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In the last 10 days (which is when Parliament was called back to Ottawa), 9 allegations of Senate delay over Bill C-2 have been hurled across the floor of the House of Commons. Justice Minister Nicholson has done nothing to correct this mischaracterization, although he knows the allegations are not supported by the facts. Today, the Senate's Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee met to hear witnesses on the Bill, the Justice Minister being first on the list. So I went to hear what he had to say for himself, thinking that there may be a valid government reason for wanting this legislation rushed through.
Far from giving any such reason, the Minister merely compounded his pecksniffery by announcing that if the Senate doesn't pass this Bill by the end of February, he will have no choice but "to advise the Prime Minister that it's a question of confidence." Excuse me, confidence? Since when is speed equated with confidence?
But back to my first question: Why the rush? The only reason the Minister gave was that these amendments to the Criminal Code were first introduced in the House of Commons in 2006 and two years should be long enough for anyone. Never mind that the government itself dragged its feet on several parts of the Bill. Never mind that the House Committee held over 50 meetings to work through all the details. Never mind that the government then prorogued Parliament which added a further delay. According to this Minister, the Senate should simply make short work of its constitutional responsibilities and pass the Bill willy-nilly. Because the government wants it, now.
The Minister refused to be specific (either in front of the Committee or later in a scrum with reporters) on what will happen if the Bill is not passed in the next three weeks. Clearly, however, by using the 'confidence' word he meant to imply that Mr. Harper would move to dissolve Parliament. As one Senator said, the Minister perhaps should remember section 51 of the Criminal Code which outlaws intimidation of Parliament. The remark was made facetiously and in good humour. Nevertheless, it struck a chord around the table. This government has a track record of blaming others when it doesn't get its own way or mismanages files (Chalk River being just one example). Whether scapegoating the Senate would give the Conservatives a lift in the polls is less certain, however. The blame game is beginning to wear pretty thin with Canadians.
UPDATE (Feb 9): See today's Globe and Mail editorial, Crime and puzzlement . As it says, "This makes no sense ... Mr. Nicholson's ultimatum was off base - as he well knew."
Posted On Feb 09 04:28PM
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Posted On Feb 09 06:44AM
By way of summary, the Globe's editorial today says it all. Entitled Crime and Puzzlement, the paper's editorial board says of the Government's confidence motion:
"This makes no sense on a couple of scores. First, the Commons has no power to tell the Senate to cut short its hearings on the bill. Second, given that the Commons spent up to a year and a half wrestling with the various components of the Tackling Violent Crime Act, it's a bit rich to criticize the Senate for taking a few weeks."
Posted On Feb 07 09:00AM
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Posted On Feb 07 07:30AM
These are not the "Old Tories" of days gone by, who were models of tradition and demeanor. I think that we can all agree that the reformers have successfully infiltrated the Conservative party and "Good Old Tory" is nothing but a dying breed. Adieu mon ami!
Posted On Feb 06 10:09PM
Love the new word! Will have to use it immediately - as soon as I look up "unctuously".... On the political side of things, yawn, yawn, yawn! Don't the Cons have anything better to do (like try to run a country)? This is getting so old. And predicatable. Get thee to the electorate, for we grow tired of your petulance.
Posted On Feb 06 09:53PM
Posted On Feb 06 09:47PM