A Canadian Oliver Cromwell?
By: Alan Murdock
| Posted: Wednesday, Oct 23, 2013 06:00 am
The age of skepticism and suspicion about our political system is once again upon us.
Americans have always looked upon their system of government as the only truly workable democratic one in the world. The recent debacle over the so-called Obamacare and the debt ceiling has made some question the viability of their system of government in todayís world. But it isnít a systemic problem. Rather, this manufactured crisis is a symptom of an ideological split between a socialist president and an embittered conservative congressional opposition. In the rollout of this mess, the president has not helped himself or his country. Instead of recruiting everyone to help solve a serious economic and social situation, he has taken aim at a segment of his countryís citizens, blaming them for the economic woes and threatening to tax them into submission. All things taken into account, it is the president who must carry the burden of failure.
Meanwhile in Canada, the prime minister has brought us to the point of questioning our bicameral system of government. The sloppy and cavalier manner in which he approached appointments to the senate has come back to haunt him. If this were the only symptom of a clear lack of respect that the prime minister has for our parliamentary system, he could be excused for following the example of Chretien and Mulroney in the way they approached gaining political control over our senior chamber. But it isnít.
The recent speech from the throne is an extraordinary piece of cynical political obfuscation. The governor general did his best in trying to rally us around the flag by lacing his speech with a list of patriotic ďConsider ThisĒ statements. The body of the message was, on the other hand, a shopping listing of just about every project and activity that his ministersí public servants are working on Ė most of which are already either underway or close to completion. It was a masterful piece of political bafflegab. Canadaís true direction is firmly in the hands of the prime minister alone.
So what about the issues that really matter? The prime minister has already made it clear that Canada isnít particularly interested in the United Nations when he turned down his invitation to address the UN general assembly. He turned his back on the commonwealth conference with the lame excuse that he didnít like the government of the host country. And he has turned the running of parliament over to the prime ministerís office. Then he really did something important and positive. He flew into Brussels and signed a European free trade agreement. Indeed the prime minister has been working on trade agreements with persistent personal intensity. And yet, nothing of this was addressed in the throne speech, which is supposed to be the basis for setting the parliamentary calendar of action.
This strategy of doing the countryís business largely by prime ministerial decree is not without precedent. It reminds one of a time in the evolution of parliamentary democracy when the leader of the most powerful group in parliament decided that he alone should be in charge. He had previously signed the death warrant for the countryís monarch, left the country to fight rebellious colonists and returned in triumph to take the lead in running the nationís business. Oliver Cromwell abolished parliament and was appointed Lord Protector. When his term in office was over the monarchy was restored and parliament returned. He left no positive permanent impact. Are we about to be governed again by a Lord Protector?
Alan Murdock is a local pediatrician.