Archive for : October, 2017

A Pig at the Trough: update to answer a slick lawyer

Finance Minister Morneau introduced pension legislation which would benefit his family company and indeed, after the legislation was tabled, the company’s share value increase was enough to create a $2 million benefit in the shares that the Finance Minister owned and knew he owned. This is not a perceived conflict of interest; this is an actual conflict of interest. Although in truth the conflict is over: the spirit of ethical conduct in government was defeated. It’s all very well to sell shares now and/or establish a blind trust. The pig has already fed at the trough.

 

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O for goodness sake!  Clayton Ruby just argued in the Globe and Mail (Saturday, October 28) that Bill Morneau should not be faulted for following the advice of the Ethics Commissioner.  This proposes that Mr. Morneau need not have made any personal judgement about the political ethics of holding substantial sums of shares in a company likely to be affected by legislation he creates.  Thus Mr. Morneau need have no awareness that his company stock profited from legislative initiatives he introduced, or if he had an awareness he need make no note of it.  This is a defence centred on sightless and officious stupidity: if I have permission to ignore a problem, I need not address it.  That that defence is the best that Mr. Ruby can come up with shows how low he has set the ethical bar.  If we accept it then Mr. Morneau should be dismissed for simple incompetence.

Prime Minister Selfie

Prime Minister Selfie
Might be more healthy,
than Darth Vader Harper.
But he’s still very wealthy,
And quite often stealthy.

If you bumble,
You should be humble,
Should you not?
But sanctimonious pride
Covers errors wide,
And deep.

Was this our choice?
A voice and a vision,
But weak and or poor decisions?

Charles Should Never Be King of Canada

In the lifetimes of most of us, Canada has had only one Head of State: Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Ten or more governments have come or gone in her tenure. She has signed our new Constitution into being, along with our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Canadians have every reason to feel grateful for her service on our behalf. She should continue as our Head of State so long as she lives.

But the Queen is not a Canadian, never can be. Our mostly independent country has a foreign Head of State. Isn’t it time that Canada, as a fully mature country, thinks about having a Canadian as Head of State?

I know we have been fortunate in having, over almost two decades, Governors-General who were not retired political warhorses. They have shown the potential of a fully Canadian Head of State. But all Governors-General since Confederation have been, first and foremost, the Monarch’s representative. Governors-General are not Heads of State; they are representatives – appointed delegates – of the real Head of State, the Monarch.

The Head of State of Great Britain represents her united countries directly and well. Queen Elizabeth embodies the continuity of the state and its moral force. But her family is British, originally from Germany. As such, her traditions are not those of Canada’s Indigenous peoples, our French peoples, or the many millions of non-English multicultural immigrant peoples. Britons are her peoples. Canadians, by and large, are not.

Let’s be open to the idea of having our own Canadian Head of State. The most logical time to consider the change would be upon the death of Queen Elizabeth. If we do not make a change, our Head of State would be King Charles, with either consort or Queen Camilla.

How do we feel about Charles as King? We know him rather well, since he has been around most of the time Elizabeth has been our Queen. Although there is much laudable service to be praised, Charles shows questionable statecraft, and is far from a moral exemplar. Remember the black spider memos of Charles, one example of his attempts to influence policy development in an elected government. Charles has shown quite interventionist views with respect to his role in government. Is that a precedent one would want for Canada? I think not. And with respect to his role as exemplar of moral conduct, his pursuit of an affair with a woman not his wife represents a betrayal of his then wife Princess Diana and of his children as heirs to the British Throne. When the Princess Diana asked the Queen what she would do about Prince Charles’ affair with Camilla, the Queen responded: “”I don’t know what you should do. He’s hopeless”. ‘He’, in this case, being Charles. Is this the moral continuity we wish to preserve? Someone “hopeless”? I think not.

The British people can decide themselves whether Charles is fit to be their King. For Canadians, I suggest there is little to recommend him as our King, especially since he is a foreign national.

If we wanted to consider a new Head of State, how would we go about it? The Canadian people should decide this question. If most Canadians really want King Charles, so be it. But perhaps Canadians should be asked whether they would prefer a home-grown alternative. Let’s not get distracted by the exact method by which that person would be selected; there are several possibilities: appointment by the Prime Minister; vote of Parliament; or direct election by Canadians. The point is that the choice would be for one of our own, not someone of another nationality who has not lived our experiences.

We would need to amend our Constitution to do this, a painful prospect. One thing which would help was a clear result from a referendum on two questions: (1) do you want Charles as King of Canada; and (2) how do you want to select a Canadian Head of State?

The core question is direct: do we wish to have a foreign Monarch as our Head of State, for ever and ever? If not, when shall we get started on making the change? The time for decision approaches.