Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Where We Are Going

The Liberals have no stomach to pursue a question of privilege over Parliament's supremacy. Why is a mystery (although I suspect it is because the leadership doesn't believe in it). Nevertheless, they are looking for a way out. They are already floating the idea of an independent inquiry instead of, rather than in addition to, the release of the documents. The Liberals are, in effect, saying that they are willing to trade away Parliament's supremacy for an inquiry into torture. It is a tempting offer for Harper and he might yet take it, although in the long run he might come out the loser (depending on the terms of the inquiry which he gets to set himself). The Liberals are counting on that to help them gain electoral advantage, while gaining the added benefit of setting a precedent that parliament is not in fact supreme. Very neat. Both of the big parties get to potentially benefit, depending on the circumstances. The only loser here is Canadian democracy.

So, how will this play out? The government will play keep away with the Liberals over the terms of reference for Iacobucci for as long as possible. The NDP will raise its own question of privilege on March 19 (why they are waiting so long is another mystery), at which time it will either be ruled out of order because they waited too long, or the Liberals will not back it in the Standing Committee on Procedures and House Affairs(I think that is the correct committee, but correct me if I am wrong), using the phantom inquiry as an excuse. At that point the government will just hang in until the next parliamentary break and hope the summer (with the Queen's visit and the G20) will wash their sins away. The Liberals will hope that the stink sticks to the Conservatives and will be satisfied that when they are in government, they can rule like kings.
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