From: http://www.canoe.ca/Columnists/jackson.html AMERICANS WOULD BE AMAZED AT OUR PRIME MINISTER'S LOCK ON POWER By PAUL JACKSON email@example.com -- Calgary Sun An American friend bemoans the political scene in the U.S. and asks me to explain the Canadian political system to him. For some unfathomable reason, he thinks our system is more open and more honest. Oh, boy, did I disenchant him! I tell him the Liberal party --whose main philosophy is pork-barrel patronage -- has ruled Canada for 70 out of the last 100 years. It's a forgone conclusion that, barring an upset, the Liberals will win almost every election. They have greased their way to victory. Seventy years in power has given them an ingrained patronage machine unlike any other country barring some African dictatorships or South American banana republics. That patronage machine allows them to buy votes, and to buy political donations. The prime minister's power is absolute. There are no checks and balances. He alone appoints members of the Supreme Court of Canada and all other courts in the land higher than provincial courts. There are no confirmation hearings. He appoints thousands of chairmen and members of government corporations, and agencies and boards, ranging from transport to immigration to harbour commissions. There are no confirmation hearings for any of these positions. They all go to Liberal party members -- or individuals known to favour the government. Being a party fund-raiser helps. Or running an advertising agency that gives its talents free to the Liberal party is also a bonus. He asks about the Senate's role. Well, we do have a Senate, dubbed the "Upper House" or the "House of sober second thought" because it is supposed to be the last check on laws passed by the House of Commons. The Catch-22: The prime minister -- now purported to be Jean Chretien -- appoints all the senators. Hence, every law he wants passed gets passed with only token opposition. Chretien also appoints, again without any independent assessments, all federal deputy ministers. Their sole role is to serve the Liberal government's interests. They, in turn, appoint their assistant deputy ministers. And you know what their role is. Since none of these individuals can be dismissed without a huge hue and cry, in the rare occasions when a federal conservative government is elected , the deputy ministers and the entire bureaucracy go all out to undermine that government and pave the way for a return of their benefactors. Perplexed, he asks: What about House of Commons independent parliamentary committees? The Liberals, I explain, control all these committees, so in their deliberations they simply go through the motions of asking questions and probing for facts, and then rubber-stamp whatever the government wants them to rubber- stamp. Not as in the U.S., where members of the Senate and House of Representative criticize and vote against their own government and party regularly and with impunity. Crazy? Hear this, I tell him: Chretien was once owner of a share in a money-troubled hotel and golf course complex. The federally-owned Business Development Bank of Canada refused to give it a loan of taxpayers' money because the owner, a friend of Chretien's, is a convicted felon. So the prime minister hauled in the bank's president and made him loan the complex $600,000. After that it was discovered the complex owed the prime minister $300,000 for his share of the business. Then the bank president who initially refused the loan was fired. Chretien then appointed his former director of operations to the position of vice-president of the bank -- with a scribbled note saying even if he left the post voluntarily he would get $150,000 in severance pay. He's leaving within a year -- with his big cheque. Ethics investigation? Yes, Canada has an ethics commissioner. The ethics commissioner is appointed by the prime minister and reports only to the prime minister. On every single instance, the ethics commissioner has cleared the prime minister and other cabinet ministers of conflict of interest. Now, I tell my friend, do Americans think the likes of Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton are really all that bad?
What do you think? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions or comments.
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Created: September 11, 2001
Last updated: October 14, 2005
©2001 Albert Lowe. All rights reserved.
The story quoted above is © to Paul Jackson, The Calgary Sun, and Canoe.CA. (AFAIK)
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