Wednesday, October 20, 2004

The Principles of Liberal Power

Have you noticed what a hard time Paul Martin is having these days? Gone is the dictatorial privilege of running a government with a massive majority. Liberals are only happy when they are in a position of undisputed power, and they simply can't stand the current reality. They have no idea how to make actual democracy work. It's hard to blame them, really; they haven't had to actually practice democracy for some time.

The only "principle" of Liberal politics and vision is the attainment and maintenance of power. This is abundantly clear in their pandering for votes to various segments of Canadian society. It was abundantly clear in their 2004 election campaign, built entirely on lies, fear and misrepresentation. The Deputy Prime Minister's principles were at their hypocritical best when she recently decried Ralph Klein's use of the politics of fear and misrepresentation. They pay lip service to core issues of nationhood, such as sovereignty, security and defence; while fostering warm and fuzzy social programs to keep Canadians dependent on government largesse and grateful to such a benevolent ruler.

Cabinet Ministers rise in the House and prevaricate with impunity. The Minister of National Defence tells Parliament that, since 1999, his government has allocated an additional ten billion dollars to national defence. What he doesn't say is that most of that money was injected to pay bills that had been run up by his government years before in assigning unplanned tasks to the Canadian Forces and making them take it out their hide. What he doesn't say is that his colleague, the former Minister of National Defence and now Revenue Minister, is about to rape DND of more core funding. The Minister of Public Works and Government Services tells the House that the Sea King replacement contract was won based on best value for money. I'll be kind and just say that he is ill-informed. That contract was run by the lowest-cost-compliant method, whereby the contender that costs one dollar less will win regardless of quality. If you set the bar low enough, you can get the winner that meets your political requirement of not putting the lie to the legacy of the former Prime Minister, even if it falls short of the real military requirement. Some would call that lying to the House and lying to Canadians. Others would call it Liberal principles.

It is educational to watch the Liberals in Question Period, as they have long since turned obfuscation into an art form. Watching the Member for Kings Hants pop from his seat to spring to the defence of the Prime Minister he was mercilessly slagging scant months ago is really quite pathetic. It does show that Scott Brison really is a Liberal when it comes to the principles of power. He just couldn't resist the temptation of the apple of a Parliamentary Secretary position (and future Cabinet post) in the Liberal Garden of Eden. It really is too bad when someone of Mr. Brison's obvious intelligence can so easily exchange principle for power.

It will be enlightening to see how Team Martin will handle allowing the "unclean" from the Conservatives, Bloc and NDP into their garden. So far, the PM hasn't seemed to figure out that he doesn't actually have a majority. When the leaders of the opposition parties perform in their constitutionally correct roles, he reacts by threatening an election. Smacks of his predecessor, doesn't it? There is a great opportunity here for Parliamentary Committees to do some good work. For as long as this government lasts, the Liberals will be out-numbered on committees and will be forced to negotiate and cooperate. Lester Pearson seemed to be able to make minority governments work, but then, PM is no LP as PM.

How long will it last? At least a year, one hopes, because voters are experiencing election fatigue, especially in Alberta, which will have had elections at all three levels this year (four, if you count the Senate election). There are some ticking time bombs out there and Paul Martin knows it. His personal conduct and knowledge of affairs will likely take a leading role in the Gomery report, and his government's gross negligence with respect to the Canadian Forces will, hopefully, remain an issue.

Government officials, past and present, could withhold information freely in front of a parliamentary committee, but they will have a much harder time doing that before a judicial inquiry. I don't think it's a coincidence that the Gomery Inquiry has ten times the information available to it as did the Public Accounts Committee. I don't doubt that the Prime Minister knows exactly what is in Justice Gomery's hands. I don't think for a minute that he will hesitate to engineer his government to fall at the hands of the dastardly opposition, so that he can go to the people before the whole truth comes out. He did it this year and he will do it again. The Gomery commission is due to report in December, 2005. We'll be dusting off the lawn signs before then.


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