Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Speaker Speaks

Afghan records denial breaches privilege: Speaker

The federal government breached parliamentary privilege with its refusal to produce uncensored documents related to the treatment of Afghan detainees and must provide the material to MPs within two weeks, Speaker Peter Milliken has ruled.

During his lengthy ruling Tuesday afternoon in the House, Milliken called on House leaders, ministers and MPs to find a "workable accommodation" to satisfy all parties "without compromising the security and confidentially contained."

Milliken ruled Parliament had a right to order the government to produce uncensored documents to members of a special committee examining torture allegations, and that its order was "clear" and procedurally acceptable.


So now we wait and see how Harper plays this. The only indication so far is this Rob Nicholson quote (and Stephen Taylor tweet): “We welcome the possibility of a compromise while respecting our legal obligations".

Should they continue to balk...well...I won't even begin to speculate on what happens next.

Politically, the challenge for the opposition parties will be framing this as something more than a 39-page rulling that quotes 19th Century parliamentary procedures of the territorial legislature of New South Wales. I'm not saying that stuff is over the head off most voters - I'm saying it's over the head of all voters not named "Peter Milliken".

Prorogation only had an impact because a complicated procedural move was framed as Stephen Harper going on vacation. In much the same way, for this to even have a dent on public opinion, it will need to be framed as something more than a complicated procedural move. Harper's arrogance. He thinks he's above the law. Those might work.

But it's gonna be a tough one to sell. Which is why, as I said earlier today, I doubt this will lead to an election.

12 Comments:

  • Actually, no. Prorogation had no impact, as Milliken makes clear.

    The idea that it had any impact (or was intended to have any impact) was a creation of the media and the Opposition Parties, who were trying to score political points.

    By Blogger Paul, at 5:45 PM  

  • That's funny Paul, 'cause I could've sworn the Tories dipped down low during prorogation... I could be wrong, 'cause hey, what do I know, I'm just a Liberal.

    Anyways... Grit, I suspect the Liberals will frame it continually in that "culture of deceit" line. Canadians may not get the gist of why this ruling is so spectacular, but if you tell Canadians, "Harper ignored the checks and balances of Parliament in order to continue his secretive agenda, perfectly in line with the Conservative culture of deceit," well, you'll have a good narrative right there.

    By Blogger Volkov, at 6:16 PM  

  • Don`t go knocking the NSW assembly. The NSW Speakers over the years have been on the forefront of preserving parliamentary democracy. More recently, they are recognized leaders in expanding the roles of private members and comprehensive audits of parliament`s books - something that is greatly needed in Canada . They also established reasonable precidents for dealing with `sticky` situations - wire taps and search warrants of Members`offices, for example.

    As parliamentary procedure is derived from these arcane precidents (some in BC will remember the Rhodesia precident used to deny the NDP opposition status in 2001), I`m glad that the Clerk`s office went to the ends of the earth and time to dig up such rulings.


    They are a leading parliament in terms of procedural issues

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:23 PM  

  • Volkov: we're talking about the release of the Afghan documents. The discussion on the latest polling numbers is farther down the page.

    By Blogger Paul, at 7:52 PM  

  • Actually, no. Prorogation had no impact, as Milliken makes clear.

    The idea that it had any impact (or was intended to have any impact) was a creation of the media and the Opposition Parties, who were trying to score political points.


    Protests by thousands across the country amounts to "no impact"? It certainly didn't help the government's image.

    It's an ideal time for an election, and I look forward to Harper's secrets and lies platform. They can try as much as they want to frame this as a "supporting the troops" issue, but the "culture of deceit" works a lot better.

    By Blogger Josh, at 9:16 PM  

  • #millikenrules is an interesting hashtag I’ve observed.

    By Blogger Eugene Forsey Liberal, at 2:51 AM  

  • Someone might want to invent one dealing with burying the truth or something...
    http://www.canada.com/news/Detainee%20transfer%20documents%20buried%20Canadian%20military%20shipping%20containers/2956945/story.html

    By Blogger Eugene Forsey Liberal, at 2:57 AM  

  • Paul - The point is that the Tories took a POLITICAL hit in prorogation. They dropped 5-10 points in the polls, and haven't fully recovered. I think it's hard to deny it didn't have some impact when it comes to that.

    By Blogger calgarygrit, at 9:34 AM  

  • The only thing that has less traction in an election than this tedious, parliamentary nonsense is the fate of the Afghans themselves:

    http://thealbatross.ca/2010/04/harper-to-reveal-afghan-detainee-secret-nobody-cares/

    By Blogger Will, at 10:08 AM  

  • I have a feeling that the conservatives will lie down on this one. I believe they have been trying to protect the reputation of the Canadian Forces by stonewalling parliament. So long as parliament agrees to keep information on prisoner abuse on the DL, the conservatives will likely acquiesce.

    The Liberals, for their part, probably don't want this getting out either. Remember, they are the ones who refused to sign a prisoner transfer agreement with the Americans. Inane anti-americanism from the political class has likely led to war crimes by our military, something the Liberal party would not like to admit.

    I am glad that Milliken made this decision, I think it is the right one. I hope the Liberals and Conservatives can agree to keep the issue under wraps from now on, though; the Canadian Military does not need the negative attention of an ICC trial for war crimes, especially when they were following the orders of petty politicians.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:16 PM  

  • Proroguation was "Harper takes a holiday"

    if you want to spin this ruling, you go with "Who did Harper THINK the goverment works for?"

    By Blogger Gauntlet, at 12:43 AM  

  • By Blogger mmjiaxin, at 8:17 PM  

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