"A Citizen"s Eye View"

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The "Teflon Don"

I don’t know what amazes me more, the fact that the party that supposedly represents the right-minded thinkers in Canada can’t seem to do any wrong, or that the Canadian voting public seems to buy into this myth at every turn.

Recent history I think, serves as a more than an adequate example of what I mean. Throughout the course of the summer, a number of senior civil servants who have openly disagreed with the policies of the ruling Conservative party have been handed their walking papers. Of course, in Ottawa these days, this is the “top down” method of management. It starts with the Prime Minister who insists on complete control of every facet of the government. And he controls with an iron fist. Even among the elected officials within his own party, his rule of thumb seems to be “my way or the highway”. So because this is the method of leadership espoused by the P.M., his Ministers and minions operate the same way. Any and all dissenting voices are summarily squashed.  

It doesn’t seem to matter if the senior official is a Liberal or a Conservative appointee. The Veteran’s Ombudsman, Pat Stogran was appointed by the Harper Government but because he is doing his job and doing it well, which makes the right-siders look bad, he is relieved of command. And the dissenting corpses pile up like cordwood this summer.  The fractured left raises the hue and cry at every turn, but because the lot of them can’t even agree on what day it is, The Iron Fisted men who claim the land to the right of centre, literally go unchallenged, even with a minority government.  

And the most mind boggling thing about all of this is the reaction of the Canadian voters, the people like you and me. At the beginning of the summer, the Harper led Conservatives were ahead of the Liberals by little more than a percentage point, both hovering at about 30%. But since all of this house cleaning of the Canadian Civil Service, The Conservatives now have a full 5 point lead according to the most recent poll conducted by EKOS. And my initial response to this was of course, “What the….”!!

Now before I proceed any farther here, I’d like to remind you all of the relative naïveté I had regarding Canadian politics for years and years. I mentioned this affliction in both of my first two posts. So I can’t really say if there has or hasn’t been a comparable rule of Government in Ottawa for the last 100 years or so, though I think that Quebecers may point to the Conservative government led by Robert Borden in 1917 who enacted Conscription as a means of filling up those horrific trenches in Europe that were being brutally emptied faster than volunteers could replenish them.

There is a distinct Canadian ethic about playing by the rules. It has been ingrained in our collective psyche that, how the game is played is more important than the outcome. That being seen as being honorable as well as tenacious is as much a Canadian characteristic as our penchant for saying “eh”. But more and more, the rules to the game of politics are being so bent and twisted that the democratic legitimacy of our Governments actions are genuinely in question. To create an illustrative analogy, if Politics were hockey, the Harper led Conservatives would be the Chiefs from the movie Slap shot, only not as friendly.

Yes, Canadian citizens and media cry foul repeatedly each time the Government  executes one of it’s heavy handed maneuvers. They slip a little in the polls, but inevitably, it appears that these indiscretions are soon forgotten and, dare I say forgiven, as if nothing seems to “stick” to Mr. Harper, reminiscent of the “Teflon Don” of Mafia fame. And still, he and his well trained followers hold just enough seats in Parliament to be able to form a legitimate Government, heartily endorsed by the Governor General. And the list of undemocratic actions grows and grows.  

As I said, at first blush, it is an absolute conundrum that, in a Country that prides itself on fair play as much as it’s democratic traditions and institutions, such a single-minded autocratic regime can continue to exist.  It stagers the imagination.  So there has to be some kind of reason for this. But upon closer examination, it really isn’t that big a mystery. First of all, the Conservatives rule the country while holding a mere 30% of the current popular vote (though in reality, they hold roughly 46% of the actual seats in the House of Commons). If you add up the number of seats held by legitimate left-thinking politicians, this equals roughly 40% of the seats. I exclude the Bloc Quebecois from the left as they swing from right to left as best suits their purposes. Unfortunately, this party which represents the interests of only one Canadian province, holds the swing vote which has for so long, allowed the Conservatives to remain in power, despite the ruling party’s penchant for insulting the Bloc whenever they feel the need. There’s that short memory again.

According to EKOS, the legitimate left of centre parties, the Liberals, The New Democrats and the Greens would make up about 56% of the popular vote if an election were to be held tomorrow. But because these parties spend more time arguing amongst themselves, there is no unity of any kind on the left that can feasibly hold the Conservatives to account.  And our right of centre party is oh so good at perpetuating discord on the left. And they laugh and laugh as they go out for drinks with the Bloc who have no interest what so ever in Canada as a whole aside from the millions upon millions of dollars Quebec receives in equalization payments from the federal government every year.

And let’s add to the discord on the left, the Conservatives incredible ability to reframe the truth about a given situation in such a way as to discredit everyone but themselves. As an example, take a look at the Prorogation of Parliament in 2008. The three parties in opposition, The Liberals, The New Democrats and even the chameleon like Bloc got together with their 54% of the seats in the House of Commons and decided that they had had enough of  “Harper and the Harpetts”. The first and only time the opposition was unified. While it was not public opinion that halted this highly democratic maneuvering (54% of the elected member s would have joined hands to run the county collaboratively), The “Cons” were able to paint the Coalition as undemocratic, claiming that their attempt at dethroning Mr. Harper was little more than a political coup by those who were not elected to run the Government…..yes, that’s right, he convinced the population that those 54% were not  elected to run the Government, though I’m not sure what he claimed all those people were elected to actually do. In addition, he successfully persuaded Canadians that Mr. Dion, the very honorable leader of the Liberals at the time, was a weak-kneed buffoon who had made a deal with the devil, referring to the New Democrats as “Socialists” and the Bloc as “Separatists”. And his spin doctoring worked in terms of swaying popular opinion. Whether this had any impact on the Governor General, who was the one who in fact, allowed Parliament to be prorogued before the Conservatives faced a non-confidence vote, is anybody’s guess.

And so the “Gamesmanship” in Ottawa seems to continue. The “Teflon Don” continues to unilaterally rule the country and to reshape it based on some very “Non-Canadian” values. We, as a nation seem to be powerless to change that. We can’t seem to get a handle on our political left to form a coalition that can hold the current government to account. And the Bloc, who has no interest in Canada as a whole, is allowed to continue to exist as a federal party, and are invited to all the best shindigs while the Greens, who have a vested interest in preserving the entire country, are left to eat soup.  So folks, this is our country. If you can’t abide this kind of autocratic form of governance, then let your vote do the talking for you. Pay attention to the issues, not the political “spin-doctoring” of a bunch of unelected back room boys. In the end of the day, we are responsible for who runs our country and how it’s done. If this Man keeps being elected to power, even with a minority, it’s our own fault. You get, as they say, what you pay for.

Until next time,


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