Stephen Harper’s king-like powers set bad precedent

There's a need for change in the way our country is governed

Re: Democracy wilting in Ottawa (Our View, June 15), Chipping away at democracy (Erin McCracken, June 8)

Having voted Conservative since Diefenbaker trounced the Liberal Party in 1958, I was pleased to see Harper finally achieve a comfortable majority in Parliament.

That said, with a clear election outcome of what now amounts to a two-party system of the left versus the right, the prime minister, any prime minister, continues to have the potential of acting as a law onto himself, with the dictates of caucus solidarity suffocating the regional voices of individual MPs by rigid party discipline.

Teetering, as we have been since Confederation, on the very brink of democracy, the centralization of power in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has effectively hollowed Parliament’s role.

No lasting progress will have been made to correct the country’s “democracy  deficit,” and chart a course toward the restoration of public trust, without a truly democratic separation of powers into a functional system of political checks and balances.

They would be constituted by three independent branches: a legislative branch to make laws, an executive branch to enforce and carry out the laws and a judicial branch to interpret the laws.

When shaping their own constitutional concept of government in 1776, the guiding principle for America’s revolutionary founding fathers was that there should never be another “king” (i.e. a branch of government wielding the power of a king).

By contrast, having failed to provide a functional system of political checks and balances, Canada’s cloned copy of the British parliamentary system left us constitutionally and democratically constipated.

Unless there is a truly democratic separation of the executive branch (the PMO) and legislative branch (Parliament), any Canadian prime minister of whatever political stripe will be able to act like a king, wielding autocratic powers (1) over an unelected Senate, (2) over an appointed Supreme Court, (3) over the legislative process of Parliament and, last but not least, (4) over whomever gets to be governor general.

But, perish the thought, such constitutional separation would get us dangerously close to going down that dreaded republican road.

E.W. Bopp


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