Tories must handle power responsibly

Last week, I began to explain how the results of the May 2 federal election will affect Parliament and our system of government in Canada.
Following up last week’s introduction that included the election results, and the effect they will have on confidence votes and Question Period each day, I now would like to conclude the summary this week with what the results will mean for committee work, our judicial system, and the civil service.
Committees are comprised of 10 MPs who collectively examine legislation and particular issues in a more in-depth manner. The make-up of these committees, each dealing with specific policy areas (i.e., foreign affairs, health, national defence, etc), reflects the party standings in the House of Commons.
For instance, in the last Parliament when my Bill C-501 was examined in the Industry committee, the composition of that committee included five Conservatives (one was a non-voting chair of the committee), three Liberals, two Bloc Quebecois, and one New Democrat.
In this new Parliament, that same committee most likely will be comprised of five-six Conservatives, three-four New Democrats, and one-two Liberals.
On most (if not all) committees, the Conservatives will have a majority and control the agenda, witness list, and meetings times. There will be no Bloc, Green, or Independent MPs on any committee in this Parliament because a party must have 12 seats to obtain official status.
After five full years of Conservative minority rule, and with four years of majority rule to come, Canada’s other democratic institutions will be transformed, as well.
In this Parliament, Stephen Harper already has appointed three more senators (former Conservative candidates who were rejected by the voters, but we’ll deal that particular issue another time), which means his Conservatives have an absolute majority in both chambers of Parliament—the House of Commons and the Senate.
Meanwhile, two Supreme Court justices are set to retire this year, which will mean that by 2012, a majority of Supreme Court justices will have been appointed by a Conservative prime minister.
Finally, the Conservatives will continue to make up to 1,000 appointments per year to the upper levels of the civil service, judiciary, various tribunals (i.e., immigration tribunals, CPP appeal tribunals, etc.), and regional port authorities, and many more hand-picked candidates to work in other federal institutions.
In all, Canadians have chosen a very clear path forward for our country. Stephen Harper and his government have been given the right to govern–largely unfettered—for the next four years. Conservatives will dominate the House, Senate, Supreme Court and judiciary, and the civil service.
But we also must not forget that “with great power comes great responsibility.” The increased political power enjoyed by the Conservatives means Stephen Harper no longer can blame others for hampering his economic agenda or delaying legislation the House, committees, or in the Senate because he now controls all of these institutions.
He can’t even blame the courts anymore for misinterpreting his legislation or rendering judgments he doesn’t agree with because most federal judges and Supreme Court justices will have been appointed by him.
And the civil service will be chock full of Conservative appointees who have accumulated power and status over nine years of government appointments by the time the next election arrives.
New Democrats recognize and accept the decision of Canadians. For our part, we will hold this government to account and provide alternative policies that are worthy of our position as the Official Opposition.
The term Official Opposition sounds like a negative term, but it really is not. Constitutionally, the interpretation also has been interpreted as the “government in waiting,” meaning that we are, in essence, the next party in line to form government.
As such, we will investigate and criticize this government’s conduct and policy when needed, but also voice support for initiatives that we agree with.
We also will propose better policies of our own to prove that Canadians always will have a voice and a choice in our democratic system.

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