Stephen Harper promised accountable government but hasn’t delivered – opinion/editorials
Published On Sat May 12 2012.

Does anyone recall Stephen Harper’s pledge in the first line of the Conservative election platform Stand up for Canada back in 2006? “The time for accountability has arrived.” That became the Tory mantra in the dying days of the discredited Liberal government.

Harper used the words “accountable” and “accountability” no fewer than 10 times on the first page of the manifesto.

But 6 ½ years into Conservative rule even Harper fans have reason to feel queasy, looking back. The gap between promise and delivery grows by the day, along with secrecy and manipulation.

The Tories are still taking a beating for keeping Parliament in the dark on the F-35 fighter’s cost, which is closer to $25 billion than the $16 billion advertised. Meanwhile on Friday, Defence Minister Peter MacKay was again under fire for lowballing costs. He told CBC News last year that the nearly completed Libya mission had cost “under $50 million” by Oct. 13, but didn’t say the final tab would be $100 million.

This slipperiness with numbers is bad enough. But the Tories are also under fire, justly, for abusing the parliamentary process to push forward their agenda.

As the Star’s Tim Harper reports, Parliament Hill is in a lather as opposition MPs decry Tory efforts to push through a vast bill to implement the budget. The “omnibus bill” runs to 425 pages and touches on everything from environmental regulations to border security, employment insurance, immigration law and fisheries. It is so complex that MPs haven’t had time to scrutinize the Tory agenda to make sure it makes sense and is a prudent use of tax dollars. Still, the Tories refuse to break it up into smaller, manageable bills.

At the same time the Star’s Tonda MacCharles points out that trouble is brewing over the government’s tactic of letting individual Tory MPs put forward bills — known as private member’s bills — on hot-button issues. One controversially targets masked protesters, threatening heavy jail terms and fines. Such bills get less scrutiny, analysis and debate than government-sponsored bills. It’s another manipulative trick to spare the government grief.

This is political sleight-of-hand and message control, and it appears to be an accelerating trend. These shabby tactics keep Parliament in the dark, swamp MPs with so much legislation that they can’t absorb it all, and hobble scrutiny. This is not good, accountable, transparent government. It is not what Harper promised to deliver.

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