Sunday, August 21, 2005


Sun, August 21, 2005

Fear for Grit White North

Powerful Liberal ruling regime menace to freedom of ordinary Canadians

By Licia Corbella

"Any needless concentration of power is a menace to freedom."
-- Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower

That quote was gleaned from a musty-smelling 30th Anniversary edition of a Reader's Digest Reader 1922-1952 pulled off the shelf of my in-laws' Ontario lake-side cottage.

Clearly, not enough Canadians took Eisenhower's pearl of wisdom to heart. Indeed, it appears many Americans might want to reflect upon it, too.

Eisenhower's article was first published in the October 1948 edition of Reader's Digest -- some five years before he became a two-term President of the United States in 1953 and just three years after the end of the Second World War, in which Eisenhower was supreme commander of allied troops in Europe.

Gen. Eisenhower wrote the article, entitled "An Open Letter to America's Students," in his capacity as president of Columbia University, a post he took a leave of absence from to serve as supreme commander of NATO in 1950.

Reading that comment stopped me dead in my tracks. I read it to my husband as the call of a loon reverberated over the still lake. I got goosebumps.

"I fear for Canada," said my husband. "The Prime Minister of this country -- usually elected by a minority of the electorate -- holds as much power as any dictator."

According to Duff Conacher, coordinator of Democracy Watch, an Ottawa-based watchdog agency, says Canada's prime minister has the power to appoint more than 3,000 people to positions, including to the federal and supreme court, to tribunals, agencies, key watchdog positions, the head of the RCMP, presidents of Crown Corporations, immigration and refugee board members, senators, and of course, our head of state, the Governor General.

Conacher says Martin's obvious lack of due diligence into the appointment of Quebec soft-separatist Michaelle Jean to the post of Governor General could have been avoided if the leaders of Canada's official parties were given veto power over such non-partisan appointments, something they would not take lightly.

Also, Martin, who coined the phrase "democratic deficit," only promised to implement parliamentary committees to review all federal government appointments when he believed he would win a majority government.

"Prime Minister Martin has decided to break that promise, because he doesn't have a majority and therefore wouldn't be able to control the committees that would review appointments," explained Conacher.

So, if a prime minister sticks around long enough, he can appoint as many as 3,000 cronies to positions that then serve the ruling party and not the electorate.

Former prime minister Jean Chretien appointed six of Canada's Supreme Court Justices, and Martin, with his minority government, has already appointed two and is set to appoint another Justice when John C. Major is expected to retire before the end of the year.

In other words, the entire Supreme court will consist of Liberal party appointees pushing through a Liberal agenda, even though the ruling Liberals have never won more than 41% of the popular vote.

According to Larry Gordon, executive director of Fair Vote Canada, never did Canadian voters' wishes become so distorted as during Jean Chretien's three elections.

In 1993, Chretien won just 41% of the popular vote, but he won 60% of the then-301 seats in the House of Commons.

In 1997, garnering just 38.5% of the popular vote, Chretien won 51.5% of the seats in the House, making it "the phoniest majority government in Canadian history," says Gordon.

In 2000, pulling in 40.9% of the popular vote, Chretien's Liberals took 57.5% of the seats in the House.

And yet during that time and since, the prime minister has never ruled with such impunity.

Conacher points out this restricts the freedom of ordinary Canadians.

How? Well, consider that most corporations in Canada donate to the ruling party for fear that if they don't, they won't be treated fairly when government contracts come up. That restricts freedom of conscience.

And freedom is a big word. It is linked to the functioning of our democracy and how we are represented and if we are equal.

"Even with a minority government in Canada, because all of these appointed positions are selected by the ruling party leader, we do not have a rule of law for the ruling party," said Conacher.

"It's as serious as that."

He points out how the RCMP, headed by a Liberal appointee, pretty much refused to investigate Jean Chretien's dealings in the Shawinigate scandal and other questionable taxpayer-funded deals as well as dozens of other examples of top Liberals being let off the hook by Liberal leader-appointed appointees.

Consider that both Canada's Port Authority and Transportation and Safety Board are Liberal leader-appointed hacks. How likely is it Canada Steamship Lines (Paul Martin's family-owned business -- which has been shown to violate Canadian labour and environmental laws) will be held to account by Martin appointees?

Remember how, the day before the now-disgraced George Radwanski was appointed privacy commissioner, the federal tax department officially forgave almost $540,000 he owed the government from years of not paying income taxes?

How many Canadians not connected to the Liberal party have ever received such a windfall exoneration?

My guess is none, though feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.

"The ruling-party members, supporters and donors, I believe very strongly, are held to a lower standard than everybody else in Canadian society by all of these agencies that are headed up by Liberal government appointees who will help cover up things and apply a different standard," said Conacher.

"That's a disaster to the rest of Canadians' freedom, because if you're not a ruling-party supporter, you may get more harsh treatment."


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