The Observant Astronomer

The passing scene as observed by an observant Jew, who daylights as an astronomer.

Friday, February 25, 2005


Among my various interests, I'm an avid, well not so much reader, as scanner, of the proceedings, i.e. Hansard, of the Canadian Parliament. Both the House of Commons and the Senate. What I like to read is not so much the general debate, and certainly not the charade of Question Period, but the procedural give and take; the points of order and questions of privelege.

Earlier this week Senator Anne Cools, raised a point of order with respect to the Royal Consent on a bill which, inter alia, abolishes the post of Solicitor General. Her main point is that the Solicitor General is an officer of the Crown, and that, as its abolition touches on the Royal Perogatives, the Queen (i.e. her Canadian representative, the Governer General) much give consent before Parliament passes the bill for the final time.

Under the parliamentary system Canada inherited from the UK, sovereignty is vested in, well, the sovereign. Government comes through the Queen in Parliament, but the authority underlying Parliament's ability to govern ultimately derives from the Crown. This is unlike the situation in, say, the United States, where sovereignty lies in the citizens via the Constitution. An American official swears to uphold that Constitution. A Canadian official, swears loyalty to the Queen. It is the Crown, through its reserve powers and perogatives, that forms the last bastion to protect democracy. So any casualness shown by parliamentarians towards the Crown and its perogatives should be taken seriously indeed.

In his response to Senator Cools, Senator William Rompkey, the Deputy Government Leader in the Senate, claims that the change is merely " a change in government departments". From the intervention of other senators, it was clear that they considered the whole issue "a waste of time".

Regardless of the merits of the case, the response of the government is entirely typical. Authority is seen to vest in the government, as derived from the people. The role of the Crown is seen to be irrelevant, only of historical interest, inconsistent with democracy, etc. The ancient Law of Parliament is some archaic encumberance, to be ignored on a whim. What is not recognized is that unsourcing government from its authority threatens the entire edifice.

So why is this important? It is part an parcel of the entire liberal, atheistic, "enlightenment" enterprise. In this view, there is no fount of authority outside of each individual. Consequently, the are no limits on individual action beyond that which he chooses to surrender to the collective sovereignty of the polity. There is no outside source of morals, or ethics. All resides within the desires of the individual's soul. Thus, most anything goes, and the result is the general moral decay we see around us.

Chazal say we are to go out of our way to see a king, even a non-Jewish one, so as to be able to appreciate the greatness of the heavenly King of Kings. A government that unsources itself from its own source of authority, loses its authority over those it would claim to govern.

UPDATE [9/3/2005]:
Speaker Hays ruled against the point of order, basically on the grounds that in Canada, unlike the UK, the post of Solicitor General is a creation of Parliament and not an officer of the Crown.


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