I grumble about the quality of political journalism hereabouts and these complaints seem justified, even urgent, when an Ontario pundit demonstrates an example of powerful advocacy for the public interest. Andrew Coyne may be at the height of a career that has always had him near Canada’s centres of power. Friday, his National Post column is ‘We once had to wait weeks for a new Harper abuse of power. Now we’re getting them two or three a day’
Obviously, Coyne has Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservatives in his sights:
“…Several themes run throughout these: a contempt for civil liberties, for due process, for established convention, for consultation, for openness, replaced throughout by a culture of secrecy, control, expedience and partisan advantage. Worse, there is virtually nothing anyone can do about it. All governments have displayed some of these traits. If this government has pushed things rather further, it is because it can: because we have so centralized power in the Prime Minister’s Office, with so few constraints or countervailing powers.
“Where this has lately come to a head is in the appointments process. For in Canada, uniquely, the prime minister’s powers of appointments extend not only to all who serve beneath him, but to every one of the offices that might be expected to hold him in check. He appoints the Governor General, all the senators, and every member of the Supreme Court; the governor of the Bank of Canada, all the deputy ministers, and every Crown corporation president; the top military officers, the heads of the security services, and the commissioner of the RCMP; plus all of the officers of Parliament I’ve mentioned and several more besides. And those are in addition to the already vast powers of appointment with which he rules over members of Parliament: not only cabinet, but all the parliamentary secretaries and all the committee chairs as well…”
I urge you to follow the link above and read Coyne’s entire item. All should consider it because he focuses on a major defect that is present in Ottawa today and in most provincial capitals. The old Canadian system of responsible parliamentary government decayed and was replaced by a near-presidential style but with few checks and balances and no term limits. Without debate and through no considered plan, we combined elements of two kinds of government and built a new style worse than either.
Self-serving people who admire autocracies designed Canada’s present governments. Harper is himself Ottawa’s lead autocrat whereas Christy Clark is more the puppet of unseen forces. Both are in positions that appeal to and attract narcissists, who, according to Malcolm Gladwell, make the worst managers. However, power resides in one office and all party members pay obeisance or suffer expulsion.
Leaders stand at the top of the ladders and employ agents to control who can mount the bottom rung. It is a system guaranteed to fail.