Rhino Parliament Opens; Speech from the Throne

Originally posted from August 28, 2008


Uh, oh!

(More later…)

(Later…) The currency is down another five cents, though it seems the rate of descent appears to have slowed. Analysts are speculating about another quarter point increase in the interest rate, and that alone seems to have soothed investors. Our stock markets are down another 100 points, which is less than I feared, but still…

If I had to categorize the reaction of the financial markets, or the world community, it would be… almost no reaction whatsoever. It’s like people are staring at us, mouths agape, incapable of saying or doing anything until something shakes them out of their spell.

The good news? This and the fact that the market hasn’t completely bottomed out means that international investors haven’t deserted us. They’re still doing business, they’re still making money, and they might stick around.

The bad news? This reaction is precisely the same as one has when one is witnessing a train wreck in progress. I do not like the parallels.

Another cause of the uncertainty could be the very mixed messages that are coming out of Parliament Hill. The Rhino MPs behaved themselves while parliamentarians engaged in a pretty orderly vote to re-elect Peter Milliken as the Speaker. But lest we think that the Rhinos were going to roll up their sleeves and govern seriously, we’re treated to a bizarre Throne Speech that seemed to make all monarchists and proponents for the traditions of parliamentary democracy spit fire.

Truth to tell, I was tempted to laugh. But then I reminded myself of where we were, and who was speaking. And what this means to our democratic system.

And then came this afternoon. Three bills from the Rhino government: 1) To amend all government bills to include the word “fun” inside them (“which has been conspicuously absent from all legislation”), 2) A bill to reform Elections Canada (among other things, to refund the $1000 deposit candidates must pay to the tune of $1.75 per vote — actually an interesting idea) and then finally, 3), the Rhinoceros Omnibus Bill (say that three times fast), which is basically a massive piece of legislation to enact all of the joke policies of the Rhinoceros platform all at once. It’s as if somebody made a checklist from Wikipedia’s entry on the history of the Rhinoceros Party.

Which is all, of course, a grotesque waste of time. Whatever isn’t unconstitutional is unimplementable. And as for the proposal to end crime by abolishing all laws — well, libertarians might like this in theory, but how the hell are we going to put this into practise?

And how on Earth do you legalize pot, and pans, and spatulas and other kitchen utensils when they weren’t illegal in the first place?!

Anybody want to guess how many thousands of dollars will be spent to write up these pieces of legislation, and all the assorted paperwork these bills will entail? Do the five million Canadians who voted Rhino believe that their dollars are being well spent by this exercise?

On the other hand, it was odd watching the Opposition reaction to all this, and this is where I get to the mixed messages coming from Parliament Hill. They basically just sat there, in fairly stony silence and took it. No debate. Nothing. I know: what was there to say? But still, no sign of any defence. No attempt to filibuster, or even force the Rhino government to force closure. These bills all passed their first reading 160-0 (with 148 abstentions), and they will go to the Senate and…

Hmm… I begin to see the method to the Opposition’s madness, here, as led by James Moore. To my American friends, don’t forget our Senate is an appointed body, with vacancies filled by the prime minister as they appear. Even after two years of Harper government, the Liberals still hold a majority there, and the Rhino’s have precisely zero seats. Engaging these bills at the Senate can allow debate to occur (and a vote to dismiss proceed) without the presence of 160 Rhino MPs disrupting things.

And even more intriguingly is that the Rhinos seem to have rewarded the Opposition silence by staying silent themselves. Two other bills entered first reading, both private members bills from the Opposition benches — one a rather technical amendment to the Railways Act, another a tweak of the Securities Commission, both very businesslike and boring — and both passed, with minor debate, and 160 abstentions from the government side.

So, what, do the Rhinos intend to let the Opposition govern us while they provide a sideshow? I doubt that’s a long-term solution. Although business is getting done, I’m reminded of how a chicken continues to kick its legs after its head gets cut off. Right now, Canada’s head doesn’t seem to be connected to its body. That can’t last for too much longer. Our international partners won’t tolerate this much uncertainty.

It should be an interesting day tomorrow as the Senate addresses the Rhino’s first pieces of legislation. And the news is reporting that President Bush will be giving Prime Minister Salmi a phone call. I’m wondering if I should call my friends in the northern States and ask if there have been any troop movements near their towns. Just, you know, to check.

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