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Saturday, April 25, 2015

Andrew Coyne: Stop panicking, Stephen Harper can’t control the future

I suppose we will have to revisit this issue of the strange powers Stephen Harper has acquired to rule the future. Not only does he control his own government, but in the fevered imaginings of the national press, he controls all future governments as well. (Legal scholars are divided. While it is true that governing from the grave is not expressly authorized under the Constitution, neither is it expressly forbidden.)

The first outbreak of this occult panic was over the Conservatives’ proposed balanced budget law. Never mind that the legislation, which no one has yet seen, does not actually mandate balanced budgets, it was the idea that it might mandate anything that had people up in arms. It was unclear which upset them more: that the prime minister should presume to tell future prime ministers whether they could or could not go into deficit, which made it dictatorial, or that the law could in fact be repealed at any time, which made it worthless.

The notion that it might be neither of these things — that it would remain in effect, like any law, only until it were repealed, and that, like any law, its ability to bind future parliaments consisted in the effort required to repeal it, with all of the political risks that might go with it — did not seem to occur to anyone. It was all just too frightening and disturbing...

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