Sunday, September 26, 2010

 

ONE GREAT DISCONNECT

Despite the usual escalating tensions of a fall session in the House of Commons; and almost at the threshold of a fifth year of Minority Government, history is about to mark Prime Minister Stephen Harper's lasting legacy on our centuries' old democratic Parliamentary traditions.

Mr. Harper's first handpicked Governor-General, David Johnston, a Canadian most people have never heard of, will move into Rideau Hall at the end of the week. And, experts expect that early in December, the P.M.'s Conservative Party will claim a majority in Canada's Upper House, The Senate, for only the second time in three-quarters of a century. That's when the Prime-Minister will handpick two representatives to replace Liberal Senators Peter Stollery and Jean Lapointe who are reaching the mandatory age of retirement(75). Never mind that Mr. Harper as leader of the western based Alliance Party campaigned to abolish the institution...and later as Conservative leader, to at least reform the practice of the appointed sinecure: I digress.

All this at the same good time that evidence comes to light in the United-Kingdom that despite The Queen's reputation for frugality; she's been having a rough time making ends meet. Buckingham Palace has even explored using a government program there to subsidize heating costs for low-income Britons to help pay for heating the Royal residences.

The Queen's finances; somewhat like our Senate's as well as The Governor-General's (Her representative in Canada); have been controversial. But, as someone else put rather succinctly late last week - Once you're in the habit of spending the public's money as if it were your own; it's all too easy to forget whose money it really is.

Pending the next two Senate appointments in December; Mr. Harper has so far appointed 33 Senators since being elected in January 2006. Every one well politically connected and most appointed after Mr. Harper's Senate Reform plans appeared stalled after the fall 2008 general election and the Prorogation fiasco which followed. Though unrelated and to digress once more: It's nevertheless worth noting that the Governor-General has to consent to proroguing the House of Commons, and has the option instead of calling on an Opposition / Coalition to form the Government. Is it any wonder that living in the nation's capital city causes such political cynicism?

It now appears this new found Harper legacy consciousness may even extend to the world stage. The Prime-Minister who eschewed attendance at the opening of the United-Nations' General Assembly a year ago, favouring a photo-op at a Tim Horton's instead, has now turned-on the charm offensive to offset the international embarrassment which would be Canada's defeat by Portugal for a seat on the Security Council when that vote takes place October 12th.

Mandarins and officials at External Affairs have been warming the PMO for years that Mr. Harper's lackadaisical attitude towards the U.N. could cost the country one of two seats on the Security Council despite there being only 3 candidates in the running: Germany and Portugal being the other two - Well now, Germany is a shoe-in and Portugal may have the inner track. Canada is a founding member of the United-Nations and has held a two-year appointment to the Security-Council in each ensuing decade since the world organization was founded half-way through the last century...Losing-out to Portugal would be a massive psychological set-back for Canada's diplomatic relations as well as an international embarrassment. If resurrection were possible: Enough perhaps to raise former Prime-Minister Lester B. Pearson from the grave! Pearson won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957 for resolving the Suez Canal imbroglio. He's in company with Mother Teresa ('79); Lech Walesa ('83); Desmond Tutu ('84); The Dalai Lama ('89); Nelson Mandela ('93) and most recently: Barack Obama (2009) - Get the picture??

Selecting a Governor-General; creating a Conservative majority of partisans in our un-elected Senate; losing a rightful place as a founding member of the United-Nations: All worthy at least of an asterisk next to Mr. Harper's name in the history books.

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