Wednesday, February 1, 2012

What good is policy if you can't debate it?

Closure is a word that people outside of Ottawa more commonly associate with turning points in their lives. A break-up, coming to terms with the loss of a loved one, or more generally dealing with major events such that we can move forward. For many it is part of a healing process.

Not for the first time, things take on a different meaning in Ottawa. These days, closure is a word used by politics watchers as they consider a Parliament in which debate on key policy issues is limited and then cut off by the government.

It has become the go-to tool of the new majority government and, much like the way the election around the corner killed debate under successive minority governments, the use of closure is depriving us of meaningful discussion at the very time we need it.

Woe Canada.

There are some great policy issues which deserve a spirited dialogue, regardless of the side of the fence on which you sit. The crime bill, gun registry, the wheat board, pension reform - debates which have come and gone, and which were cut short.

What will happen with the 2012 Budget? With proposals on reform to Old Age Security? How thoroughly will our Parliamentarians debate new trade agreements, or changes to immigration policy?

We all deserve an opportunity to hear about the perceived merits and limitations of the policy initiatives brought forward by the government. This is why we have a Parliament.

Circumventing that in the name of expediency is wrong. Arguing that in electing a majority government, Canadians gave tacit approval to an agenda that was not discussed during a campaign is simply false. And replacing evidence-based policy with initiatives driven by conviction is, to be frank, scary.


Canada, like so many countries, is at something of a cross-roads. The world is changing around us. Whether we are talking about the environment or demographics, the economy or security, we are faced with difficult and potentially defining choices.

Faced with these choices, we need to remind ourselves that the biggest challenges and greatest opportunities deserve the broadest possible debate.

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