There are three problems that periodically surface to trouble the Canadian mind.
1. What is the meaning of life? 2. Did Romeo ever actually sleep with Juliet? 3. When are we gonna get rid of the Senate?
Let me help with No. 2. Actor John Barrymore was once asked that very question when lecturing to students. The Great Profile reflected a moment and replied: “Only in the Chicago touring company.”
Moving on, No. 3 is one of our inexhaustible revolving-door questions. Just as you think it’s on its way out, presto, the door revolves and it comes back in, joining the other unsolvables: Quebec’s Canada Problem, or vice versa, and when the Maple Leafs will beat someone, anyone.
The Senate is one of those slam-dunk matters that any moron can have an instant opinion about, and has. Like suggesting a design for a distinctive Canadian flag. Oh, we had that debate, didn’t we.
The polls show weakening support for the Senate. My personal poll: I’m 79% in favour of the status quo. A genuine chamber of second thought is sound statecraft. The present flaw is unchecked prime ministerial power to appoint – with rare exceptions, his own party members. But there’s nothing wrong with exploiting the services of experienced politicians.
What’s needed is to expand the range to include “ordinary” but frankly mostly extraordinary Canadians, in diverse fields, who are too modest, too egotistically deprived to run the merciless gamut of electioneering. They are numerous. So let members of the Order of Canada, in genteel conclave, vote for nominees. Elitist? Of course. Meritocratic? Unashamedly. Read on.
Canadian politics can’t be discussed with a straight face for long without the twist of grimace or the gleam of grin. So serious aficionados of baggy-pant comedians with a little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down the pants were not disappointed during the recent flare-up of anti-Senatism.
The boffo moments occurred when the usual suspects scorched the appointed Senate for corruption, for scandals (Mike Duffy’s tiny erring), above all for the political equivalent of the uselessness of the human appendix, compared with … sit down, folks, this’ll kill ya … compared with … I’m sitting down myself, squeezing the edge of the desk …. compared with … the House of Commons!
Yeah, right, where the Harperland version of democracy has slipped over the border from the knuckle-under-or-else whip system into soft fascism, castrating the interior rules and historically hard-won independence of the Commons. Tory dissidents were taken to the woodshed and beaten into whimpering obedience. The Opposition parties are silent – they do the same. The peoples’ MPs parrot party-prepared bromides or risk being sent to the political gulag. Harper has relieved them even of self-respect.
The tipping-point may look like inside baseball, but the nub of it is that the prime minister’s bully-boys used every means to drown a motion by Mark Warawa, of just 13 words: “That the House condemn discrimination against females occurring through sex-selective pregnancy termination.”
Warawa, a four-term Langley MP who in 2011 drew more votes than any B.C. candidate, cites studies suggesting 92% of Canadians believe such practices should be illegal, adding that the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada oppose sex-selection pregnancy termination.
Harper risk offending “certain” racial groups, mainly South Asians? Never. Ingratiate himself further with slippery-slope feminist fanatics, even to emasculating Parliament? Readily. You want cynicism? Harper is politically right on. He’s a Mackenzie King nobody warms up to – but a manipulative master of survival, nullifying enemies who loathe him and betraying no-other-choice friends. The Senate is such an easy, distractive punching-bag.
© Trevor Lautens, 2013