“Any needless concentration of power is a menace to freedom,“ Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower
Something happened in Canada on Tuesday, March 24 that has never happened before and hopefully will never happen again.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his minority government tried to sneak a power grab never before seen in our history into its emergency spending bill that would have, in essence, ripped up the Canadian Constitution, trampled the Magna Carta, damaged the very raison d’etre of Parliament and the role of the opposition and spit on the war graves of those who have fought and died for Canada’s democratic way of life.
And yet, how many Canadians even know that this has happened as most of the country’s focus is on COVID-19 and its rapid spread around the world? The National broadcast on CBC barely mentioned this troubling attempt at an unprecedented power grab on Wednesday.
Yet, this is precisely how democracies die — when worried citizens don’t stand on guard for their democratic institutions during a time of crisis.
When it became obvious that the passage of the bill was stalled because of his government’s underhanded attempt to usurp the power of Parliament, Trudeau then sent out a tweet saying: “The legislation will be tabled without Clause 2.”
“Were Parliament to grant the government that power to tax and spend money without parliamentary oversight, they would have fundamentally changed the Canadian Constitution in a way that would be extremely deleterious to the operation of government in this country,” said Bercuson, who teaches history at the University of Calgary, and is an author and co-author of more than 30 books.
During the First World War, 60,661 Canadian soldiers died at a time when the entire population of Canada was barely eight million people. Almost 43,000 Canadians perished in the Second World War in a country of 11.5 million. That staggering number of deaths meant no Canadian family was untouched. Farms could barely function without their young men, and yet the government of the day never attempted this kind of a power grab.
Duff Conacher, the founder of Democracy Watch, a national non-profit, non-partisan organization, that advocates for democratic reform and government accountability, states things more forcefully than Bercuson.
“It’s not just troubling, it’s alarming,” said Conacher.
“It was a big mistake not only because it was undemocratic, but also because it shatters the trust that they were building with opposition parties in the hope that they could all co-operate to make decisions quickly together during this crisis,” he said on Wednesday.
Conacher rattles off an enormous list of broken Liberal “open government” promises and ethical breaches too numerous to list here, but they include:
• The secret trips to the Aga Khan’s private island in the Bahamas;
• Finance Minister Bill Morneau secretly owning $30 million in shares in his family’s company Morneau Shepell Inc. even as he worked to change regulations that would have benefited his family’s business;
In fact, Democracy Watch is suing the government in 26 separate cases.
Were it not for Ontario Conservative MP Scott Reid, it appears that Canada might have become the kind of “basic dictatorship” for the next two years that Trudeau says he so admires about China.
Michelle Rempel Garner, the Conservative MP for Calgary Nose Hill, observed in a telephone interview: “This is their modus operandi. They don’t believe that they need Parliament and that the rules — there to protect democracy — don’t apply to them.
“The NDP were saying this too. It’s not partisan to say that we mustn’t erode democratic institutions,” she added. “Supporting democratic institutions, due process and accountable government is not a partisan issue. It’s Canada.”
Were it not for the vigilance of Reid, a lone opposition MP who was vilified on social media for holding up the bill, a simple scratch of a pen would have eroded Canada — our freedoms, our constitution and our democracy. That’s much more frightening than this pandemic.
Licia Corbella is a Postmedia columnist in Calgary. firstname.lastname@example.org
The lieberal party is the REAL virus.
I’m glad the Dictatorship government didn’t get their way.
Good column. Now what about Shandro? His actions also display a breach of trust.
No real surprise here, after all it’s Justin Trudeau. Giving us pep talks every day and trying to slide thru something behind our backs. Once again Justin – Canadians are not stupid.
uhhhh Jimmy ? NOT about Alberta. NOT about the UCP. NOT about Kenney. Your whatabouitism and desperate deflection is asinine and childish…
Oh man, they are SO stupid: he’s still PM. Toronto and all those that elected this clown should be sent to China to make medical supplies.
The government understood that the opposition parties would need something to object to, in order to make it look like they were doing their job. They also knew that a deadline for reviewing the government’s spending would have to be negotiated. So they put a late deadline into the draft to give the opposition something to complain about, and then negotiated a reasonable timetable that everyone could agree to. It was all settled in one day, and Canadians will now receive the help that they need, and the opposition can howl all they want, as Ms. Corbella has done in this opinion piece.
it was NOT “given” to the opposition. STOP lying. This MASSIVE omnibus bill had hundreds of pages, with measures to (supposedly) help CANADIANS. But BURIED within it’s massive text were three clauses that would have bestowed undemocratic, illegal and unconstitutional powers upon PM black face himself. NOT canadians. The draft was LEAKED by a whistle blower. Please stop with your Gerald Butts lies and talking-points…. you are sounding more terrified and desperate….
I am pleased by the legislation that was approved with the support of all parties, as are most Canadians.
It looks like Ms. Corbella and all the commenters need a dose of
“LIGHTEN UP”! Find something to laugh about. The sky is not falling!
I think the following phrase is apt here: “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
Right on Mike. The Communists promised “Sunny Ways”, “everyone will be equal” in Czechoslovakia in 1948. Then once elected, they suspended the constitution & confiscated private property. Only very recently compensation has been paid to those who had property confiscated. Lives were ruined and injustice prevailed. Government must have oversight!!!
Why doesn’t Corbella write a story about how poorly the UCP are handling the virus here? I would like Trudeau to take over because kenney endangers health workers by allowing non essential construction to continue!
David… You appear to believe that if our Federal Government had unfettered powers to do whatever they want that things would be better. There is no place on our tiny globe where that is the case.
Sorry David but the UCP has been handling this crisis as good or better than most provinces, whether your hatred of the Conservatives makes you say otherwise or not! If you think boy blunder deserves more input than this province, I feel sorry for you. As a drama teacher he made a good assistant!
What a surprise !! JT caught in the act again!!
The government dialled it back when the opposition challenged it which is what is supposed to happen in a democracy with a minority government.
Sadly, majority governments of all parties, provincially and federally, use omnibus legislation to push through laws and regulations that line up with their particular ideology or party leanings. Even our beloved UCP government pushed through legislation affecting Alberta physicians during the covid-19 situation.