With a new election on its way, the term “contempt of parliament” is being bandied about a great deal lately. We are told that a government being brought down for contempt of parliament is a historic event. As usual, however, the Canadian media, despite its alleged societal function, is quick to refer, but slow to inform; no one seems willing to tell us exactly what it means despite the fact that it is central to the upcoming election. Here, then, is a public service announcement from your friends at Canada Goes to the Moon.
Although definitions of the term are hard to find, Wikipedia provides a useful starting point:
In many jurisdictions governed by a parliament, Contempt of Parliament is the crime of obstructing the parliament in the carrying out of its functions, or of hindering any Member of Parliament in the performance of his or her duties. Actions which can constitute a contempt of Parliament vary, but typically include such things as:
deliberately misleading a House of Parliament or a parliamentary committee;
refusing to testify before, or to produce documents to, a House or committee; and
attempting to influence a Member of Parliament, for example, by bribery or threats.
In the case of our Conservative government, contempt of parliament was earned by refusing to provide information on details and cost estimates of several proposed bills, most notably those regarding the expansion of prisons. There have been five instances in Canada’s past in which individuals have been held in contempt of Parliament, but never has an entire cabinet been held in contempt, nor has a government collapsed on the ruling.
Note also that Wikipedia defines contempt of parliament as a crime. So far, the media has been regarding the affair mainly as an oppositional election maneuver, and barely a scandal, despite the fact that we are going to the polls. If our entire ruling party is in fact guilty of a crime, why is this not the scandal of the century? Wouldn’t “Conservative Party Found Guilty” make a better headline than the dry template “Election Fever to Surround Budget”?
Opposition leaders are missing the boat as well. Why not call for punitive measures before voting them out and going to the polls? Do they not see that the Tories would be at a disadvantage campaigning from prison, or at least branded as criminals? If the Left is desperate enough for a Conservative scandal to keep Karlheinz Schreiber in Canada, they ought to take full advantage of one both real and relevant. Perhaps they have more confidence in our government than they let on.