If you’re not disgusted, you should be

By Alex Binkley
Originally written for Ontario Farmer

Most Canadians probably hoped the results of the October election were a clear signal to our Parliamentarians to take the high road and act in our best interests. Instead they’ve reverted to playing their silly games and if you’re not disgusted by what’s happening in Ottawa, you should be because it will poison political and public life in Canada for years to come.

The blame falls mainly on Prime Minister Stephen Harper who seems determined to prove his critics are right when they say he’s an obsessive ideologue. The Speech from the Throne at the start of the session in mid November hinted he finally understood his government must cooperate with the other parties as the electorate intended.

But all that went out the window in Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s economic update at the end of the month. At Harper’s insistence, there was the attack on public funding for political parties, which was nothing more than a poorly disguised attempt to muzzle them. While there’s a good case to be made for why voters shouldn’t have to support the parties, this was quite a dumb time to start the debate.

More importantly was the dreadful tone of Flaherty’s update. Its contents weren’t bad but it fixated on avoiding a deficit, which isn’t what concerns Canadians right now. They wanted to hear about government plans to keep our sagging economy from collapsing. The minister should have emphasized how Ottawa is working with the provinces and municipalities on selecting infrastructure projects that have the support of the three levels of government so they get started ASAP to help keep Canadians employed. The minister could have asked the opposition for ideas on mitigating the impact of the recession. They do have some.

Instead what we got was Harper machismo at its worst. He has probably assured his political legacy will rank with Joe Clark’s in terms of political adroitness. A year ago, Susan Riley, a colleague in the Parliamentary Press Gallery, predicted that when Harper’s political descent came, it would be quick. She’s probably about to be proved correct.

However as daft as Harper’s behaviour is the opposition plan to form a coalition government. The Liberals and NDP have spent years savaging each other’s policies but now they’re going to run a coalition under a prime minister few Canadians wanted back in October. Worst of all, to ensure its survival the coalition will hand the Bloc Quebecois a blank cheque. The Bloc is probably the only winner in this farce because it will be able to exploit the split in Parliament between the coalition and the Conservatives to make its case that Quebec would be better off separating. Gilles Duceppe will be laughing all the way to the bank.

4 December 2008