An Open Letter to His Excellency David Johnston, Governor General of Canada

Governor General David Johnston

By the Citizens’ Forum for Democracy
, 28 April 2011

We write to you, Sir, concerning a crisis in our parliamentary system which is unprecedented - that is, the fact that we have a government which has been found by the majority of the elected members of Parliament to be in contempt of the institution to which it is attempting to be re-elected.

The issues giving rise to our concern were delineated at a meeting of several dozen persons in Elgin, Ontario on April 17, 2011. Meeting participants included some candidates in the upcoming election, who were informed of the meeting and chose to attend or not just as any other concerned citizen in our area. We citizens who attended noted a litany of actions by the Harper government that illustrate its contempt for our democratic institutions and values throughout its time in office. These actions include not only the specific reason for which the Harper government was found in contempt of Parliament – its refusal to produce documents required by parliamentarians to do their work – but also, among many others, their following abuses of power:

  • Deliberately orchestrated disruption and obstruction of parliamentary committees, where the main work of Parliament is done;
Condoned misrepresentations to Canada’s elected representatives by a Cabinet member (Minister Oda and the KAIROS affair);

  • Rejection by the unelected Conservative majority in the Senate, without any committee consideration, of a bill that had been approved by a majority of elected Members of Parliament (the Climate Change Acountability Act);

  • Unwarranted and personal attacks on the integrity of individual public servants: Linda Keen, of the Nuclear Regulatory Agency, who warned of safety issues with Canada’s nuclear reactors; and Richard Colvin, former Canadian diplomat in Afghanistan, who blew the whistle on actions taken by Canadian Forces in contravention of the Geneva Convention;
  • Disregard of the basic principles of justice by publicly attacking and ejecting from caucus a member duly elected as a Conservative by the constituents of her riding without advising her of the allegations against her and without ensuring that the allegations were based in fact (Helena Guergis); and,
  • Misappropriating $50 million which had been approved by Parliament for other purposes to spread around a Cabinet member’s riding during preparations for the recent G8/G20 meeting – and then fraudulently using language that had been used by the Auditor General in a very different context to mislead a parliamentary enquiry looking into the management of spending for that meeting.

We understand that, as the Queen’s representative in Canada, the Governor General possesses Reserve Powers to ensure that Canada has a stable, functioning and democratic Parliament, a requirement that could result in dismissal of a prime minister who may be acting in contradiction to this goal. Therefore, in this unprecedented circumstance we respectfully ask the following question:

Is a Prime Minister who has been found to be in contempt of Parliament not a subject for concern within these Reserve Powers if he is re-elected, and especially if this re- election is by only a minority of Canadian voters?

Whatever the outcome of the current election, we are among the majority of Canadians who would support a government formed through a cooperative arrangement that could, but not necessarily, be a coalition between groups of duly elected members of Parliament that reflects the will of Canadians as expressed in their total popular vote.

Yours respectfully,

John Carley, Chair, Citizens’ Forum for Democracy