The Consent of the Governed

I’ve take some criticism for describing the harpercon majority government as “illegitimate.” This criticism tends to come from empty-headed morons whose opinions I have as much regard for as I would a huge, steaming piece of dog-shit on my front steps.

There seems to be some inexplicable confusion regarding the justification for my categorization of stephen harper’s government.

I arrived at my conclusions about harper from my positive reaction to Brigette DePape’s protest in the Senate Chamber during the Speech From the Throne. You see, while I endorse the use of extra-Parliamentary tactics and occasional law-breaking, I’m actually very much a Parliament-respectin’ kinda guy. As flawed and compromised as our democracy is, it’s all we have, and we should work to improve it rather than tear it down.

So, why then, do I have an unvarnished sympathy for Ms. DePape’s action? She renounced her oath of non-partisan professionalism, took advantage of her privileged place at the centre of our political system, and expressed her partisan views before a national audience. What sort of democracy would we have if our Parliament was to be opened to everyone who wanted to storm out onto the floor and protest or pontificate?

What sort of democracy would that be?

Well, what sort of democracy do we have now? Let’s leave aside the capitalist class’s domination of our democracy for a second. Let’s focus on the kind of democracy stephen harper would give us:

Government power requires maintaining the confidence of the House of Commons. However, if the majority of the people’s representatives have lost confidence in your government, what you do is you turn to the anachronism of the Crown and ask it to shut-down Parliament before the people’s representatives can vote you out. You can do this whenever necessary.

We are governed by the Rule of Law and inspired by our respect for human rights. However, if you find yourself in a war, and you’re too cheap to provide proper prisons for your detainees, and you hand them over to the US-Americans until they’re found to have tortured and killed too many of their prisoners, forcing you to turn them over to another band of torturers, you must do the following:

– Accept no responsibility for as many prisoners as is possible. If you take some prisoners, make sure there is a representative of the torturing home government standing nearby and IMMEDIATELY hand them over to that person. No paperwork = No legal responsibilities!!! (Hopefully.)

– When you’re not able to do that, hand the prisoners over to the torturing home government and then delay, delay, delay, telling the International Committee of the Red Cross about them, so that they’re unable to keep tabs on their treatment. No evidence = No legal responsibilities!!! (Hopefully.)

– If you have pesky oversight bodies like the Military Police Complaints Commission, frustrate them at every turn and refuse to renew the mandates of chairpersons determined to do their job.

– If the fucking legislature of the pain-in-the-ass representatives of the people try to investigate this issue, call up the Crown and tell Him or Her to shut-down Parliament again, and then give the country some bullshit excuse for killing a year’s worth of legislation.

The US-Americans fought their revolution to a great degree based on the idea that there should be no taxation without political representation under the British Constitution. Members of the British Parliament at the time said that they were correct in that assertion. But here in Canada, we have a prime minister who believes that we can have representation, but it should be powerless when it comes to controlling what the government does with the taxation! Parliament should be a rubber-stamp for the government’s spending initiatives. If you find yourself with a pesky Speaker of House, who believes that it is Parliament that is the source of power in our democracy, and not the Prime Minister and Cabinet, shrug your shoulders and hope for a more compliant Speaker in the future. Then you can have your “Supreme Soviet” or your “Reichstag.” Rely on your shit-head supporters and a large bulk of the rest of the population to regard these essential fundamentals of democratic accountability to be arcane and “boring” details that only political geeks need to care about.

True democracy requires honest and transparent government. (Especially since promising that sort of Accountability was a huge part of your initial rise to power!) However, if the mood strikes you, you should tamper with official government documents to make them say whatever you want them to say, in order to justify whatever it is you want to do. If a Cabinet Minister deliberately lies to Parliament about this, well, that’s okay too. This time it was Bev Oda pretending that her staff recommended that KAIROS not be funded. Tomorrow it could be Vic Toews saying that violent crime is shooting through the roof and that the experts recommend the death penalty as the only effective deterrent. Whatever is necessary, once the principle of forgery and lying has been established.

So, that’s stephen harper’s idea of democracy in Canada. And, thanks to the apathy of almost 40% of the electorate who didn’t vote at all, and 26% of the electorate who either thought that such assaults on democracy were either cool, or boring, or who had no idea that any of that stuff happened at all, but like their parents always voted Conservative and whatever, … stephen harper has won a majority government. (Obviously, with the power of a majority government, harper won’t have to resort to such blatant abuses to get his way. On the other hand, with the power of a majority government, we’ll simply never know about his lies and abuses. It will all be a fait accompli.)

But, again, here’s the rub: If the guy who presumes to write the rules for the rest of us doesn’t respect the rules himself, why should we meekly acquiesce to his nonsense? If he was elected by people who don’t give a shit about our rights in a minority parliament, why should we give a shit about their rights in a majority parliament? If he was elected by people who had no idea what they were doing, and the results of their choice are going to be a disaster for us (to say nothing of conveying a patina of legitimacy to these assaults on the basics of our democratic system), why should we be bound to respect their ignorant choice?

This is not about sour grapes people. I despised the Chretien and Martin Liberals, and, even when they’d help destroy democracy in Haiti, I did not call their power illegitimate. I despised stephen harper’s minority government but I even said on this blog that we have to respect the legitimacy of his minority. It is stephen harper who has made himself unfit to govern us. It was stephen harper who trammelled all over the core of our democratic system. And a vote for such a despot is either a vote for despotism which can then make no claim on our respect, or it is a vote out of ignorance, which, given the stakes, likewise has no claim on our respect.

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