The Parallel Parliament

Glen Pearson

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Altered States – How It Should Be

Posted on June 30, 2009

Todd Russell is amazing. A seeming throwback to the MPs of the past, he is, in fact, the very model of what effective politicians of the future could look like. I can drive across my riding of over 100,000 people in about 15 minutes. For Todd, it would take more than a day’s flying time to span his Labrador constituency west to east, or north to south, and he only has 26,000 people in all of Labrador. Todd is the region’s only MP. A former leader of the Metis nation, his knowledge of the people is remarkably intimate and detailed, yet challenged by the sheer geography of the place. I just returned late last night from spending four days with this remarkable man. Out…

Altered States – Inky Is Right

Posted on June 24, 2009

Inky Mark is right.  The Manitoba Conservative MP, in announcing his retirement, stated that the practice of toeing the party line has actually cut MPs off from the constituents that elected them.  The Conservative Party in the House is by far the most rigidly disciplined, almost like boot camp. The price for departing from that discipline can and would be severe. Perhaps the best proof of this is that Inky Mark could only speak his mind fully because he was retiring. This is the perennial condition for all parliamentarians, regardless of which party they come from.  When Mr. Mark stated, “There is no check and balance,” he was only speaking the truth.  Citizens elect local MPs who then go to Ottawa in a credible…

Altered States

Posted on June 24, 2009

We shook hands in the elevator at West Block, wishing each other a good summer. Exiting, the more senior MP noted that things in the House of Commons had clearly changed. “I think life was easier for our predecessors,” he opined. “Oh, I know some things have improved, but it seems like the public no longer holds us in high regard anymore, and that’s too bad because we’re all working hard.” He waved and was off. Riding up to the fourth floor, I got to thinking about his reflections.  Somehow, he had performed that rather remarkable rhetorical feat of acknowledging that the country had changed but that MPs were the roughly the same as before. It’s a view collectively held by most members of…

Prime Minister – Please!

Posted on June 21, 2009

The House concluded last Friday for the summer and I spent some time speaking with Stephen Harper before a series of votes that would end the session. We shook hands, spoke about our families and ruminated about a certain charitable event we were involved with for Africa. He was friendly and warm and we parted in respect. Except I didn’t say what I wanted to tell him; given the circumstances, the time just didn’t seem appropriate.  I wanted to give him an observation and perhaps a bit of a challenge.  I didn’t then, so maybe I can broach it now. That day had been Don Newman day.  Earlier, in Question Period, Mr. Newman was a guest in the House because it was his final…

Tribute To A Champion

Posted on June 19, 2009

The bluster vanished in the House of Commons in an instant yesterday.  When Irwin Cotler stood up in the fourth slot in Question Period and challenged the government once again to bring Canadian citizen Abousfian Abdelrazik home from years of exile in the Canadian embassy in Khartoum, we waited for the predictable response.  After all, this was old ground, covered repeatedly over the last months since both CSIS and the RCMP said they found no fault in the man. Charged once again with responding, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson stood in his place and said simply: “The government will comply with the court order,” and then sat down. For an instant it was almost like you could hear a whooshing sound in the place, then many…