Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Last Refuge of Scoundrels

Last week I wrote a letter to my local member of parliament protesting the prorogation of our national parliament for the second time in just over a year. The first time to avoid a vote of confidence... the very first time in Canadian history that prorogation had ever been used to avoid the downfall of a government.

In the letter I asked Mr. Benoit (MP) five questions:

1. Was Parliament prorogued to halt the investigation into the torture of Afghan detainees? If not, will it be restarted when Parliament resumes?

2. If Peter MacKay did not receive the reports of torture, please explain the testimonies of Richard Colvin and General Walter Natynczyk in which they say that the reports were passed to the minister.

3. Prior to this government, Parliament has never been prorogued to avoid a confidence vote or to halt an investigation. If your party forms the next government, will you continue to suspend Parliament whenever you deem it necessary?

4. Many Canadians want the government to get back to work; will you continue to collect your salary while Parliament is prorogued?

5. Democracy is under threat in Canada, in no small part due to the actions of your party. Given the recent record of PM Harper, kindly explain how you intend to restore the confidence of Canadians that democracy still means "the will of the people."

I was pleased that Mr. Benoit responded (probably because I sent the letter to newspapers around the region and he felt compelled... he often does not respond to letters I send). Basically, his response was to obfuscate the issue of prorogation by explaining that it has been done 105 times before and there was nothing extraordinary about prorogation.

What he did not address was the calculated way both of these prorogations have avoided potentially negative outcomes for his government... by avoiding a vote of confidence and by postponing an investigation into the ethics of our Minister of Defense.

While I expected nothing less, the most offensive part of his response came when he accused "opposition" parties of criticising Canada's Armed Forces. To my knowledge, none of the opposition parties has criticised the courage or dedication of our fighting men and women. The criticism is directed at an elected member of parliament and the investigation is to get at the facts surrounding the ethics of the government... and not the men and women in Afghanistan.

Samuel Johnson said it best in 1775: "Patriotism is the last refuge scoundrels."

Canadians should be getting very concerned with a government that suspends parliament to avoid criticism and then targets those who use their right to freedom of expression as unpatriotic.


  1. I'm glad you at least received a response from your MP. Mine (Brian Storseth) won't engage in an email discussion with me, and so I will likely receive a regurgitation of the similar talking points if and when he actually sends me something in the mail. Given the condescending and arrogant tone of previous responses from him, I am not hopeful.

  2. I wrote to Marlene Jennings (Liberal) and all I got was boilerplate.

    These people have no passion... except for their paycheques.