(T)he document - given only to Conservative chairmen - tells them how to favour government agendas, select party-friendly witnesses, coach favourable testimony, set in motion debate-obstructing delays and, if necessary, storm out of meetings to grind parliamentary business to a halt...In sum, the Cons' instructions are to manipulate proceedings and bully their opponents at every available opportunity - and in the process, earn the trust and respect of those same opponents.
Among the more heavy-handed recommendations in the document:
• That the Conservative party helps pick committee witnesses. The chairman "should ensure that witnesses suggested by the Conservative Party of Canada are favourable to the government and ministry," the document warns.
• The chairmen should also seek to "include witnesses from Conservative ridings across Canada" and make sure their local MPs take the place of a member at the committee when a constituent appears, to show they listen and care.
• The chairmen should "meet with witnesses so as to review testimony and assist in question preparation."
• Procedural notes tell the chairmen to always recognize a Conservative member just before a motion is put to a vote "and let them speak as long as they wish" - a maneuver used to kickstart a filibuster as a stall tactic.
• Chairmen are told to notify all affected ministries prior to a motion being voted upon. "Communicate concerns with the Prime Minister's Office, House Leader or Whip," the document insists. "Try to anticipate the response of the press and how party could be portrayed."
• The guide says a "disruptive" committee should be adjourned by the chairman on short notice. "Such authority is solely in the discretion of the chair. No debate, no appeal possible." By failing to appoint the vice chair to run the meeting, the adjournment will last until the chair is ready to reconvene the committee...
Ironically, the manual also advises committee chairs to act fairly and build trust with members of all parties, getting to know them personally as well as politically.
It would be tempting to say that there's an inherent contradication between the two goals - except that they seem to fairly accurately describe how the Republicans managed to manipulate the American political system from 2002 to 2006. In that case, a hyperpartisan governing party used every trick at its disposal to punish its opponents for existing...and the opponents responded primarily by either staying silent, or apologizing for getting in the way.
But while that scheme worked frighteningly well in the U.S. (at least until the 2006 elections), it's been an utter flop in Canada so far. And for good reason: unlike the Dems, none of Canada's opposition parties have lacked at least some willingness to be publicly seen opposing the government.
Which signals that while the Cons indeed seem to have been borrowing heavily from the Republicans' playbook, there's little reason to think that they'll get far with it. And that conclusion is only slightly stronger now that the playbook itself is available for public skewering.
Update: Or maybe the point has been made already. But it's still worth some more emphasis.