While Canadians hear daily from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, opposition party leaders are conspicuous by their absence from public view.
Six months ago, the people of Canada declined to afford the Liberal Party continued parliamentary majority status and placed Trudeau, his cabinet and caucus under oversight by the Opposition. In other words, the Liberals are a minority government and cannot pass legislation without Opposition support.
Yet, where are the regular public appearances by Andrew Scheer, still leader of the Official Opposition Conservative Party of Canada? Ditto the Bloc Quebecois’ Yves-François Blanchet, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh and Green Party interim leader Jo-Ann Roberts?
These are days of great stress and deep concern, days when crucial decisions for the health of Canadians and our economic well-being are being made.
And this is a time when decisions by the federal Liberals must be subject to determined parliamentary opposition scrutiny.
Just weeks ago, Trudeau and his Liberals engaged in a backhanded attempt to effectively seize power through Bill C-13, the emergency spending legislation designed to deliver $82 billion in support to Canadians who are suffering a pandemic-related loss of jobs and additional hardships.
Opposition parties had assured full cooperation in passing C-13 in one day. That is, until they realized a clause inserted into the legislation by the Liberals would have delivered to the minister of finance the unfettered right to spend and tax until December 2021.
Goodbye, parliamentary oversight of federal budgets, and off you go, Canadian Constitution. It would have been, in effect, taxation without representation, which history reminds was the cornerstone of the American Revolution.
Ultimately, Trudeau and his government were forced into negotiation with opposition parties, leading to an eventual surrender tweet from the prime minister: “The legislation will be tabled without Clause 2.”
Now Trudeau is said to be considering invoking the Emergencies Act, which would centralize power to Ottawa.
However, if that proves to be the prime minister’s decision, safeguards are built into the Act which requires the government to recall Parliament within seven days to justify the decision. Also, within 60 days of the expiration of declaring the emergency, an inquiry must be held.
Whatever the minority Liberal government may propose or decide on in its mitigation against the spread of COVID-19, the March attempt to remove all parliamentary oversight on spending and taxation cannot be forgotten or forgiven.
Fortunately, the Conservative Party is holding firm on demanding parliamentary sessions during the pandemic. And why wouldn’t the Official Opposition so insist? The nation’s governance is an essential service.
Now is also the time for leaders of the parliamentary opposition to be seen and heard from — nationally and regularly.
Roy Green is the host of the Roy Green Show on the Global News Radio network.