At week's end, we have some smart columnists reflecting on what we've been learning about Harper's leadership through the combined controversy over Guergis-Jaffer and the parliamentary showdown over Afghan documents. There's our own Chantal Hébert and then, some other must-reads:
Paul Wells, in Macleans, has some important insights into the PM's obsession with secrecy. I particularly like this turn of phrase:
But this Prime Minister cannot help himself. If he knows something you don’t, he values that thing out of all proportion to its true worth.
And this little snippet should give us all pause.
During the 2006 election, one Conservative staffer was assigned to stake out the coffee shop where Liberal staffers would pause from long days in their party’s campaign war room. History doesn’t record that the overheard chit-chat did the Conservatives any good, but it made the leader feel better. Today, reporters seeking comment on any story are quizzed at length about their intentions. They may or may not get a call back with any information. But the information they surrender is collated and analyzed for trends on the issues that interest the media.
I'm betting the PMO is now wishing they paid as much attention to Mr. Jaffer's website and conversations as they do to reporters. As I mentioned on CBC this week, it takes the PMO approximately 10 minutes within putting something online to let reporters know that we've done something to offend the folks at Langevin. It took more than seven months after Mr. Jaffer's arrest for the PMO to exhibit any curiosity about his post-political dealings.
The other must read of today is Dan Gardner's column in the Citizen. He apologizes for his alarmist tone, but I'm glad someone is rattling people's attention about this parliamentary standoff. If you thought prorogation was a slap in the face to democracy, pay some overall attention to the trend line here, Gardner is warning.
Most Canadians have little or no understanding of how parliamentary government works, and Stephen Harper has consistently stoked that ignorance and used it to his advantage. He governs like a president, and since Canadians' understanding of government comes mostly from American television and movies, that seems reasonable.
What people don't realize, however, is that the American president is restrained by institutional checks and balances, including a strong and independent Congress. Stephen Harper is subject to no such checks and balances: If he is a president, he is a one-man government.
Errol Mendes calls it "prime ministerial autocracy." In 17th-century England, they had a simpler term for it. It is "tyranny."