Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Prorogue: Suspending Accountability and Transparency

In yesterday's edition of The Barrie Examiner, MP Patrick Brown finally commented on his leader's decision to suspend Parliament, which was scheduled to resume on the 25th of January, until the 3rd of March:

"I would note that just because Parliament isn't siting in February, it doesn't mean we won't be very busy," said Barrie MPP Patrick Brown. "I already have a heavy schedule of events in Barrie that month supporting local causes."

Brown's main concern seems to be that he will be seen as continuing to collect his salary, without going to work, during his extended absence from Parliament. If Brown indeed has a "heavy schedule of events" in February, I haven't been able to find it. On his web site, a page listing "UPCOMING EVENTS" has not been updated since the summer of 2009. I then went to Brown's Facebook page and clicked on the Events tab and was greeted with the message "Patrick Brown does not have any upcoming events." A quick scan of his twitter messages failed to turn up any mention of events in February.

Then there is the question of whether attending events that are "supporting local causes" is an MP's job. In my opinion, a Member of Parliament's job can be summed up in two letters: MP. In case you've forgotten, Patrick, the 'P' stands for Parliament. If you're out of Parliament for 82 consecutive days, you're not doing your job. We don't pay MPs a salary of more than $150,000 per year to attend local charity events. Seeing how you went to all the trouble of becoming a lawyer, I'm rather surprised that you seem more interested in posing for pictures than working on legislation.

I can understand people being upset when highly paid public servants extend their own, already generous, winter break, but I don't think that's the main reason people are upset with Mr. Harper and the Conservatives. The Conservatives didn't promise us that the House of Commons would be in session for a certain number of days per year when they were elected. They did, however, promise us a government that would be accountable and transparent.

Mr. Harper didn't suspend Parliament to gives his MPs time off to watch the Olympics, he did it to avoid being held accountable by opposition MPs for his policy on the transfer of Afghan detainees. By continuing to ignore an order of Parliament to provide un-censored documents relating to that policy to a House of Commons committee, Mr. Harper and the Conservatives are showing us once again that their government is anything but transparent.

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