House of Commons Speaker Peter Milliken did indeed make some history today. He has joined the more than honourable ranks of principled advocates of democracy - those who have stood up, decisively, many times in the long history of parliamentary government, against autocracy and excessive executive power.
In doing this, Mr. Milliken was both brave and right.
Brave, because Mr. Milliken can now look forward to a taste of the conservative anger machine that seemed to paralyze our Governor-General a year and a half ago. What will be said of our nation's Speaker on the openmouthsphere in the days to come? Not a Canadian? Tool of the separatists? Wants the terrorists to win? A crypto-socialist? Must be from Toronto?
The Speaker is none of these things. He is an officer and servant of the House of Commons, who knows his business. Unlike "conservatives" who feign defending the foundations of our country while ripping them down, Mr. Milliken understands our system of government. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is not our king. He was put in his place by our elected Parliament, which can also remove him. The government conducts its business on the authority of Parliament, to whom it answers.
It was absolutely critical to our democracy that this be today's ruling.
Today is therefore that rarest of things - an excellent day for Canada, for our democracy, for open and accountable government.
My well-spoken and determined blogging colleague Norman Spector suggests that the Harper government's options now are to try to undermine Parliament's supremacy in the courts, or to cut some sort of deal with an opposition party. Failing which, he suggests, Mr. Harper might inflict an election on the country.
It would certainly be a fine thing to rid Canada of this government over this issue.
But Mr. Harper does have one other option. And that is to respect the Speaker's ruling, to withdraw his acts of executive contempt for our Parliament and our democracy, to reach some reasonable accommodation with the House of Commons on any real issues of security, and to tell the truth he seeks to hide.
Whatever it is Mr. Harper and his government are seeking to cover up will reach the light of day sometime soon, one way or another.