Friday, September 11, 2009

Granatstein on a parliament deciding

Jack Granatstein had a good solid piece in yesterday's Globe and Mail on the constitutional significance of Canada making it clear by its declaration of war, September 10, 1939, that Canada's Parliament, and only Canada's Parliament, could make that decision.

But the force of Mackenzie King's "Parliament will decide" that Jack salutes here needs to be qualified a little.

Mackenzie King was the first parliamentary party leader (in the world, I believe) to be chosen by an extra-parliamentary group rather than by the elected MPs of his caucus. Ever after, he pounded home the message, in defiance of all precedent and of all the fundamental principles by which parliaments work, that the Liberal MPs were accountable to him and not vice versa. So he could say "Parliament will decide" knowing that as long as his party held a majority and its MPs were kept from exercising their constitutional mandate to hold the government accountable, he really meant he would decide.

That's how Canadian politics has operated ever since, to the point that most of our political scientists and commentators are unable to grasp there even is an issue here. Pity.

(Photo courtesy LAC -- even Mackenzie King's organizers could not spell his name sometimes.)
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