Time to Bring Back ‘Sunny Ways’
This past week was a tough one for the Trudeau Government but it may have been a good one for Canadians. While the seat-clearing fiasco in the House of Commons is a serious matter, far more serious are the issues that brought it about.
The catalyst for what happened in Parliament last week was simply frustration: frustration from the Prime Minister for not being able push his legislation on assisted suicide through the House and frustration from the Opposition Parties who believed they were being blocked from doing their job.
Much of the reason for this frustration lies at the feet of the Trudeau Government who have misinterpreted the honeymoon they have received from Canadians as a mandate to shove their agenda down the throat of Parliament with little debate and almost no consultation. As Tim Harper, a Toronto Star columnist wrote, “The Justin Trudeau Liberals have been treating the Commons as an annoyance, an inconvenient necessity that merely gets in the way of the Liberal show and its ever burgeoning approval rating.” This is the same Liberal Leader, by the way, who, during the federal election campaign, promised a more civil and nonpartisan format for the conduct of business in Parliament.
That civility was hardly on display when the Prime Minister strode across the aisle of the House, told certain members to get the fuddleduddle out of the way, propelled the Tory Whip to his seat and in the process managed to accidently elbow another Member of Parliament. It seemed like very much of an understatement therefore, when the Speaker of the House admonished the Prime Minister, “It is not appropriate to manhandle other members of the House.”
To be sure, the Opposition played this unfortunate incident out to its fullest, first with NDP members trying to block the Conservative Whip from getting to his seat so that voting could begin and then a huge overreaction to what actually happened. The spectacle of NDP Leader Tom Mulcair wagging his finger and shouting at the Prime Minister would make one think that his entire caucus had been wiped out by Justin Trudeau. And the allegation that elbowing M.P. Ruth Ellen Brosseau was gender abuse is pure nonsense. While perhaps he should have looked, he didn’t know she was there.
The truth is, however, that the Prime Minister should never have left his seat, but the fact that he did and the resulting free-for-all has highlighted the seriousness of a government attempting to thwart the parliamentary process, most especially when it promised to do just the opposite.
As a surprisingly frank editorial in the Toronto Star stated, “After all, the tone of parliamentary discourse has been deteriorating for weeks. This is largely the result of the government’s partisan stacking of its electoral reform committee and its much maligned motion to speed the passage of priority bills – an effort to control debate on the Liberal’s controversial assisted dying legislation, among other issues.” The proposed motion to limit debate was a very serious miscalculation of the role of Parliament in a democratic system. It would give Cabinet Ministers and Parliamentary Assistants full control over the timing and length of debates and would effectively shut down the Opposition in Parliament.
The good news in all of this is that the Trudeau Government appears to have recognized the error of its ways and taken steps to reverse some of the gag-related items they were pushing through Parliament. There will be some die-hard Liberals who will have a ‘good for him’ attitude toward the Prime Minister’s recent antics. But many others will recognize that mistakes have been made and an opportunity has presented itself to correct them before it is too late.
Prime Minister Trudeau has apologized…several times. He appears to have meant it and time will tell if he can control himself in the future. Opposition Leader Rona Ambrose suggested that his apology would be much more genuine if he withdrew the time restrictions on the Right to Die Legislation, to allow full discussion in Parliament. He did that and hopefully this means that Conservatives have accepted his apology and will move on. More importantly, the Trudeau Government has backed off its proposal to mute debate in the House of Commons. Under the circumstances, it will be difficult for the Liberals to return to an attempt of unfettered control of the Parliamentary agenda. There will be too many people watching.
The Trudeau Government will be with us for at least another three-and-a-half years. Perhaps the antics of the past week were fortuitous in shedding light on their contempt of Parliament before it became inexorably ingrained. That would shed some ‘sunny ways’ on all Canadians.
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