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Harper's Conservatives Silence Opposing Voices

From May 26, 2008

When opposition voices speak against the actions of the government, more often than not the Con response is a quip of righteous indignation, rather than any sort of substantive discourse. But there are times when the Harper government takes it a step further. Case in point would be the government's handling of the Mulroney-Schreiber affair.

At some point Liberal MP Robert Thibault must have asked one too many questions about the former Prime Minister's shady business dealings, because Mulroney decided to sue the MP for libel. Though Thibault was only reiterating news reports and the testimony of witness Schreiber on CTV News, Mulroney's lawyers believed they had a case. But this 'libel chill', as it was called, was just the first step.

When Thibault continued his line of questioning in the House of Commons, the Conservative government went to the Ethics Commissioner (and former Mulroney appointee) Mary Dawson. They complained that it was unfair that Thibault would be allowed to speak on the Mulroney-Scheiber dealings because the lawsuit meant he now had a 'private interest' in the controversy.

But experts say Dawson's ruling can prevent the Parliament from doing its job. Ned Franks, a parliamentary expert at Queens, asks, "Does simply the threat of a lawsuit justify handicapping members when they're serving in their capacity as members of Parliament in the House of Commons?"

Harper's Conservatives would say, "Yes."