Saturday, May 01, 2010

Opposition Poison Pill

Amir Attaran offers an interesting way of forcing Harper's hand:
And what if the Harper government rejects both of these options? Simple: the opposition should bring a motion holding it in contempt of Parliament and Canada's Constitution. Since that could trigger an election, the opposition needs to design its contempt motion to benefit at the polls, while communicating the government's untrustworthiness and incompetence in the war itself.

In March 2008, Harper sought Parliament's conditional consent to extend the Afghanistan combat mission to 2011. Parliament gave consent, but only because Harper's motion contained a requirement that "the government must commit to a policy of greater transparency with respect to its policy on ... detainees."

Now, with Harper breaking his own condition and hiding the detainee documents from Parliament, he is inviting Parliament to place the combat mission back on the table. Thus when the opposition introduces a motion finding the government in contempt, that should also recall Harper's March 2008 motion, and revoke Parliament's consent to the combat mission extending through 2011. Harper will howl, but he linked "greater transparency" to the combat mission's continuance in the first place.

Done this way, Harper will fear making the contempt motion a confidence matter, because if he precipitated an election, the Conservatives would be isolated as the only party backing an unpopular war. This they cannot afford: over half of Canadians polled oppose the war. And more will soon oppose it, once the summer fighting resumes, bloodier this year because of more aggressive American tactics in Kandahar.
Not that Harper cares about breaking his word. The man is a pathological word breaker, but it would be interesting to see how he would handle the idea that since he did not live up to his word on the mission in Afghanistan, the agreement is null and void.

Attaran also does a nice job of summing up a coherent opposition strategy:
In sum: negotiate, as the Speaker asked. Aim for compromise on a public inquiry or secret House session, but rule out lesser options, because the underlying issues -- Canada's Constitution, and mismanagement of the war -- are too serious. If negotiation fails, bring on the contempt motion, and tie it to Harper violating his own conditions for extending the combat mission. If that triggers an election, fine, then confront Harper on his record of risking Canadian soldiers' lives, under an appalling detainee policy he stubbornly defends.
Recommend this Post

1 comment: