Provincial prima facie breach of privilege - #WhereAreTheDocs
I support the motion currently under debate at Queen's Park on the prima facie breach of privilege by the Liberal Government. I don't support endless debate on amendments to amendments that are only meant to draw out the whole affair for the sake of earned media, but it's a matter of principle that can't be swept under the carpet. The Legislative Assembly summary is worth reading in its entirety if you're curious how a privilege issue plays out in our system. The motion is:
"That the House direct the Minister of Energy and the Ontario Power Authority to table immediately with the Clerk of the House all remaining documents ordered by the Standing Committee on Estimates on May 16 2012; and
That the matter of the Speakers finding of a prima facie case of privilege with respect to the production of documents by the Minister of Energy and the Ontario Power Authority to the Standing Committee on Estimates be referred to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs, which is hereby reconstituted as it existed on September 9, 2012; and
That the committee shall be authorized to meet at the call of the chair and should report back its findings and recommendations no later that November 19, 2012."
An amendment replaces the words "November 19, 2012" with the words "November 23, 2012."
A second amendment to the amendment replaces the words "November 23, 2012" with "November 26, 2012."
Once you get past all the hyperbole, grandstanding, partisan barbs, and rhetoric our democracy is founded on one basic principle: show us the documents, NOW.
At the federal level Stephen Harper clearly wants to keep government operations far away from the prying lights of transparency and accountability, to the point of frustrating the very Officer of Parliament his party created to increase accountability and transparency. His change of tune is ironic and anti-democratic all rolled up into one!
At the provincial level Dalton McGuinty is making decisions at the top then frustrating attempts to hold the government to account on wasteful spending. Yes, MPPs might just be out for partisan blood. If McGuinty wants to protect himself from partisan attacks the solution isn't to refuse to release the documents until the brink of a privilege motion, the solution is for him to govern better. Otherwise he can expect to face the music when the Legislature, which is supreme, decides to start throwing its weight around. (Did you know McGuinty has taken up Harper's affection for omnibus budgets that ram through changes to environmental protections without proper oversight?)
Even at the municipal level we need timely and complete access to documents in order to ensure Councillors and citizens are well informed. Next week Mayor Watson is going to ask Council to allow him to invite Ontario Lottery and Gaming to put a casino in Ottawa on incredibly short notice and without enough information. On the same day (cripes), Council will also have to decide once and for all to proceed or wrap up its involvement with OSEG and the Lansdowne redevelopment, even though there are holes in the report, and they have been late in coming. The city is late with documents often enough there's even a meme for it: #WhereAreTheDocs.
New policy: All information released only through FOI requests. #WhereAreTheDocs
— David Reevely (@davidreevely) February 9, 2012
Hitting the slots over in Gatineau. #WhereAreTheDocs
— Jon Willing (@JonathanWilling) September 25, 2012
Somewhere below Highway 174. #WhereAreTheDocs
— Alex Boutilier (@alexboutilier) September 25, 2012
This isn't how it should be.
If I have the tempo right, this is the paragraph where I'd slide in some proselytizing for you to vote Green so we can get to fixing this mess. But I won't because I know the level of cynisism towards politicians is so high the rest of this post would be dismissed as hyperbole and rhetoric. The saddest day on my first campaign trail was when someone dismissed me as "the same as the rest of them" before I'd even said a word.
Instead, all I will do is encourage you to get angry when your government (you have three) starts treating you like a rube, who doesn't care anyway, and won't show you the documents.
All I will do is encourage you to take action when you get angry. It doesn't matter what that action is so long as it's done. Call, tweet, show up, hollaback. Being angry and then doing something about it sets you apart and it can feel weird for awhile, but it's worth it and it's the only way anything will change.
When we demand better from our governments we get better outcomes from our governments. That's why I support the 'prima facie' breach of privilege motion. It is our democracy's most pure form of demanding better from our government.
It's how it should be.