In a column in today’s National Post, John Ivison describes a remarkable exchange as though it were routine.
Ottawa positively hummed with speculation about a major shuffle in the upper reaches of the public service Monday — a story I suggested on Twitter was important because “these are the people who really run the country.” Not so, responded Ian Brodie, Stephen Harper’s former chief of staff : “I’m pretty sure the guy who moves them is the one who really runs the country.”
In fact the Prime Minister runs the Executive Branch not the entire government. He or she does not run the judiciary… I hope. And the Prime Minister is certainly not meant to run the legislature; the job of elected MPs is to scrutinize and restrain the executive through the power of the purse and obviously they cannot do so if the people they’re meant to be controlling are controlling them instead.
If that weren’t enough, the government also does not “run the country”. It safeguards our liberties, protecting us against force and fraud from within and from fraud without so that we may go about our business and, in doing so, drive the economy, determine the culture and from time to time by our ballots restrain and redirect the government.
We citizens run the government; it does not run us or “the country”. It is extraordinary to hear such unconstitutional notions, so contrary to conservative philosophy, put forward as uncontroversial by such a source and to find that they appear to fit very exactly the current Ministry’s conception of its position and duties.
No, wait, let me rephrase that. I wish it were extraordinary to hear it but it is in fact by now commonplace. This exchange stands out only for the remarkable clarity with which it misstates the situation and, in doing so, reflects the conventional wisdom.