Monday, May 24, 2010

Another Decree from King Stephen I

I've been wondering what it would take to rouse me from my municipal campaign-induced indifference to federal politics. This did the trick:

Ottawa bars ministers’ staff from appearing before committees
New Conservative policy says ministers, not their staff, should be held accountable

The Conservative government is launching another showdown with the opposition over the powers of Parliament, this time issuing an edict that only cabinet ministers – and not their political staff – can appear as witnesses before committees.

The new cabinet position, to be outlined in detail Tuesday morning, comes just days after the opposition and government resolved a heated dispute over Parliament’s power to see documents related to Afghan detainees.

This latest line in the sand will play out later Tuesday at the House of Commons access to information, privacy and ethics committee, where the Prime Minister’s director of communications, Dimitri Soudas, is scheduled to appear as a witness.

Mr. Soudas let it be known Sunday that he’s not coming.

Well, what could be wrong with that, you ask? Shouldn't a minister be the one to answer such questions and not their minions?

You would think so, except there's one little catch: a staffer, aide, or any other sort of ordinary citizen can be directly compelled to testify before a parliamentary committee. A minister cannot.

How convenient.

When I read all this, the first thing I thought was, "He can't do that! Can he do that?!" Well, no, he can't really. But he can try. And by trying, he can throw yet another wrench into the works of our parliamentary committees.

This option is starting to look better and better.