Pubdate: Wed, 24 Apr 2002
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2002 Times Colonist
Author: Tim Naumetz


OTTAWA -- Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca MP Keith Martin accused the federal 
government of fascism Tuesday after the Liberals began proceedings to 
suspend him from the Commons for grabbing the House mace in an angry 
protest last week.

Government House Leader Ralph Goodale called for Martin's suspension after 
Speaker Peter Milliken ruled the Alliance MP likely breached the privileges 
of the Commons when he grabbed the mace, a symbol of the Speaker's 
authority and the independence of Parliament. Martin's act came after the 
Liberals killed a private member's bill he had introduced to liberalize 
cannabis laws.

Defending himself, Martin admitted he had planned his protest beforehand to 
draw public attention to what he described as the "dictatorial" way Prime 
Minister Jean Chretien and his office treat government and opposition 
backbench MPs.

"It was a coldly premeditated act of civil disobedience," said Martin, 
arguing the protest was a result of accumulated frustration with the 
tremendous power Chretien wields over Parliament.

"I accuse the government of being undemocratic," Martin said to the shock 
and surprise of Liberals and MPs in the other opposition parties. "I accuse 
the government of being a dictatorship, and I accuse the government of 
being fascist."

Immediately following the Speaker's ruling, Goodale introduced a motion 
calling for Martin's suspension "until such time as he appears at the bar 
of the House to apologize in a manner found to be satisfactory by the 
Speaker for his actions in disregard for the authority of the chair and in 
contempt of the House."

Following two hours of heated debate, all parties agreed to delay a vote on 
the motion until today.

The Bloc Quebecois, NDP and Conservative parties said they would support 
Goodale's motion.

Liberal, Conservative and NDP MPs promptly accused Martin of going 
overboard, with Liberal John Bryden calling the outburst "extremely 

Martin's anger was sparked by the tactic the government used to kill his 
bill. Liberal MPs passed an amendment saying the House would not continue 
dealing with the bill, and would instead refer its subject matter, 
de-criminalization of marijuana, to a special Commons committee studying 
the non-medical use of drugs.

Alliance parliamentary leader John Reynolds, while agreeing Martin was 
wrong to grab the mace, argued the B.C. MP has already apologized and no 
further discipline is required.

Backing up Martin's complaint about the lack of power for ordinary MPs, 
Reynolds said 235 bills have been introduced by backbenchers in the current 
Parliament, and none has made it through the Commons. Only two of the bills 
have reached a vote at the second-reading stage, necessary to be reviewed 
by a Commons committee.

At the same time, two Senate bills, one establishing a parliamentary poet 
laureate and the other setting a day to honour Sir John A. Macdonald and 
Sir Wilfrid Laurier, have recently become law. A third Senate bill, to 
designate an official national horse, is successfully making its way 
through the Commons.

Of the 481 private members' motions that have been introduced, only five 
have been adopted, said Reynolds.

NDP MP Dick Proctor, however, joined other MPs who said Martin went too far 
by accusing the government of fascism.

"May I say very sincerely and very sorrowfully to the member from 
Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca that I think his interventions this afternoon are 
not worthy of him," said Proctor.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom