Pubdate: Wed, 24 Apr 2002
Source: Calgary Sun, The (CN AB)
Copyright: 2002 The Calgary Sun
Author: Roy Clancy
Source: Calgary Sun (CN AB)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Canada)


Trumped-Up Tempest Over Mace Shifts Focus To Greater Issue

That renegade MP Keith Martin has really done it now.

The Victoria-area Alliance MP is in serious doo-doo for touching the mace 
of the Speaker of the House of Commons.

The Grits are outraged, the NDP thunderstruck, the Tories blue with anger 
and the Bloc Quebecois, sticklers for decorum, appalled at this affront to 

Martin faces suspension from the House, one of the most serious penalties 
for an MP. So what has he done to invoke all this righteous indignation?

The mace, for those of you entertaining impure thoughts, is the gilded club 
once used to protect the Speaker from assault back in the days when the 
British Parliament could be a dangerous place.

It hails from the same tradition that dictated government and opposition 
benches be far enough apart that MPs couldn't easily draw a sword and kill 
each other in the heat of debate.

Now it sits upon a pedestal on a table in the centre aisle while the House 
is in session.

Martin picked up the mace to protest what he called a "poison pill" 
amendment that effectively killed his private member's bill before it could 
be freely voted upon by the House.

"Parliament is not a democracy any more," Martin shouted, then put the rod 
down and marched out of the House.

The MP wrote later he made the symbolic gesture to "draw attention to a 
system that is so undemocratic that MPs are now voting machines, with 
little opportunity to work for the people."

Martin's lack of remorse served only to make his opponents even more 

While the Liberals frothed, the public couldn't help but chuckle a little 
at the comic undertones. After all, when politicians stand on pomp, they 
can't help but appear, well ... pompous.

Amused citizens giggling in confusion and media pundits speculating upon 
the gesture's significance were soon put in their place by a curt missive 
issued by Liberal Government House Leader Ralph Goodale.

He indignantly asserted that, far from killing off Martin's bill, the vote 
to refer it to a committee will actually "keep it alive."

Goodale accused Martin of failing to be a team player by ignoring the work 
of a special committee that had already been set up to report on the issue 
- -- on the advice of an Alliance MP no less.

"Martin insisted upon his own, one-off proposition," Goodale claimed. "He 
wanted it dealt with right away -- his way or the doorway ... ."

Goodale may be technically correct, but his sneering tone and dismissive 
attitude are all too familiar to Canadians weary of the Liberals' penchant 
for casting their own cynical manoeuvres in the best possible light.

What he doesn't seem to have grasped is that the symbolism of Martin's 
gesture has struck a far greater chord with Canadians than the trumped-up 
tantrum raging through the ranks of Liberal MPs.

Martin is a hard-working MP who has made a significant contribution to both 
the Alliance Party and Parliament.

He served as the Alliance's foreign affairs critic before coming fourth in 
the race in which Stockwell Day became leader. Martin may be outspoken, but 
he's no cheap stunt artist like NDP grandstander Svend Robinson.

His private member's bill called for the decriminalization -- not 
legalization -- of simple possession of marijuana, a measure for which 
legislators have voiced widespread support.

Whether we agree with the bill or not has ceased to matter.

Martin claims private member bills "are the last bastion of democracy" in a 
House where committees are used as "make-work projects" for MPs, who must 
vote according to the dictates of their leaders, rather than their 

His protest resonates far more strongly among disgruntled Canadians than 
the cluck-clucks of ruffled MPs who say the gesture didn't insult the 
government, but the very symbol of parliamentary democracy itself.

Parliament will likely vote today whether to kick Martin out of the House 
for his contempt of parliamentary decorum.

Martin, who hasn't been making life any easier for himself by accusing the 
government of being "fascist" and a "dictatorship," will take some lumps.

Meanwhile, the cynical and tired Liberal regime displays its contempt for 
Canadians -- and democracy -- on a daily basis.

A shocking new poll reveals some 70% of Canadians believe their political 
systems are highly or somewhat corrupt.

The Liberal majority can swat Martin like a fly by suspending him for his 
dramatic antics.

The question remaining is how it will deal with the contempt so openly 
displayed by a majority of Canadians.
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MAP posted-by: Terry Liittschwager