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Helena Guergis: demonized, ostracized and vilified Add to ...

1. Dysfunctional. Helena Guergis's career was destroyed by a parliamentary process run amok and a Prime Minister who is out of control, Liberal Party President Alf Apps says.

Appearing on CTV's Question Period yesterday, Mr. Apps - who also fell victim to that process when his name and reputation were sullied last week at the committee investigating the Guergis/Jaffer affair - said Canadians need to get back to a "Parliament that's respectful of the rights of individuals, a Parliament that's respectful of natural justice and due process."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Mr. Apps says, has gone beyond his prerogative of deciding who can serve in his cabinet. "He has by fact removed her from the government caucus and he has gone beyond that and actually said that she can no longer stand as the Conservative member in her riding," the Liberal official told Question Period.

Mr. Harper, he adds, has not simply expelled her from cabinet and caucus but overseen "her effective demonization, her ostracization, her vilification, the complete destruction of her political career, and he's preempted the fact that she was voted in by the constituents of her riding and preempted the fact that she was nominated by her riding."

He calls it draconian that the Prime Minister has decided not to allow Ms. Guergis to stand as a candidate in her Ontario riding or even fulfill her mandate as a Conservative without "actually having come to any conclusions."

Questions are being asked by the opposition and journalists as to whether the Prime Minister went too far on very flimsy information. But yesterday, Manitoba Conservative MP Shelly Glover defended her boss, arguing the allegations were serious and "frankly, he did the right thing, and I think that's what people need to understand."

Ms. Glover said, too, that the committee process has disappointed her in the short time she has been an MP (she was elected in the 2008 election). "I mean committees are supposed to be where the truth is sought, where we look to find justice. Unfortunately, I come from a background where you correct the record as soon as you possible can, and talk the truth. In committees, that doesn't happen."

It's been more than five weeks since Ms. Guergis was forced to resign her post as Status of Women Minister, kicked out of caucus amid an RCMP investigation. She has said that she still does not know the allegations surrounding the Prime Minister's reasons for her treatment. Private investigator Derrick Snowdy, whose handiwork spurred Mr. Harper to act, testified last week that he has no dirt on the former minister whatsoever.

2. Functional. James Rajotte is the chairman of the powerful all-party Commons finance committee and if he were paid by the clause he would be a very rich man.

Last week, the veteran Edmonton Conservative MP was working at warp speed as his committee passed 2,200 clauses, in less than an hour, to get the budget bill back into the House of Commons for third reading and then off to the Senate.

This feat was achieved through negotiation with the opposition, allowing each party its own witnesses and a lot of time for MPs to ask questions and really understand the different aspects of the bill (there are 24 different components to the bill). It's interesting that Mr. Rajotte and the opposition members on his committee managed this, given that what Canadians see on Parliament Hill these days are displays of hyper-partisanship, dysfunction, heckling and scandal.

Instead, this is an example of parliamentarians actually working together and figuring out a potentially contentious issue. Indeed, the vote on the bill is one of confidence and it was made clear in the clause-by-clause negotiations that this was a matter on which the government could fall.

Mr. Rajotte, who is happy and relieved now that the bill has passed through his committee, says there is some time sensitivity and the bill must be passed before the House rises next month.

"Even though parties disagree on policy, there does occur negotiation to allow the process to be fair to all," says Mr. Rajotte. "It's hard to predict what will happen when you do clause-by-clause. There are 2,200 clauses in the bill so that means we could have had a very long debate and voting process."

Some of the key parts of the bill include funding for Genome Canada and the Rick Hansen Foundation, plus a series of tax changes. Sometimes Parliament does actually work.

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