Government loves ignorance

The Conservatives, at the direction of Harper, have made the use of in camera a standard procedure at committee meetings.

Dear Sir:

Here’s why I don’t like the Conservatives – they want to keep us ignorant.

I am proud that I have never supported Stephen Harper.  And whatever chance there may ever have been that I would, has long since disappeared.  After paying attention to Harper in power over the years my expectations of his government’s behaviour have been confirmed, and I find them quite frightening.  Without even trying I can identify 12 reasons the government should resign and give us back our country.

The first issue that is utterly unforgivable and that Canadians should be very concerned about is that Harper wants you to be ignorant. He does not want you to know what he is actually doing.  This began as soon as he became leader of the new Conservative party when he began trying to control information and the language of public discourse.  This was a page right out of the campaign manual of George W. Bush and Harper has for the most part succeeded.

More worrying, with a majority now, the conservatives can totally control the parliamentary committee process. Most of the actual work of creating the laws of the land takes place in committee rooms.  Committee meetings have traditionally been open affairs, allowing reporters and even ordinary citizens to watch and learn what was being considered and use that information to keep Canadians aware of what the government was up to.

There has always been a procedure available for those times when the discussion needed to be held behind closed doors.  The committee could go in camera, which meant that all observers not sitting on the committee had to leave the room, reporters and all, and the meeting would continue in private.

But there is more to that; the members on the committee are forbidden by law from discussing what goes on while the committee is in camera, forever.

In camera is necessary at times.  However the Conservatives, at the direction of Harper, have made the use of in camera a standard procedure at committee meetings.  This week, MPs will meet to look into the F-35 procurement issues at a Public Accounts committee meeting.  The committee will assemble in the morning, reporters in the room will have their notebooks and recording devices ready. Then a Conservative member will address the Chairman and move the meeting go in camera.  Once that happens, all the reporters and anyone else in the room are thrown out, the door is closed, and whatever comes out in the meeting behind those closed doors is forever a state secret.

The Conservatives did not invent this procedure, but it is very clear that they are the ones who have made its use a standard procedure when it was always intended to be an extraordinary one.  And they do it because they don’t want you to know what is happening.

They want to keep you ignorant.  And that is dangerous to democracy.

Dave Menzies, Terrace, BC


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