This article is surely a cut above most of Travers' work. Perhaps this is because most of it agrees with my own opinions! Anyway Travers makes a lot of good points. Imagine what Harper would do if he had a majority that imposed no restraints upon him. However, as Travers himself points out the opposition Liberals seem hardly a credible alternative. There are other alternatives though, that is voting for the NDP, the Greens, and other parties. It is unlikely that this will result in Tweedle Dee(Conservatives) and Tweedle Dum (LIberals) being defeated by a third party but it will put some restraints upon what the winning party can do wrong by ensuring that there is not another majority government. Unless Ignatieff begins to advance some policies that capture the imagination of Canadians and shows more skill in countering the Conservative attacks against him while attacking them successfully there seems not much hope for the Liberal party. Right now he seems to have gone back into sleep mode. Perhaps he is saving energy. This is from the Star.
Travers: Harper's dark democracy creates dangerous legacy
January 02, 2010
No one should be more concerned about this Prime Minister's controlling methods than Conservatives. Power so expediently abused in high office becomes a cruel constraint when an election is inevitably lost.
Stephen Harper understood that in opposition. As a Reformer he preached the gospel of parliamentary primacy. As a Conservative leader using memories of ethical failures from the Chrétien era to defeat Paul Martin, Harper promised, hand over heart, to restore accountability.
That, of course, was then. Now the Prime Minister is singularly dominating national affairs. As a new year begins, there will be no one here to ask annoying questions about war and spending or distract attention from the modern Roman circus of Olympic Games.
No watchdogs will howl at how Canadians are being denied the right to know what the ruling party is doing in their name and with their money; what generals and ministers aren't saying about Afghanistan prisoner torture or how an unreformed RCMP polices much of the country without civilian oversight.
If there is a zone, a sweet spot, in federal politics, Harper is at its epicentre. Cabinet is a rubber stamp, party principles are sacrificed to pragmatism without much protest, and there's no credible alternative to threaten Harper's hegemony or test a Conservative agenda.
Other prime ministers have explored the open space created by Parliament's shrinkage. Pierre Trudeau, who began the concentration of power among whispering loyalists, snapped "just watch me" when asked how far he would go to control the 1970 October Crisis. Brian Mulroney Tories created the wink-and-nudge contracting system that Liberals elevated into the Quebec sponsorship scheme. Jean Chrétien became known as a more or less friendly dictator during three consecutive majorities.
Harper is still pursuing a first majority. Meanwhile he's constructing a bold new edifice on his predecessor's suspect foundations.
Systematically, and without explanation, the Prime Minister is testing every limit on his power. Along with successfully shuttering Parliament for the second time, he's neutering committees charged with the primary democratic responsibilities of safeguarding the treasury and forcing the government to explain its actions. He's challenging independent rulings against how Conservatives funded their 2006 election and how this government treats Canadians in trouble abroad.
Politics is an uncompromising blood sport played to win within loose rules. By learning Liberal dirty tricks, adapting to changing circumstances and reinterpreting every regulation in his favour, Harper is proving to be a shrewd and accomplished contestant.
Far less clear is what he accepts as legitimate constraint, the line in the democratic sand not to be crossed.
Last year ministers threatened to go over the head of the de facto head of state if Governor General Michaëlle Jean allowed a coalition of "Liberals, socialists and separatist" to use their Commons majority to topple his minority. This winter Harper is essentially making the argument that Parliament is getting in the way of his government governing.
Come spring or fall, there will likely be another election, one that might well interfere with what the Prime Minister has in mind and could, if experience is a prognosticator, lead to yet another response outside the boundaries of shared Canadian experience.
Whatever happens in the coming months, one reality is inescapable. In taking politics to a different, hyper-controlling and partisan level, the Prime Minister is creating a dangerous legacy his successors will gratefully accept before turning it to their benefit.
Even if Conservatives are more comfortable than other Canadians with Harper's dark democracy, they along with the rest of us should be very afraid of what will happen when, as it will, the political worm turns.
James Travers' column appears Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.