So, Stephen Harper tries to set up a public appointments commission to vet the people who receive government appointments, a significant element of his election promise to make government more accountable to the people. However, as he runs a minority government, the committee that oversees the commission has a majority of opposition members, and they vote against his selection for the commission’s chair.
So what does Harper do? He dissolves the public appointments commission in a fit of pique and claims that he cannot fulfill his election promise until his party has a majority.
Mr. Harper said the Tuesday’s vote signals that “we won’t be able to clean up the process in this minority Parliament.”
“We’ll obviously need a majority government to do that in the future. That’s obviously what we’ll be taking to the people of Canada at the appropriate time,” he said as he headed into Parliament for question period.
The opposition members opposed Gwyn Morgan, former CEO of ExCana and Harper’s choice to head the commission, because of past comments Mr. Morgan made about immigration and low-wage earners. Whether or not Mr. Morgan’s comments were a good reason to deny Harper’s application to make him the commission’s chair is certainly a matter for debate, but if Harper wants to paint the opposition as obstructionist on a vote that they are entitled to make, he’s going to have to work a lot harder to try to pull the wool over the eyes of the electorate.
There are many things that Harper can still do to move forward on his election promise in the wake of this vote. He can bring forward a candidate that elements of the opposition would find more acceptible. Or he can just ignore the vote altogether, despite the flak he would have taken for such an arrogant move — as POGGE points out, the vote was symbolic and non-binding. I personally suggest using the first approach, or even asking the opposition to suggest alternate candidates for the position.
Either way, if Harper is willing to throw up his hands on the basis of one symbolic, non-binding vote against a single candidate who might or might not be unsuited for the position, then it doesn’t paint the opposition as obstructionist. Rather, one has to call into question Harper’s commitment in pursuing his promise to improve the government’s accountability. If he had tried a different candidate and failed, then he might have a case, but as it stands, Harper again looks like a petulant child, stamping his foot, taking his marbles and running home.
Not the image of a man supposedly worthy of being prime minister.