The past year was a hard year for the state of democracy around the World and when 2021 got here, we were all hoping that this year would be better. Instead the World witnessed one of the most disturbing things that we could with the storming of the United States Capitol. It was a low water mark for democratic norms around and showed just how fragile our democracies can be.
What we saw play out in Washington should have been a wake-up call to all democracies not just about the dangers of conspiracy theories, but of more. It should have been a wake-up call about the danger of hyper partisanship and seeing your political opponents as enemies instead of fellow citizens with disagreements on policy. It should have been a wake-up call about running transparent, accountable government and the dangers of doing the opposite. Being on this side of the border, it should have been a wake-up call and a screaming example of “Don’t do this” here. Yet yesterday a story came out from this side of the border that has left a lot of people screaming alright, for good reason, and shows that a certain political leader in this country has learned nothing so far this year:
Folks, I can’t tell you just how disturbing and unprecedented that this move by Manitoba’s Conservative Premier Brian Pallister is. This is the kind of act that is not excusable at all in any democratic society, period. As CBC Manitoba reported yesterday, “Manitoba’s government is limiting debate over 19 new bills by not making any text available for opposition parties or the public to review”. All they are doing is introducing these bills with their titles and nothing else, leaving the actual content of these bills until they come up for debate at second reading. That means that the public has no idea what is in these bills and won’t for months after they were tabled in the Manitoba Legislature.
No government in Canada does that at all, because of just how anti-democratic that it is. Seriously, how is it that in a democratic society you can introduce legislation formally in a legislature or parliament and not tell anyone what’s in it? Well Premier Pallister is able to do this because the “current rules of the legislature do not expressly forbid bills from being introduced in this way”. Seriously, this is dirty crap of the worst kind. It’s unethical, it’s anti-democratic and screams of a serious kind of arrogance on the part of this Premier. And if you don’t want to take my word for it, let Pallister’s speak for themselves:
“We’re ready to play nice, but we’re also the elected government of Manitoba, so I would encourage the Opposition not to try to pretend that they are the government. They are not.”Source: CBC Manitoba
That is the kind of arrogance that leads to this crap and is quite stunning coming from a politician who spent his entire Federal political career in Opposition. You’d think that someone with his experience would have a better appreciation for the work of all elected people in a chamber, but clearly not. Nope, he’s frustrated than the Official Opposition is doing its job, holding his government to account. He doesn’t like that he can’t do whatever he wants, whenever he wants. He seems to think that because his party won the most seats in the Manitoba Legislature that he’s an Emperor who owes no answers or excuses to anyone for anything.
Of course, he’s not that at all and by saying what he just said about the Opposition, he clearly doesn’t understand that as Premier he’s just the first of many MLA’s in that place. He clearly doesn’t understand or like that those Opposition MLAs are not less than his own. Personally, I can just imagine how Pallister would have acted as an Opposition MP if he had heard Jean Chrétien or Paul Martin had said what he just did with a straight face.
Needless to say, this story would be bad at any time, but it’s even worse in the current context. We’re already seeing many democratic norms being eaten away at and this does nothing to help that. There is no way in which it is proper or responsible for a Premier in this country to try to hide bills from the people to stop them from opposing him. Furthermore, it doesn’t say anything good about what’s in that proposed legislation if you feel that you need to go to these links to keep people from seeing it or opposing it. If he seriously thought that this is what the people wanted or was a good idea, he would proudly table all of the language and stand behind it, like every government leader in the history of this country has done. Brian Pallister isn’t doing that he, which tells you a lot more not just about his anti-democratic tendencies but also the nature of the bills themselves.
This is dangerous from Pallister and I’m glad to see so many people calling it out from all parties, including Conservatives. There is no proper excuse or rationale for doing this, none. In Parliament, bills are posted online for people to read within hours of their tabling in the House of Commons. All other legislatures do similar. There is no reasonable excuse for not doing the same here. Pallister’s attempts to give some here just showed a worse side of himself, which is saying something for a guy who has proved to be one of the coldest and hardest partisans in any Premiers office across the country. This is bad, even by his standards. The saying that “democracy dies in the darkness” is sadly true, and any political leader who tries to advance their agenda by keeping it hidden in the darkness is no friend of democracy. If Pallister really believes in what he’s proposed in these phantom bills, then he should have the courage to stand behind them and put out the full text of each one. If not, he’s just showing himself to be a coward who is unworthy of the office he holds, or any other elected office in this democratic country.