09 March 2006

Don't Say I Didn't Warn You, Ottawa Edition

Okay, so now I'm two for two. During the election campaign I made this observation:
During this election campaign, I've written about this theme [of hidden ground] relative to the leaders, and the nature of the campaign itself. I've also described the mechanisms through which we each make up our minds, (and justify it later). Most importantly, I've described why the medium of the campaign, and the way each party is carefully (sometimes not so carefully) conducting itself, is likely misleading a vast number of voters into making a decision that they might otherwise have not made. Today, a small slip in an otherwise near-flawless performance by candidate Harper, that gives us a glimpse of that ground the Conservative party is trying desparately to hide... let there be no mistaking the fact that Stephen Harper's contextual ground - his worldview through which he would develop the actual policies that run a government - has not changed one iota from his Reform/Alliance roots.
Today, the Globe and Mail is reporting on how the ground is becoming considerably more clear in Stephen Harper's response to Ethics Commissioner Bernard Shapiro's inquiry into turncoat David Emerson's appointment to the Cabinet.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper's refusal to co-operate with an investigation by the Ethics Commissioner would break a promise he made during the election campaign, opposition MPs said yesterday. Mr. Harper's dispute with the commissioner also appears to have set the stage for a fierce battle between his minority Conservative government and the opposition when the House of Commons returns next month.

Under the heading "Strengthen the role of the Ethics Commissioner," the document says: "Stephen Harper will . . . prevent the prime minister from overruling the ethics commissioner on whether the prime minister, a minister, or an official is in violation of the conflict of interest code."
Even Ed Broadbent, Parliament's elder statesman when it comes to ethical conduct, has a raised eyebrow about this the controversy (and have you seen Broadbent's eyebrows?).
“The Prime Minister put him in a position that he can't resign now. You can quote me on that,” Mr. Broadbent said in an interview Wednesday. “It will look like he was hounded out of office and then it will make it difficult for anyone coming in to look like other than someone who is going to be totally acceptable to the Prime Minister. ... For what it's worth, Mr. Harper is right in implying that the ethics code doesn't apply,” said Mr. Broadbent.

But it is not for the Prime Minister to make such a judgment in his own case, he added. Moreover, by refusing to co-operate with the investigation, Mr. Harper is breaking an explicit provision of the conflict code.
As I don't live in Vancouver-Kingsway (Emerson's riding), for me, this is small potatoes. The more significant - and troubling - issue is this: If Harper is true to his ground, we could expect to see a variety of moves that would slowly but irreparably transform this country into something that, looking southward, I would guess most Canadians would resoundingly reject - if only they were paying attention! Don't say I didn't warn you.
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