Opposition MP likens Canadian PM
[PoliticsWatch updated 1:00 p.m. May 8, 2007]
A Liberal MP is accusing Prime Minister Stephen Harper of running a
government that is "close to a dictatorship" after a
Commons committee meeting probing the government's cancellation of
the Court Challenges Program was suddenly cancelled on Tuesday
The Commons official languages committee, which last week was
at the centre of attention because of the Shane Doan affair,
was set to meet Tuesday morning to hear a number of witnesses who
are critical of the government's decision last fall to halt funding
to the Court Challenges Program.
While the program is being credited with putting to a halt the
closure of the bilingual Montfort Hospital in Ottawa it also led the charge to give federal prisoners the right to
vote and has been criticized by conservative groups for tending to
support left-wing organizations and ideologies in court.
When opposition MPs from the committee arrived Tuesday morning for
their hearings government MPs were no where to be found and they
were informed the meeting had been cancelled.
Liberal MP Raymonde Folco said she has her suspicions about
the Prime Minister's Office involvement in the cancellation of the
meeting because the Conservative MPs on the committee had voted in
favour of examining the funding cut.
"The fact that the Conservative members did not show up and that the meeting was cancelled two minutes before 9 a.m. proves to me very clearly that the order did not come from the chair, the order did not come from the members of the
committee," she told reporters at a press conference on
"The order came from higher up and I suspect the PMO, who said to his MPs, 'Thou
shalt not go to the committee.' That's what he said to them. What kind of a functioning does he have inside of this Conservative
party? Seems to me like very close to a dictatorship."
MPs from the two other opposition parties joined Folco at the press
conference and they also said they suspected PMO involvement in the
NDP MP Yvon Godin, who is his party's deputy whip, said he
received a call from the office of the government whip about five
minutes before the meeting was scheduled to inform him that it had
While Godin said the whip's office offered no explanation for the
cancellation, he noted that it is uncommon for the whip's office to
become involved in committee business.
"When we talk to the whip, normally the whip will answer, 'The committee will answer on their
own,'" he said. "The whips don't get involved in that."
Since becoming prime minister 15 months ago columnists in public and
even Tory MPs in private have compared Harper's management style to
that of a dictator.
Folco's comments, however, appear to be the first time an MP used
the dictator word publicly.
In September, a Canwest
News story reported that a "senior Tory" said he had
been told that Harper had "read and mastered" the biography and leadership style of Russian dictator
Josef Stalin, and the PM had adopted some of those tactics.
Last month, Liberal MP Garth Turner, a known critic of Harper
who was tossed from the Tory caucus last year, wrote a
posting that labelled the prime minister as "a truly dangerous man"
who had "somehow slipped through our national filter" to
land the country's top job.
"Mr. Harper is our national leader, and yet he does not embody the nation’s
values," Turner wrote. "He is an aberration of our flawed political system, a party leader elected when not enough of us were paying
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