Debating Democracy

Canadian Members of Parliament were supposed to be home today, meeting with their constituents. Instead, the House of Commons is sitting (though some MPs will be attending on Zoom). We are in a national “crisis” after all.

MPs spent the weekend debating whether the Liberal government was right to invoke the Emergencies Act last Monday to deal with what was essentially an illegal parking problem in downtown Ottawa. The ease with which the truckers’ protest was ended proved that there was no need for extraordinary measures, just a will to enforce local bylaws.

I watched a lot of the debate on the weekend. Much of it was thoughful and reasoned. I won’t get into details here. (You can look it up if you like at www.cpac.ca)

While I disagree with the Prime Minister’s decision to suspend civil liberties, at least his party members stuck with the talking points of foreign influence and major disturbances, even as they offered no evidence during the debate. They may be deluded, but they are consistent in their delusions.

(For those who wish to remind me that the Prime Minister said he wasn’t suspending civil liberties, just because he says something doesn’t make it true. Peaceful assembly is not allowed in downtown Ottawa at the moment. For that matter, neither are tourists. And thousands of Canadians, are having their assets seized by government agents without a court order and without being convicted of a crime. The government is being selective in whose rights it is infringing, but is still suspending civil liberties for some, apparently on a whim.)

The New Democratic Party has put on a strange performance during the debate. Started as a populist party, the NDP has historically stood up for individual rights. In 1970 it was strongly against the imposition of the War Measures Act; in 2022 it has anouced its intention to vote in favor of the invocation of the successor legislation.

That support has been tepid, to put it mildly. The NDP have said they could still change their mind if they don’t like what the government is doing. Not that they have said what would motivate them to change.

As I listened to the speeches in the House of Commons over the weekend, one of the things that stood out was the passion and seriousness. The speakers seemed to understand that, more than on most matters they face, history will judge what they say and how they voted on this matter.

Except for the NDP. The speeches I heard were lackluster and not really on topic. Climate change? Systemic racisim? Important issues to be sure, but a bit of a stretch to tie those in with the Emergencies Act. Their hearts just didn’t seem into it.

That may be because the outcome of the vote is a foregone conclusion, dictated not by principles and civil liberties, but cash. Something I doubt the NDP has much of.

The party paid off its loan for the 2019 election in early 2021. That would indicate that they had to take out another loan to fight the 2021 election, and that one probably hasn’t been repaid yet.

Should the Liberals lose tonight, after invoking the most draconian piece of legislation available, it would indicate a lack of confidence by the House. While it isn’t being billed as a confidence vote, it is in the eyes of the country. The Prime Minister would be expected to call an election if he loses tonight.

In some ways the NDP should want an election. If the Liberals are trampling on rights, the NDP would seem an attractive alternative for liberal voters with a conscience. The Conservatives and Greens are both leaderless, which would help NDP leader Jagmeet Singh.

But there is that money issue. The NDP don’t want an election, no matter whose rights are being trampled. (If there is an election, the Liberals might well win again – Justin Trudeau seems to coated with Teflon – actions that would doom another politican’s career seem to slide right off him.)

Which means the vote on perhaps the most important piece of legislation in the past 50 years comes down to money, or rather lack thereof. It isn’t about principles, but about fundraising. Is this how we should be running a country?

2 comments

  1. “I can’t imagine that anyone who votes ‘no’ tonight is doing anything other than indicating that they don’t trust the government to make incredibly momentous and important decisions at a very difficult time,” Trudeau said at a press conference Monday.

    Trudeau suggested the vote on the law in the chamber was effectively a vote of confidence in his administration, meaning that if the parliament had revoked the measure, his government would resign and an election would be called to replace it.
    – National Review –

  2. Well-written. NDP can’t simply say ‘safeguard against this in the future’ if they support it now.

    MP Strahl posted about a single mother who gave $50 to the Convoy when it was legal, now her bank acct is frozen. I wrote to acquaintances “Imagine you make a donation in mid-May. Then a few weeks later your bank account is frozen. All while the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is there…”

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