Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Speaker's Ruling and Canada's Engagement with China on Rights

It is my fervent hope that the Government will respond in a forthright way to Mr. Milliken's ruling that he read out in Parliament yesterday.  I have put a lot of my adult life into striving on behalf of Canada to promote democracy in China.   A central theme of this work has been to promote the truth that it is critical that the democratically elected members of the national legislature, the people's representatives, truly be the final arbiters of political decisionmaking.  The system only works through the checks and balances inherent in a genuine separation of powers between the executive, legislative and judicial branches.  These ideas are a hard sell in China.  The Chinese Communist Party holds that separation of powers makes the state too weak.  I am often told (usually in a subtle way) that the Canadian system must be a sham, just as their system is because the universal principle is that those in power always accrue it to themselves.  But there are more and more people in China who have come 'round to the idea that genuinely democratic institutions are critical to China's rise as a great and respected nation in the world.  I hope I live to see the day that China's President is elected in a general election.

I sympathize with concerns about protecting Canada's national security through protection of state secrets.  But to be frank about it, speaking as a former employee of Canada's Department of National Defence as well as our Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, almost all of the information that I was bound to keep secret could be safely made public with no damage to Canada's security.  Honesty and openness is always the best policy.  

It does make me wonder if the roles were reversed and the Conservatives were in opposition and not the Government, would we not be hearing some very strong statements in Parliament arguing for the right of Parliament to be given access to those documents in question?


Bill Chadwick said...

Charles, agree 100%. We need our government to meet their election promise of accountability, and open access to information is crucial to accountability.

Jacques said...

The stakes in a parliamentary democracy don't get any higher than this. Will the PM be a democrat and submit to Parliament, or will he act like a dictator and stearmroll over one of Canada's most vital institution to protect what is ultimately a very short-term interest?

This is also an opportunity for Harper to put his money where his mouth is by demonstrating that democracy does work. Mr. Burton, I don't want your colleagues in China to tell you: "Ah! Democracy is a sham!"