Monday, December 21, 2009

They Perpetually Just Do Not Get It, Over and Over Again

Winnipeg Free Press columnist makes excuses for Joan Fraser

In October of this year, Liberal Senator Joan Fraser precipitated one of the most embarrassing episodes in the history of the Canadian Senate when she attempted to hold Manitoba Minister of Justice Dave Chomiak and Alberta Minister of Justice Alison Redford in contempt of Parliament.

Fraser claimed that Redford and Chomiak had misled the Senate when they attended a press conference with federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson before going to the airport.

Eventually, less vengeful heads prevailed.

But a recent recap by Mia Rabson gives Fraser far more credit than she deserves:
"In October, Manitoba Justice Minister Dave Chomiak was lambasted by a Liberal senator for his appearance at a Senate committee.

Joan Fraser asked for Chomiak and Alberta Justice Minister Alison Redford to be admonished, even held in contempt of Parliament, for saying they had to leave before the hearing was finished to catch a plane.

It was true, but they went to a pre-planned press conference before they left for the airport, something they didn't mention to the committee and that, Fraser, alleged, was misleading and disrespected Parliament.

At the press conference, federal Justice Minister Rob Nicholson accused the Senate of delaying passage of a bill eliminating the use of two-for-one credit for convicted criminals for time served in jail before their trial. Chomiak and Redford were at the committee hearing pleading with senators to pass the bill unamended.

Contempt of Parliament is a rare but serious allegation, used when someone prevents Parliament from doing its work. It could carry a jail term, though most often those held in contempt are simply asked to apologize.

I felt Fraser's charge was an example of just how tense the situation is in the Senate these days. The Conservative government has repeatedly accused unelected Liberal senators of thwarting the will of the people by not simply passing legislation from the elected House, no questions asked.

Liberal senators are weary of being on the one hand accused of not working hard enough, and on the other of being told not to do their work and simply push through government bills without review. Having two provincial justice ministers getting into the act was more than Fraser and other senators were willing to tolerate.

Nevertheless, Chomiak was spared any time in Senate jail. Speaker Noel Kinsella ruled Fraser's point of privilege had no merit. He said the two ministers were there voluntarily, had been told they would testify for an hour, and had scheduled their day accordingly, Kinsella said.

'Once this premise is accepted, the subsequent events do not appear unreasonable,' he said in his ruling.
If only it were so simple.

Of course, the Liberal Senators were not being told "not to do their job". Rather the Liberal Senators in question were taking ideological liberties with a matter with which the House of Commons, Provincial Justice Ministers, and provincial governments, cumulatively representing all of Canada's political parties, supported the bill to abolish two-for-one sentencing provisions.

Rather, the Liberal Senate caucus was being told to do its job, and respect the judgment of Canada's elected officials -- not to hold up vital legislation on purely ideological grounds.

Moreover, Joan Fraser's attempt to punish Dave Chomiak and Alison Redford in front of the Senate had nothing to do with "misleading the Senate", and had everything to do with silence voices that were criticizing her caucus' stand on that issue.

Joan Fraser is only one of a number of Canadian politicians who simply don't understand the issue of crime for what it really is. But it seems like she isn't alone. It's fairly evident that Mia Robson doesn't get it either.

1 comment:

  1. Great post.
    If you get a chance take a peak over the Kairos defence. Apparently Ms. Ralph from IVJ is their champion on Lib blogs.


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