MP Irwin Cotler says next election most important in Canadian history

Published on August 13, 2014

Liberal MP Irwin Cotler

©Guardian photo

Former federal justice minister Irwin Cotler says the next federal election will be the most important election in Canada’s history because so much is riding on its outcome.

Speaking to a fundraising luncheon for Charlottetown MP Sean Casey on Tuesday, Cotler said how Canadians vote will determine whether they have responsible government in Ottawa or a Harper government that mocks parliament and mocks the Canadian people.

Canadians can have a government that respects this country’s Charter of Rights or mocks it, he said — they can vote to elect a Liberal government that will respect the independence of the Canadian judiciary or a government that disparages it.

Cotler spoke at length on the damage he says the Harper government has done since coming to power.

He noted, for example, that there were eight federal budget surpluses in a row before the Tories took power.

When Harper became prime minister, there was a $13-billion federal surplus.

Harper ran that into the ground, replacing a huge surplus with a huge budget deficit, he said.

Noting that Harper has only been to two first ministers’ meetings since becoming prime minister, he suggested Harper is more apt to pick a fight with the provinces than to co-operate with them on issues that should be of concern to all.

Cotler said a review of the current government shows an ongoing pattern of disrespect for parliament.

That attitude can be seen in everything from the introduction of large omnibus bills in which multiple pieces of legislation are bound together to limiting the amount of time allocated for discussion in the House of Commons.

He also took the government to task for trying to undermine the Canadian constitution.

He observed government continues to introduce constitutionally suspect legislation, legislation that is frequently found to be unconstitutional by the courts.

“One piece of legislation after another that should never have been introduced,” Cotler said.

He was strongly critical of Ottawa’s lack of respect for the independence of the judiciary and its efforts to systematically challenge the courts, diminishing both the independence and the integrity of the courts.