Saturday, May 19, 2007

Doing it by the book 

Typical, isn't it.
The Tories need a cheat sheet even to cheat! The Tory committee chairs can't figure out how to disrupt and paralyze their own committees, they need the Prime Minister's Office to do it for them. All aimed, of course, at provoking an election while the Tories try to pretend it wasn't their idea.
This CP story describes the 200-page manual of Tory dirty tricks:
New Democrat Libby Davies said the manual explodes the Tories' contention that opposition parties are to blame for the parliamentary constipation.
"So much for blaming the opposition for the obstruction of Parliament," she said.
"Now we learn, in fact, that the monkey wrench gang have had a plan all along and not just any plan, a 200-page playbook on how to frustrate, obstruct and shut down the democratic process."
The manual was apparently distributed to Tory committee chairs, and somebody leaked it. Not having heard of that new invention, the xerox machine, the PMO tried to hunt down the leaker:
The government was so embarrassed and annoyed by the leak, that, according to a source, it ordered all committee chairs to return their copies of the handbook, apparently in a bid to determine who broke confidence.
I'll bet someone in the PMOs office is now hard at work on some foolproof way to ID leakers -- like in Tom Clancy novels, where each person's copy secretly has one word changed in some key paragraph.
Anyway, this news story doesn't quote from the manual directly, but CP gives a summary of recent events, apparently all mandated by the Tricks Treatise:
The handbook reportedly advises chairs on how to promote the government's agenda, select witnesses friendly to the Conservative party and coach them to give favourable testimony. It also reportedly instructs them on how to filibuster and otherwise disrupt committee proceedings and, if all else fails, how to shut committees down entirely.
Some of those stalling tactics have been on display this week.
Tory MPs on the information and ethics committee stalled an inquiry into alleged censorship of a report on the treatment of Afghan detainees. They debated the propriety of the witness list for more than five hours while two critics of the government's handling of the matter cooled their heels in the corridor.
The official languages committee has been shut down all week after Tory chair Guy Lauzon cancelled a hearing moments before witnesses were to testify about the impact of the government's cancellation of the court challenges program. All three opposition parties voted to remove Lauzon from the chair but the Tories are refusing to select a replacement, leaving the committee in limbo.
Tories have also launched filibusters to obstruct proceedings in the Commons agriculture and procedural affairs committees and a Senate committee study of a Liberal bill requiring the government to adhere to the Kyoto treaty on greenhouse gas emissions.
Of course, CP does the obligatory "rowboat" paragraph to forestall accusations of that ole Librull bias:
The previous Liberal regime also tried to control the conduct of committees. Former prime minister Jean Chretien even faced a mini-rebellion during his final months in office from backbenchers who chafed at being told what to say and do at committee. They demanded the right to choose their own committee chairs.
CP doesn't mention this, but it was Paul Martin who led this reform movement and who, when he was prime minister, continued to allow committees the right to select their own chairs -- even when opposition MPs repaid his democratic largesse by setting out to embarrass him in any way they could through committee hearings. But for Martin, a basic belief in democracy trumped PMO control. Not so, with either Chretien or, now, Harper:
But Davies, a 10-year parliamentary veteran, said the Tories have taken manipulation to extremes she's never seen before.
"They've codified it. They've set it down. They've given instructions."
Both Davies and Goodale agreed that the recent dysfunction may be part of a long term Tory strategy to persuade voters that minority Parliaments don't work, that they need to elect a majority next time.
But Goodale predicted the ploy won't work because Canadians will realize that the Tories are the "authors of this stalemate."
Goodale said the manual also demonstrates that the government is in the grip of an "obsessive, manipulative mania," run by a prime minister who has "a kind of control fetish" in which there can't be "one comma or one sentence or one word uttered without his personal approval."
If they keep up these kind of tactics, they will end up proving to voters is that its a government led by Steven Harper that doesn't work.

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