John Ivison: Beijing gets a helping hand from Liberals and their willing accomplices
Garnett Genuis, the young Edmonton area Conservative MP, offered a fiery little speech that deserved a larger audience than the one offered by the near empty chamber.
He talked about how people in Hong Kong love freedom “with an electrifying and inspiring passion”.
The measures proposed by Beijing would sweep away even the pretence of democracy that currently exists, he said.
“The Canadian government thus far has lacked the strength and moral clarity that is needed. Our foreign affairs minister chose to take a wait-and-see approach, while the prime minister simply called for a de-escalation of tensions and genuine dialogue. It is disgraceful that we have such a mealy-mouthed response from the government on a clear cut moral issues… One wonders if after reading about the American civil rights movement, the prime minister reflected that what was really needed was just a de-escalation of tensions,” he said.
Kevin Lamoureux, the Liberal MP who is as ubiquitous in the House as blackflies in his native Winnipeg, questioned why Genuis wanted to bring up Hong Kong when the House was busy extending its current suspension for another four months, in favour of the special committee on COVID that has been meeting three times a week.
“We are fighting an epidemic,” Lamoureux said.
Genuis could barely contain himself. “That is a bizarre and disgraceful intervention,” he said. “His insinuation is that we should not be talking about what is happening in Hong Kong right now… I think Canadians want our Parliament to be active and engaged with all the issues, including the attempt by authoritarian powers all over the world to use and abuse the coronavirus as an excuse to abuse fundamental human rights.”
The race should go to the swift and the argument to the eloquent but it doesn’t work like that when back-room deals have been struck.
The Liberals want to close down Parliament, in favour of the special committee, which by definition confines itself to scrutinizing the response to COVID. The NDP is backing the Liberal plan, in exchange for the government’s pledge to work with the provinces on a new program for guaranteed sick leave.
Thus, when the motion on the Canada-China committee went to a vote, 24 Liberals, four New Democrat MPs and one Green member voted it down.
NDP officials said the Conservatives brought forward an amendment without consulting anyone and the party remains open to calling back the committee in the future. But they had their chance and they blew it. Good luck to them next election when they look to get any credit for the concessions they’ve wrung from the Liberals.
Jagmeet Singh’s predecessor, David Lewis, played a similar game with the current prime minister’s father between 1972 and 1974. In the event, Lewis got the blame for the bad things the Trudeau government did and none of the credit for the good things. He lost half of his caucus at the next election.
Quashing the Canada-China committee means Parliament will not debate events as they unfold in Hong Kong.
Xi Jinping must love it when a plan comes together.