Slash, Thrust - and Parry
Why are we surprised when the House of Commons erupts into ungovernable chaos? When the boys choose their sides, theirs is the winning team and they're devoted to the cause of the team. Passions run high, emotions run amok, and intelligence gets sidelined somewhere between the dropping of the writ and the subsequent vote. Vilification is the order of the day, catcalls and finger-pointing enthusiastically ensue.
So, for now the deed is done. The Liberals supported the NDP and the Bloc in voting down an extension of the two sunsetted provisions, both of which measures were put in place to ensure that Canada had adequate balance between security of the country and assurance of the freedom of its citizens. Legal minds had examined the provisions thoroughly, initially amended to satisfy the demands of civil-rights groups.
Intelligent debate was laid by the wayside as Conservatives and Liberals debated not the merits and the need to have these two provisions extended for safety and security reasons in a world unmistakably different than that which prevailed before the provisions were enacted into law - but the combative need that one party prevail over the other. The topic at hand was more or less incidental.
For this antagonistic, combative approach to good governance as an alternative to anticipated good-will and a balance between collaboration and co-operation we must give credit where it's due: Stephane Dion's bulldog determination to vote down the government of the day. Add to that the value of satisfying the gentle reminders of special-interest groups that their votes could be had.
As for civil-rights and human-rights groups' laments that with the extension of the contested measures, rights and freedoms are diminished, it just doesn't wash. Former Liberal cabinet minister Irwin Cotler - internationally recognized human-rights defender, a reputation gained during his career as professor of law, director of McGill University's Human Rights Program for 30 years; counsel to such figures as Nelson Mandela, Natan Sharansky, Jacobo Timmerman (and, er Maher Arar) - used his powers of persuasion as an expert to sway Mr. Dion, to no avail.
The government will doubtless get busy re-writing the two national-security-required provisions in a format and context which will be acceptable to a majority of parliamentarians in a subsequent vote and the business of government will carry on. It will remain to be seen how Stephane Dion will be seen both by the electorate who might perceive the slight matter of national safety to have been trifled with, and by his caucus, many of whom with experience and more flexible brain-power would have had him do otherwise.
Mr. Dion may just have traded in a brief triumph over the government for a brief period as leader of the Liberal party. We can but hope.
Labels: Politics of Convenience