To say that Harper has a Senate problem is rather like saying that Walter White, from the hugely popular TV show Breaking Bad, has a crystal-meth problem. That is to say, that it understates the severity of the situation to a ridiculous degree. The Federal Conservatives and the Prime Minister, in particular, have been in full crisis mode since the Members of Parliament returned from their extended summer recess last week.

Their problems are caused by two separate but intertwined issues. Both touch on the legitimacy of the unelected, unaccountable and scandal-prone institution that is occasionally referred to as the upper-house of sober second thought.

The first has to do with the growing uproar of fraudulent expense claims made by three Harper appointees (read cronies) and one Chretien era Liberal (Mac Harb) who has since retired. The second problem is on account of a half-assed bill ( C-7) that is designed to reform the Senate by introducing two measures that might make the body slightly less undemocratic by allowing willing provinces to elect their Senators and limit their term in office to nine years. The latter may be overshadowed by the sexier Duffy-gate (apologies for the lazy Watergate reference) but is arguably more important, constitutionally speaking.

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Duffy, Wallin and, to a lesser extent, Brazeau have all pushed back against Harper’s attempts to throw them under the bus, mainly from the Senate floor or in the media. First the “Honourable” Mike Duffy lashed out at his former political masters with a series of shocking revelations about how personally involved Harper was in the damage control strategy that appears to have been cooked up by his then Chief of Staff Nigel Wright.

The Prime Minister vehemently denies this charge, suggesting instead that he had no knowledge of the $90 000 bailout for Duffy arranged by his former lawyer Benjamin Perrin and Mr. Wright. Harper also claims that he never read Mr. Duffy the riot act nor did he threaten to expel him from the caucus if he didn’t resign first. Duffman only left the party because Harper’s former staffer Ray Novak and former Senate majority leader Ms. LeBreton leaned on him and let him know he’d get the boot if he didn’t fall on his own sword publicly.

Senator Pam Wallin also refuses to go out like a punk. She alleges that former Tory colleagues, senators LeBreton and Carolyn Stewart Olsen, acting on behalf of the PM, orchestrated a campaign of leaks and the Senate Internal Economy Committee report (the body tasked with investigating Wallin’s expenses) was designed to tarnish her good name and intimidate her into complying with Harper’s wishes. She has since resigned from Conservative caucus but denies any fraud, claiming that she made an honest mistake in filing her expense claims. Wallin’s only crime: in her words, she was simply being an “activist senator” (note: the term activist mean something completely different in the over-privileged world of the Senate).

In the meantime, Harper’s feeble attempt at Senate reform appears to be going down the tubes. Last year, the Charest government submitted a reference to the Quebec Court of Appeals (the highest court in the province) in response to the Federal government’s attempts to change the Senate through the back door (a.k.a Bill C-7). Last Thursday, the Quebec court ruled Harper’s move unconstitutional.

The gist of the Court’s legal smack down is that the Feds are obliged to consult the provinces on a matter as important this and cannot make a substantive change to the constitution by means of a simple federal statute. Finally, any such process would be subject to the dreaded 7/50 formula found in section 38 (1) (B) which requires seven provinces representing at least 50 % of the Federation to ratify any proposed changes.

As the court said in its opinion, “they (the Feds) cannot circumvent it on the pretext that the constitutional amending process is complex or demanding.” This may not be the kibosh on Harpers plans, but when the Supreme Court of Canada hears the matter in Mid-November, the Quebec decision will definitely carry a lot of weight, and make it even harder for the justices to find in favour of the Federal government’s position.

Reading about President Obama’s war-mongering campaign with regards to his proposed military strikes against the Syrian government, I was shocked to see his administration make the disturbing claim that POTUS (President of the United States) reserves the right to push the button with or without a formal declaration of War by Congress.

I’m shocked, because we are not dealing with some fake cowboy dumbass that somehow fell off the turnip truck and landed in the Oval Office. Rather, Obama is, according to the biography of his own life, as well as independent accounts, a former constitutional law prof at the University of Chicago or lecturer, to be more precise (having worked as a lecturer myself, I can tell you there is a world of difference between the two in the academic world). At any rate, one would hope that as a graduate of Harvard law, he would be familiar with the US Constitution’s article 1, section 8 which clearly states that “Congress shall have the power…to declare war.”

So either Obama was the world’s worst constitutional lawyer, or he has conveniently ignored the fundamentals of US law since becoming the most powerful man in the world. I for one, am betting on the second being the case.

It’s not the first time the constitutional lawyer in him has been suppressed for the sake of politics. In fact, Obama has made a maddening habit of doing just that, when it suits his administration’s agenda, whether on the issue of fighting terrorism, violating the privacy of US citizens and foreigners, or harassing journalists.

When it comes to fighting terror, through the use of state sanctioned killing of innocents through the CIA’s devastating drone program, Obama really takes the cake. He’s actually upped the ante from the Bush years by approving a massive surge in drone attacks, mostly in Pakistan and Afghanistan. But also in Yemen, where the president made a dubious defense of the summary execution by means of hell fire missile, without trial, or any form of due process, of an American teenager who had the misfortune of being the son of known Al-Qaeda terrorist, Anwar al-Awlaki.

Consider that the Department of Justice, on the orders of the president, secretly subpoenaed the e-mails and personal phone records of Fox journalist James Rosen for his alleged involvement in leaking classified information to the public. The White House completely disregarded article 1 of the Constitution guaranteeing freedom of the press in its blatant attempts to intimidate the press with absurd charges of criminal conspiracy against members of the fourth estate.

All part and parcel of the new imperial presidency that long ago begun undermining the separation of powers intended to prevent the concentration of too much powers in the hands of one person or institution, but continues its alarming growth under President Obama who used to try and reassure the public by pointing to his background as an expert on the US Constitution.

Does anyone remember the concept of “open federalism?” That was the anti-centralist concept of Canada espoused by the Reform party back in the early 90’s that said the role of the feds should be limited to those areas that the provincial government either can’t or won’t do themselves. They also argued quite forcefully that any major policy decisions should be done in consultation with the provinces rather than being imposed on them by a dictatorial government in Ottawa.

Ironically enough these were once the cherished principles that our two-faced Prime Minister Harper once swore to adhere to until his dying day, if ever he became Prime Minister. Now, like so many other noble words once spoken by Steve Harper (i.e. denouncing patronage appointments of Senators) & his gang of neo-cons, they have been quickly disregarded in favour of the new dominant political ideology of this government: Ottawa knows best! As a wise man once said (Groucho Marx, often misattributed to Woody Allen) “ these are my principles. If you don’t like them, I’ve got others.”

I was reminded of open federalism the other day, when a Superior Court judge in Quebec found that the long gun registry was a shared overlapping jurisdiction between the two levels of government (criminal law is federal, but the registration of firearms is a matter for the provinces) and could not be destroyed without the consent of the provinces.

Quebec had filed an injunction (easily one of the best things the Charest government and the current interim leader Jean Marc Fournier as Justice Minister, ever did) against the feds when they inexplicably announced that they were destroying the data collected over the years by the registry, stating that they wanted the data to be transferred over to them, for the purposes of creating their very own provincial registry. A sensible and good use of taxpayer’s money. Not to mention a valuable crime fighting tool that virtually every police chief in the country supports.

But don’t expect Minister my-personal-life-is-of-limits-but-I want-access-to-yours Toews to accept logical arguments on this one, or any other issue for that matter. I’m certain it is only a matter of time before he and the government challenge the lower court decision and send the case all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada (not that they’ve had much luck their lately), open federalism be damned!

With the recent and tragic shooting of Denis Balnchette on election night, fresh in the minds of Quebeckers, they are no doubt more resolved than ever to have stronger, not weaker, gun control laws on the books. Pity that Harper’s bunch is too blinkered by their ultra-right wing views to realize that.

*Photo by mostlyconservative (via Flick under a CC license).

If there is one thing about this election that scares the shit of me—and should scare you as well—it’s the shocking declaration of Jean Francois Lisée, the self-proclaimed savior of the increasingly-ugly Parti Québecois.

Lisée said that a PQ government would not hesitate to use the Charter of Rights and Freedoms’ notwithstanding clause (yes, that’s the same constitution that he says was rammed down Quebec’s throat in ‘82!), just as Quebec has done ever since the Supreme Court found sections of Bill 101 unconstitutional.

He told an audience of radical Péquistas that his government would “have no hesitation to use the notwithstanding clause as a preventive measure,” against what he called the “Canadian” judges that sit on the court (ignoring that three of the current judges are from Québec). This was nothing short of a call for lawlessness in Québec.

And this is by no means a rogue element in the PQ. Pauline Marois may have her strong points (I’ll get back to you on that one!) but upholding the constitution is not one of them. If we look at the PQ platform in this election, we find a plethora of potential constitutional violations, some so outrageous, they’re beyond belief.

Let’s begin with the most notorious: applying bill 101 to Colleges (CÉGEP) in Quebec. Discriminatory policies has always been controversial with the courts, but this measure takes discrimination against allophones in Quebec to new extremes. They are already forced to send their children to French high schools under the current law (lets leave aside the passerelle schools loophole). Now the PQ is shrieking that students are not learning enough French and will have to go to French CÉGEPS, as well.

Aside from the fact that they are delivering the coup de grâce to the English schools that are increasingly dependant on immigrants and their children for business, they are also infringing on a number of basic Charter rights with this excessive measure. Namely: liberty (section 7) and equality (section 15) since this measure would only apply to allophones and perhaps francophones whose parents didn’t attend English schools. There are no valid arguments that this undermining of basic liberty and equality could conceivably be saved by section 1 and justifiable ‘in a free and democratic’ society.

Ditto for the PQ’s ‘secular charter’. Let’s set aside for the moment the obvious hypocrisy of allowing some religious symbols (i.e. crucifix in the National Assembly) and not others, and just look at the legality of what’s being proposed. Can we ever square the idea of fundamental religious freedom guaranteed by the Charter (section 2) with a state imposed secularism? The answer is, of course, an emphatic no.

Finally, will the PQ ever pull of their nefarious plot to prevent non-francophones from running for public office through some sort of French language proficiency test? We know that Marois had since reneged on the piece of bloody red meat to her hungry radical separatist base, but that fact that she had to reconsider her position on the issue, speaks volumes about her true intentions.

If this is what the PQ has in mind for the lucky few who will be eligible for their precious Quebec ‘passport’, I think I’ll hold on to my Canadian passport for the time being, thank you very much.