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Archive for December, 2008

Politics, schmolitics

Posted by Keen Observer on December 3, 2008

I guess I can’t really call myself a blogger if I don’t write something about the on-going brouhaha in Ottawa over a probable change in government.  There seems to be a lot of talk about whether or not the idiots we elected in October are doing the right thing, or even just doing their jobs.  There’s talk about overthrowing the so-called will of the people, about abusing the democratic process, about partisan politicking (like there’s any other kind), and so on and so forth.

Given the title of my blog, I have to step up to the plate and call BS on…well…far too many people.  I’m not going to bother with links, though:  there are far too many posts and articles to list, and I’m assuming y’all are smart enough to find at least one or two that will address the targets of my scorn with a minimum of fuss and bother.  If I can, I may scatter one or two for illustrative purposes.

First, my position, so we don’t have errors in assuming I’m from one part of the political spectrum or another and have people shouting imprecations at me for being there.  I consider myself largely a centrist.  I have many libertarian tendencies, but I think the doctrine goes a little too far on some things.  I lean left on some issues and right on others.  But enough about me.

Second, I agree with most people that there’s a lot of childish bickering going on down east.  I expected more from our PM.  I have to admit, though, that this is the most exciting thing to happen politically in Canada in many a long year.

Third, it’s interesting that people keep mentioning this ‘promise’ of the Liberals and NDP not to form a coalition during the election, yet they have little to say when confronted with repeated promise-breaking by all political parties after winning election.  Every politician spins some sort of promise or another to get (re-)elected, which is subsequently unfulfilled.  To believe otherwise is naïve in the extreme.  A major case in point (or two) that show Canadians should never be surprised by this, nor hold it up as a simple means to excoriate an opponent (ooh! they’re naughty liars!):

  1. a promise to eliminate the GST (Liberals–not done)
  2. a promise not to tax income trust distributions (CPC–broken).

Keep in mind, too, that this is not a military coup to seize power.  The laws of the land are still being followed.   For now.  But also keep in mind that Harper is trying to prevent a lawful vote from happening in the House using means similar to the Opposition.  There is far too much of pot/kettle going on here.

Fourth, I watched all four leaders speak tonight and listened to the commentary on more than one channel.  The person who came across the best?  Gilles Duceppe.  Oh, how I wish he weren’t a separatist leader!  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:  he’s probably the best man for the job.  As proof, I’ll offer that he and his party would not be in government in this coalition.  Either he’s not seeking power, or he’s staying true to his principles.  You decide.  My breakdown on the other three:

  1. Harper:  he was an angry man, the very picture of a bully trying to get his way by wheedling, when brute intimidation failed.  I haven’t felt talked down to like that in a very, very long time.  He seemed to be taking some plays from the Book of Kim Campbell, in that he felt he needed to explain to us in excruciating detail why this was bad, very bad, for Canada, because we, the people, are too dang stupid to figure out on our own that this coalition was composed of boogey-men out to usurp democracy.  The tone of voice he used made my skin crawl, like I was being lectured for having transgressed and couldn’t understand the enormity of my sin.  As to the content of his message, well, there wasn’t much beyond the core message of “Be afraid.  Be very afraid.”  A wasted opportunity.
  2. Layton:  he spoke well, better than the others (in English), but I have trouble shaking the feeling of smarm that he exudes.  I just don’t like the man’s public persona.  He tried to tell people that he tried to offer substantive help to the government but was rejected.  True or not, it’s now up to Harper to refute.  His best comment?  “[Harper] is more concerned about his job than about [Canadian] jobs.”  Or however it was phrased.
  3. Dion:  Well, there are better videos on YouTube, I have to say that.  He did not come across well, as far as making CTV wait for his video.  CBC seemed to have gotten it okay, though.  Confusion there, certainly.  I don’t think he would make a very good PM, but he won’t be in place long, likely.  He made some very good points, trying to explain how this coalition would be good for Canada, but he missed one important one.  He forgot to explain how this wasn’t, as some have put it, a putsch to seize power illegally, or as Harper put it, “overturning the results of a general election.”

Fifth, Mandate.  There’s been a lot of talk about the Harper ‘mandate’ to govern Canada.  I’m continually confused by this.  Sure, what mandate he has was strengthened in seat count in the last election, but I have a hard time with a minority government being considered to have any mandate to govern.  His party got more seats than any of the others.  Whoopee.  Note that his party got 38% of the votes in this country, with a really low voter turnout.  The other parties got 62% of the votes.  Is Harper really sure he knows the will of the people?  But that’s not really relevant, because Canadians elected who they elected.  And now he has to deal with the confidence of the House, which he apparently no longer has.  There’s your mandate.

Sixth, the suborning of the electoral process by the Opposition.  Here’s one of the biggest BS calls on this whole mess, since all the parties seem to be acting within the rules of Parliament and the Constitution.  The voter’s involvement in the electoral process is generally confined to election day and the weeks preceding it.  Time after time, majority governments have been elected and re-elected, with the occasional minority government to break things up.  We send people to Ottawa to act for us.  Almost never do they ask us what to do once there, and in nearly all cases they would scorn unsolicited advice.  I didn’t vote for my MP; in fact, I think he’s rather a useless tool, and I’d be glad to see him out of government.  But once my ballot hits that slot, I understand that I have no more say in what an MP does during his term.  I don’t set policy; I don’t issue directives; I don’t tell him how to vote:  all of this comes from party HQ and/or the party leader.  Anyone who thinks otherwise hasn’t been paying attention over the years.  And in this light, unless there’s another general election called, all that Canadians can do is sit back and watch the shit show.

Other comments as they occur to me:

  1. Harper acted like a bully, and the Opposition stood up to him.  He didn’t like having to back down, so he’s trying to re-assert whatever authority he believes he has.  He’s coming across as a scared man, and his lack of a statesmanlike demeanor is obvious.  He definitely seems like a man afraid of losing his job…or like a power-hungry idealogue.
  2. Dion is not prime-ministerial material.  I candidly admit that.  He tends to come across a little too professorial, like he should still be in academia.  I thought he did pretty well in the leaders’ debate, surprising everyone with a concrete economic plan.  But Harper spun that like a pro, calling Dion’s plan ‘panicking’, simply because he revealed it at a debate, not at a press conference.  This was rich, considering that Harper’s own platforms weren’t released until well after the debates (IIRC).
  3. Dion vs Harper is a fool’s choice.  Neither is right for Canada, not now.  Unfortunately, they’re the choices we have.  If I were religious, I’d say “God help us,” but I’m not.
  4. I like minority governments.  Otherwise, we elect dictatorships, and no one needs that.  A working minority government gets stuff done, but it has to be by dealing with the Opposition, giving them something to get what you want.  Quite honestly, I kind of like the CPC minority government, but Harper has been able to get away with a little too much–acting like he is a majority government–simply because the Opposition has been too disorganised, and he’s been–up until now, anyway–able to keep the Bloc in line.  I do have to say in all fairness that I’d prefer that the parties work together, as long as Harper understands that he no longer instills fear in his opponents.  He drew the line in the sand, and they crossed it.  Now he needs to respond to his reality check and get with the other parties to work together to solve Canada’s problems.

My final thought:  someone whose opinions are rather important to me suggested something that makes a lot of sense.  Both sides should come up with their budgets and present them to the people in a binding referendum in simple language that a 10th-grader can understand.  No wiggle room, no changing them after they’re posted to the Internet for people to digest.  What the people vote on is what they get.  And that is how you take it to the people.

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