Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Public Interest Should Be Decided By Elected MPs, Not Appointed Iacobucci

Usually to decide what's best for Canada we hold an election, not make an appointment. However just two weeks ago to determine what's in the best interests of Canadians, our Conservative government didn't turn to our elected officials, they turned to an appointed one.

If Conservatives view an appointed Senate as undemocratic, how are they to view the appointment of Frank Iacobucci? For though he is a former Supreme Court Justice, he is still an appointee given the responsibility to determine public interest, a job historically given to the elected members of the House of Commons.

Where Mr. Iacobucci was appointed by the Conservative government to review documents on the Afghan detainee abuse scandal and to decide which should be released, his terms of reference clearly specify that he is to base his decision on the determination of what is in the public's best interest. And though usually a more democratic element is relied upon to determine what is best for our country, it appears, this time for some reason, an appointment will do.

In a media scrum on Tuesday(video below) the NDP's Jack Harris brought up this very point, arguing that it is Parliament's responsibility to determine what's in the Public interest, not the opinion of Frank Iacobucci. Mr. Harris in the interview stated:

"Parliament is the one who answers those questions to what's in the public interest. Mr. Iacobucci is advising the [Justice] Minister on a whole series of questions which are matters of opinion about the public interest. And it is the people who are elected who are the ones whose job it is to determine what the public interest is."
The Conservative government however disagrees with Jack Harris's point of view and believes one appointee can represent the public interest of a nation.

In the review's terms of reference Mr. Iacobucci is given the task to find what would be best for Canadians by weighing the public interest in disclosing documents against the public interest in securing our country. The terms of reference state Frank Iacobucci is to:
"make recommendations as to whether any injurious information or a summary of it should be disclosed on the basis that the public interest in disclosure, including for the purpose of providing parliamentarians with Government information necessary to hold the Government to account on the matter of the transfer of Afghan detainees, outweighs the public interest in non-disclosure for the purpose of preventing injury to Canada’s international relations, national defence or national security."
And as the above indicates, what one would assume to be a simple task of merely deciding which documents to release, in fact is one that involves important value judgements; value judgements that would normally require some function of democracy, not some appointment by a partisan official.

1 comment:

Eugene Forsey Liberal said...

You & Coyne, birds of a feather.