Yesterday evening, Paul Martin's government disregarded centuries of parliamentary and constitutional convention by refusing either to resign or seek dissolution of the House after being defeated on a non-confidence vote.
So arrogant was the government in its refusal to treat the non-confidence in the proper manner, that it allowed two of its cabinet ministers to skip the vote, thus underscoring its dismissal of the Constitution and parliamentary procedure.
In other countries, such an act of defiance would be met with public scorn and outrage, protests, and demonstrations.
In Canada, it may simply meet with public indifference.
It should not. It must not, because indifference to the rule of law weakens and inevitably destroys the foundations of our democratic system.
The Liberal Party stands exposed, through the testimony given at the Gomery inquiry by those involved, as a thoroughly corrupt organization governed by nothing except the will to power.
To its leadership and its activists, the rule of law is not sacrosanct, but a flexible device for maintaining its hold on power, a sword against its enemies, a shield for its allies.
Where the rule of law does not serve the party's ends, it is dispensed with. Then it turns to the power of the purse, showering their friends with contracts, offering bribes to voters. In so doing, it builds a network of dependents whose interests become inextricably intertwined with the interests of the party, reinforcing each other's reliance.
It is not necessarily illegal, immoral or unethical for a party in power to reward its supporters, or to promote their interests, Indeed, without the promise of such reward, there would be little incentive for active political partisanship.
But where the rule of law is disregarded in this pursuit of reward, and the public purse treated as the party's treausry, the law must step in to bring an end to these acts, and punish the guilty.
Each transgression that goes unpunished is easier to rationalize away. The individual conscience becomes dulled, and eventually is deadened, as minor transgressions give rise to major.
So too, the collective conscience of the party, and of the people, whose outrage eventually gives way to tolerance, passivity, and finally acceptance.
If we fail to protest the government's refusal to resign, we become accomplices to the government's misdeeds. We become party to the greatest of all crimes in a free society: the failure to defend the rule of law.
The current government has made much of its party's role as defender of civil liberties, human rights, and social programs. Yet its claims ring hollow because they are not supported by honest and ethical practice.
The current government would have you believe that its principal opposition would diminish your civil liberties. Yet what liberties would it not also diminish, to retain its hold on power?
What rights would it not violate, if such rights stood in its way?
What programs would it not cancel, or bankrupt, if to do so would ensure the loyalty of the public necessary to remain in office?
Why should we trust the word of this government in lesser matters, when its word cannot be trusted in the greatest?
The government has broken faith with the people.
Let us now break faith with it.