Rex Murphy: Short-circuiting Our Democracy

Rex Murphy: Singh betrays NDP with pledge to grant Trudeau parliamentary immunity

A pact to avoid the deepest elements of democratic oversight

Rex Murphy

Oct 27, 2022  •  3 days ago  •  4 minute read  •  659 Comments 

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada September 22, 2022. REUTERS/Blair Gable
Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada September 22, 2022. REUTERS/Blair Gable

What will it take to break the hoops of steel that now bind Jagmeet Singh to the fortunes and political health of Justin Trudeau?

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What bonding between the two is so adamant that nothing can sunder it?

Hold on.

Before I seek an answer to that dark query, there stands a preliminary point of curiosity.

Mr. Singh and Mr. Trudeau may have sat on a sofa of mutual comfort. But what, speaking of the NDP party itself, its followers, its MPs, explains their easy acceptance of this strange tryst?

Has there been a single member of the once stalwart NDP caucus ( by “once stalwart” here I mean the long and distinguished period when the NDP were the eagle-eyed critics of the natural governing party, its fiercest challengers, the uncompromising champions of forgotten workers, from auto shops to oil workers to farmers) who has publicly questioned and objected to the little explained nuptials between Jagmeet and Justin?

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Is there no single NDP MP who finds the puzzling embrace embarrassing? Or will at least offer some comment?

Is there no concern in the NDP caucus that their impeccably styled chief has, by the deal with Mr. Trudeau, effectively and objectively reduced the greatest protest party Canada has ever had to a mere sidecar, or to vary the metaphor, a political-airbag should the Liberals ever face some collision in the House of Commons?

Does Mr. Singh rule the party so stringently that when he denies his own party’s character by effectively  merging it with the Liberals to making it a  tail on a Mr. Trudeau’s minority kite, that no one in that caucus objects? The silence of the NDP caucus on this arrangement is a grim and possible embarrassing puzzle.

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What  holds them back? It cannot be that they see this cynical abandonment of the NDP’s great parliamentary role as in any way accordant with the legacy of its heroes, be it Mr. Layton or the iconic Tommy Douglas. Would either Layton or Douglas have so bent and genuflected? Anyone at all with the slightest memory of political tradition in Canada knows the answer to this question.

And the answer is not kind to the NDP in its current incarnation and certainly not its current leadership.

Now, after this relaxed divertissement, let us return to the primary question. Mr. Singh has recently made it known that should the inquiry into the use of Emergencies Act establish that it was not warranted, that no reality on the ground constituted a threat to the Canadian nation, he would still stay in yoke and harmony with Mr. Trudeau. What then would it take to break the alliance?

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Allow me to expand. Even if the inquiry establishes that the Emergencies Act was called without warrant, that it was not justified, that it was brutal state overreach, a breach of civil liberties, an annulment of the Charter, an assault on legitimate protest, the whole NDP party would stand by the Liberals.

What if, and this is the extreme case, that possibly — I stress the “possibly” here — it was invoked, not on national security grounds, but for more partisan or personal reasons, he would stay with the Prime Minister who called it?

Here’s the news report: “NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says it is unlikely that his party would pull their support for the Liberals if the Public Order Emergency Commission examining the federal government’s invocation of the Emergencies Act concludes that doing so was not justified.”

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If the imposition of emergency powers, the raiding of bank accounts, the jailing of protesters, the invasions of privacy rights, if all of this is determined to be nothing more than an overwrought prime minister exercising his distaste for opposition and legitimate protest, should that be the inquiry’s findings, would Mr. Singh stay with his Liberal partner?

The Singh-Trudeau compact is an insult to Parliamentary function. It protects the government from all confidence-vote challenges. It dwindles down to tacit co-operation on committees of inquiry. It mocks the voting result itself. The votes went for a minority, with the protections a minority offers to the Parliament as a whole. That it can restrain executive authority, numb the invisible influence of non-parliament actors in the PMO from running an agenda.

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Most significantly, it guts genuine parliamentary oversight, and since parliamentary oversight is — give it some thought — the very purpose and essence of every Parliament, it nullifies the premiere institution of our entire democracy.

Mr. Singh’s deal with Mr. Trudeau’s is probably seen among the fixers and comms specialists and the cute spin masters of the Ottawa smart set as a real cool finesse. “Hey, we certainly fixed their boat.”

Here’s what the Liberal-NDP really is. The neutering of parliamentary rule, a cynical arrangement to bypass the expected provisions of democratic responsibility. A shield against genuine inquiry and investigation. A pact to avoid the deepest elements of democratic oversight.

Mr. Singh gives Mr. Trudeau the ability, unearned by electoral vote, to rule as a majority government. An ability the election he called in a pandemic denied him, one which he does not legitimately own, and one he now holds as a result of a purely political barter. These two have short-circuited the elements of our democracy.

They are both politicians in the deepest negative sense that designation now, so sadly, stands for.

Sunny Days. It is to laugh. There have been better forecasts.

National Post

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