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Remind us, Prime Minister… who makes the rules?

Posted on September 30, 2010

When I was in university, I wrote editorials for the student newspaper. Whenever I wrote about a Big Issue – something national or international in scope – I knew that no one with power was likely to take my opinion seriously. Still, I kept on arguing. It seemed better to speak up and be ignored than shut up and be ignored just the same.

Now, thanks to Stephen Harper, all Members of Parliament — and all Canadians — get to feel the same way.

Last night, MPs voted 152-141 in favour of a Liberal motion to save the census. Parliament has now formally called on the Conservative government to reverse its short-sighted decision to scrap the long-form census, which Canadians need to make public policy based on facts, not ideology.

Public healthcare depends on census data. So do small businesses and provincial governments – two of which, Ontario and Quebec, have spoken out this week against the Conservatives’ “error.”

Last night, Parliament spoke, and Stephen Harper just stuffed a little more cotton in his ears, rolled over, and went back to sleep. Why should he listen – to Parliament, to Canadians, or to reason, for that matter – when he makes the rules?

He’s certainly come a long way from May 11, 2005, when he declared that, “the government is duty-bound to respect the decisions made by the House of Commons.”

These days, Stephen Harper is behaving like a dictator, and why not? Who needs the Will of Parliament when you can have the Steve of Parliament instead? This is the Prime Minister who has completely ignored the climate change file because he’s upset that the climate started changing without PMO approval.

As for the Liberal Party, our MPs will keep speaking up for reality-based public policy. This morning, Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett tabled a Private Member’s Bill to reinstate the mandatory long-form census. The Liberal bill will amend the Statistics Act to ensure that the long-form census cannot be scrapped unilaterally by any future government. It will also remove the threat of jail time. As Dr. Bennett has said, this is a test for Stephen Harper. Will he listen to Canadians, or not?

Michael Ignatieff had the same message yesterday, a few hours before the vote. “The Prime Minister is confusing stubbornness with leadership, as he often does. It’s time to stop being stubborn, listen to the Canadian people, and do the right thing.”

Stephen Harper thinks he makes the rules. Does he think he makes the facts, too?

- A.G.

Adam Goldenberg is Michael Ignatieff’s speechwriter. Follow him at http://twitter.com/adamgoldenberg. Email him at adam@email.liberal.ca.

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