Friday, December 05, 2008

Gwyn Gives Alternative View on GG's Decision

I like Richard Gwyn, ever since I saw him on TVO's Studio Two (now defunct) and first came across his column in The Toronto Star. He has an interesting take on Governor General Michaƫlle Jean's decision yesterday.

I thought it was unconscionable of Prime Minister Stephen Harper to put the GG in the position of having to decide whether to deny the will of our Prime Minister or of our Parliament. He ought never to have asked her to prorogue Parliament and instead have the honour and courage to face the majority in Parliament. He further shoved his arrogance in all our faces by scheduling a meeting across the province for just a few hours after this historic meeting, as if the GG was just there to bend to his will and what happens to Canada ought to be decided in a moment, not after thoughtful discussion. I wasn't happy either with the GG's final decision, especially as it sets a precedent for future even-more-nefarious Prime Ministers to avoid Parliament's will. But after having read Gwyn's analysis, I have hope.

Gwyn believes  the GG made "two very smart moves."
"First, she took note of the fact that Harper had been rude enough and
presumptuous enough to schedule another meeting, in Woodstock, Ont.,
for later the same day....


...by some mix of polite conversation and sharp questions – the nature of
which we'll only learn about years later when the memoirs get written –
Jean kept Harper at Rideau Hall for more than two hours."

She forced him to miss the Woodstock meeting. Good for her!
"As a substantial consequence, Jean sent out signals that she hadn't
merely listened politely while Harper made his pitch, but had actively
engaged him in a discussion about all the possibilities and their
implications. As a one-time journalist, it's quite possible that she
asked him some sharp questions.

Put simply, Jean showed thereby
that the Governor General is not a political patsy. Rather, and as
every Governor General should do, she was using the occasion to do what
she could to advance the national interest."

I was one of those Canadians who was amazed at such a long meeting with the GG and felt that meant she was advocating for us, maybe forcing him to consider the ramifications of his cowardice and outright bid for power, persuading him to change his question, maybe even consulting on every possible outcome. Despite what I thought of her decision, I appreciated that she spent considerable time hashing it out with Harper.

Gwyn avers that her response wasn't really yes, but yes -- but.

"No way exists – again, not until much later – to know whether Harper
originally asked for a much longer prorogation than the one of the
seven weeks to the end of January that he's actually been granted. All
the preliminary indications were that he wanted more time without the
bother of having to spend time in Parliament.

By fixing an
earlier deadline for prorogation (or, more likely, by convincing Harper
to ask for it), Jean preserved for her office the right for future
Governors General not to have to be a patsy but to make the same kind
of judgments about how the law and the national interest can best be
accomplished.

This is important for our political system: Governors General shouldn't just be suits."

Just as I have seen our Senate truly be a chamber of sober second thought to some rash legislation coming out of the House of Commons, I also believe we need a non-partisan GG who can check the growing power of the Prime Minister. I had thought that with her decision, her ability to check the PM dropped while his ability to hold power against the will of the majority rose. Perhaps I'm wrong. Gwyn has certainly made me pause, and I very much like his conclusion.

When defeated over his January 27 budget,

"Harper will trot round to Rideau Hall again to ask Jean for a dissolution and an election.

My guess is that on that occasion she'll say no, while smiling very sweetly to the cameras."

Thank you Mr. Gwyn for calming the waters. It's too bad Harper, the leader of Canada, only knows how to muddy them.

No comments: