Bob Rae says the Conservative government has been playing with power while ramming through an agenda “that can only be described as ideological” and Canadians should worry that their own rights will be trampled along with parliamentary democracy.
“This is a government that is marked by excessive partisanship, a narrow-minded ideology, an attempt to control the agenda of Parliament without consultation, without discussion,” the Interim Liberal Leader told reporters Tuesday at a news conference to mark the end of the fall sitting.
Instead of the economy, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has focused on issues of secondary interest to Canadians like dismantling the Wheat Board, Mr. Rae said, also lambasting the government’s omnibus crime bill and its decision to withdrawn from the Kyoto Accord on climate change.
In addition, he said, the Prime Minister has done nothing to condemn calls by Conservatives to people in the Montreal riding of MP Irwin Cotler, which falsely informed voters the veteran Liberal was preparing to leave politics and a by-election would be called. The Tories explained that their actions were just part of free speech.
This is “a government that does not even condemn the deliberate falsification of information being given to people in telephone calls directed into a riding, a government that is not even capable of understanding how wrong that is, but just says ‘oh well, everybody does it, it’s fine, it’s okay,’” Mr. Rae fumed.
It is a government, he added, that is willing to proceed with legislation to dismantle the Canadian Wheat Board despite a court ruling that says to do so without consulting farmers would be illegal. “A government that does this to Parliament will do it to Canadians. And that’s something that people need to wake up and think about.”
Canadians rely on governments to respect information the due process of law, the Interim Liberal Leader said. “If you condone telling lies and making phone calls into somebody’s riding and playing those games, what would stop you from being similarly abusive when you are keeping confidential information?”
House Leader Mark Garneau said that, under the previous Liberal majority government, 153 bills were debated in the Commons over the course of 419 sitting days. In four years, he said, the government imposed time limits on debate just 10 times.
The Montreal MP contrasted that with the record of the current Conservative government, which he said is about to tie that number with just 21 bills debated over the course of 66 sitting days.
“Canadians deserve to know the kind of government that they have and a government that treats Parliament this way is a government that ultimately will treat its citizens this way,” Mr. Rae reiterated. “And that, I think, is something that everybody has to understand.”
A spokesman for Government House Leader Peter Van Loan said the Conservatives have been given a majority mandate by Canadians to fulfill their commitments and that is what they intend to do. All of the bills that have been subject to time allocation have been extensively debated in the last election, in the House of Commons and at committee hearings, Fraser Malcolm said.
“We will not allow the opposition to continue playing political games and delaying these important pieces of legislation that create jobs and improves the safety of Canadian families,” he added.
The Liberal rant against Mr. Harper’s Conservatives comes on the heels of a fundraising letter from former prime minister Jean Chrétien, which warns that the government’s next moves could be to repeal same-sex marriage and abortion rights or bring back the death penalty.
Mr. Chrétien is a man of conviction and “he believes, I think from talking to him, that this government is different to previous Conservative governments. We have a Reform government,” Mr. Rae said. “We think this is a bad government and we think there are a lot of Canadians who agree with us.”