26 September 2006

A one track government

In spite of finding themselves with a surplus of $18 Billion (and I'm somehow doubting that Paul Martin will be getting a letter of thanks any time soon) our Conservative government is pushing ahead with $1Bn in spending cuts. See, that's what they said they'd do. And no change of circumstances could possibly justify changing your position.

So, they saved the whole billion by cutting the gun registry, right? Not at all. According to the Toronto Star, "Women's organizations were spared this year but human rights lawyers, high-tech researchers, museum-goers, students and the tourist industry will feel the impact of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's efforts to save money and reduce support for the government's low-priority programs."

Lord knows the tourist industry doesn't need our help, although visits to Toronto were down 15% last year, and we can let the Americans do all our high-tech research for us now and pay them real money for it later. And students? No worries: the average graduating debt for an Ontario undergrad is well over $20,000, so what's a few extra thousand?

No, my real concern is as a lawyer. And believe me I don't say that often. But the article notes that "the government saved $5.6 million over two years by eliminating the Court Challenges Program, which has funded legal actions by gays and human rights advocates. Also gone is the Law Commission of Canada, a respected federal law reform agency. The Conservatives have often complained that the courts have usurped the role of Parliament in establishing society's standards."

This theory of Courts usurping the power of the legislature is total crap. That's a technical term. Firstly, the legislature can always simply re-legislate any issue on which it has substantial disagreement with the court. This can even take the form of directly overturning a court decision and implementing a law which the court has found unconstitutional. This process is referred to as using the 'notwithstanding' clause, and it constitutionally anchors absolute supremacy in the legislature. All they have to do is agree to use it, and revisit their choice at least once every five years.

I'll also point out that power in our government is incredibly concentrated in the hands of the PM, who leads both the executive and the legislative branch - contrast that with the American system where Congress is supposed to be a check on the President. So basically Conservatives are complaining that the inherent and largely unchecked power of the PM combined with the constitutional guarantee of legislative supremacy over the Courts is somehow insufficient. Which, to get technical, is total crap.

What's really up? Conservatives aren't upset about Court power, they're upset about how the Court uses that power. How does the Court use its power? Consistently with the Constitution. Albertans are still pissed off that the Supreme Court 'interpreted' their human rights legislation to include protection for homosexuals (I'm serious - they had specifically excluded them, and fought for their right to legally discriminate against homosexuals all the way to the SCC). But if most Albertans really thought that was wrong, King Ralph could have invoked the notwithstanding clause. He didn't do that because the voting public would not stand for it. Which is to say that the SCC has not been abusing its power, but rather exercising it in a way that most Canadians agree with, but most Conservatives do not.

Which is really all to say that Steve doesn't like fags, and he's going to spend your tax dollars accordingly.


Blogger fifi said...

Good spiel.

October 04, 2006  

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