Afghan Detainee Deal A Dud

Sorry, I can’t endorse this detainee deal, primarily because the government achieves its main goals. The Speaker’s ruling did put pressure on the government, but it left many unanswered questions. Given the ruling, the Conservatives changed strategies, moving from complete obstruction to delay at all costs. Yes, it is a victory in this sense, the Speaker forced the government to move, but then the question becomes- just where to?

Here we sit, after effectively running out the clock on this session of Parliament, we finally get this flawed deal, that allows for further DELAY. The panel isn’t picked, and I will wager further "debate" that will drag this process out as long as possible. Yesterday, Goodale championed the fact that the opposition gets to pick the panel, but that simply isn’t true. In fact, all members of the panel must be agreed upon by both the government and the opposition, which almost guarantees more "ragging the puck". Throw in a few scheduling difficulties over the summer, you can pretty much bank on not much until the fall. Assuming, the parties can iron out this panel, we then move to a situation where the government member can obstruct every single piece of disclosure, EASILY swamping this panel to the point of absurdity. Don’t think this will happen? I’ll use every single government move to date as proof of the well established pattern. To think it changes, well…

Two major problems with this deal, both of which are glaring. These vague exceptions, dealing with "cabinet confidences" and "solicitor-client privilege" are deeply concerning, and lend some weight to the NDP’s concerns. I’m more concerned with the former, because if there is some political attempt to cover up embarrassing facts, you can see how these might well fall into this column. A pretty ambiguous wording, that leaves plenty of room for interpretation. Again, let me go on record now saying the Conservatives will maximize these clauses, and obstruct at every turn. If these parameters are accepted, then the panel will have to respect the spirit of the agreement and side with the government. These are gigantic loopholes in my estimation, that potentially render this whole process a waste of time.

Speaking of time, if you believe my thesis, wherein the government wants to take this issue off the table prior to the next election (I see no realistic scenario where this Parliament survives another budget), you are left with a troubling clause. This agreement is only binding on this Parliament, meaning the government must resign said understanding after any election. Let’s just fast forward for a second. We have an election, and the opposition demands a restart, more signatures. The government simply refuses, and what recourse does the opposition have? Threaten another election, re-introduce motions, start from scratch AGAIN? Plus, say we do get a few tidbit releases of documents, all the more reason for the government to argue it’s a new mandate, time to move on from this discussion. ZERO political appetite for immediate conflict, the issue likely fades to black (no pun intended). What a terrific clause for the government, just drag this all out until an election, and you very well could be home free. This clause will look more relevant as time passes, and people digest the gamesmanship that unfolds. If the Liberals form the next government, it’s already game over for Harper, so a hollow victory on that front.

I think you can drive a truck through these loophole clauses. I think there is ample room for never ending games that lead nowhere. I think this deal is flawed, because if I’m the government, I feel like I achieved the best possible outcome in light of the Speaker’s demands. Time will tell I suppose, but when you consider how the Cons have manipulated it to date, hard to get terribly excited about this "historic" deal. Looks a dud from here.

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