Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Checks And Unbalances

Stephen Harper doesn't fear the Liberal parliamentary party opposition to a potential Conservative government. He's spent enough time riding the opposition benches to know just how impotent opposition MPs usually are in a system in which the PMO controls the entire legislative and executive branches.

But he does realize who his real opposition is: the civil service and judiciary which, in the absence of a truly powerful parliamentary opposition, can do much more harm in the long run:

Stephen Harper moved to reassure wary voters yesterday that a Liberal-dominated Senate, judiciary and civil service would provide plenty of checks and balances should his party walk away with a majority next Monday.

"The reality is that we will have, for some time to come, a Liberal Senate, a Liberal civil service -- at least senior levels have been appointed by the Liberals -- and courts that have been appointed by the Liberals," Mr. Harper said.

"So these are obviously checks on the power of a Conservative government."

A parliamentary opposition can play procedural games and ask embarrassing questions in the House, but that's about all it can do in the House these days except under a minority government.

The most powerful opposition will exist outside Parliament, beyond the reach of the voters to rein in.

The Senate will be Liberal controlled for years to come; expect it to become suddenly more active in obstructing and defeating legislation. The civil service can frustrate any government's boldest ambitions through its control of administration and inertia; expect it to slow down real government reforms that imperil its position. The judiciary is almost entirely drawn from the ranks of lawyers and academics who despise conservative philosophy, especially on social issues; expect them to be ready to strike down legislation at the first opportunity.

The Tories know where their real opposition lies.

So should we.

Source: Globe and Mail

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