Sunday, June 11, 2006

Meaningful Political Discourse, RIP?

I have decided to make my first real post about something that has been in the back of my mind for sometime and which became more relevant to me in the last weeks with the troubles suffered by Mr. Volpe and Mr. Anders.

From where I sit I find that meaningful political discourse has been largely usurped by constant scandal mongering and "gotcha politics". Instead of discussing the issues that have a real impact on the lives and the livelihoods of Canadians we are obsessed with scandals and perceived lapses in political ethics.

We just went through 3 years of hearing about nothing but adscam. No other topic was talked about more than that one during that period. Hell, we had two elections where it was the central theme. Conservatives are still talking about it now, which is understandable considering it won them an election. However, they are not the only party obsessed with scandal. The NDP has reverted from a party that use to pride itself on being the conscience of the Canadian political system to a shell of a party, with no discernible policy focus, and a nasty habit of calling in the RCMP for every action they perceive to be unethical, which lately has pretty much been most of them. The Liberal Party is not immune from this addiction. I see many Liberal bloggers trying desperately to turn every action by the Conservative government into a "scandal" even when it is a real stretch to say the least.

Then there is the "gotcha politics". I was encouraged by the debate on the different Child Care plans during the election. Here was a debate about ideas and issues that mattered. Then Mr. Reid made his silly "beer and popcorn" remark. It was certainly a stupid remark but it did not deserve to be talked about for three days. Plus to make matters worse it stopped the debate dead. Those remarks saved both sides of the debate from actually debating the issue. I found that infuriating and I still do.

In my opinion this has to stop. Keeping an eye on the government and keeping it honest is necessary but it cannot become the only issue of importance. Canada has much more vital issues to worry about, such as our continued woeful productivity, our health care system, remaining competitive in an ever changing and toughening international marketplace and the environment, just to name a few. Issues that will have a profound impact on Canadians if we continue to allow them to be usurped by our continued addiction to scandals.

Now for my Conservative friends who may already be sharpening their acid filled pens to accuse me of condoning "Liberal corruption" I will say this. I don't care because it is blatantly false. I would try to demonstrate that but except for a few thoughtful Conservatives it has been my experience that most of them really don't care what you say with regard to this so to hell with it.

But I would remind them that three men are now in jail or facing jail, about a dozen more have had their reputations shattered and the Liberal Party paid the ultimate political price by being defeated in the last election.

I would also remind my Conservative friends that Canada is blessed with one of the cleanest political systems in the world.

Our politicians do not build palaces for themselves while their countrymen eke out a subsistence existence any way they can. At no time during adscam was there ever any evidence or suggestion of our elected officials enriching themselves, which cannot be said about Duke Cunningham in the US who just pleaded guilty to taking more than $2 million in bribes. As well, no government or PM in this country has ever used their position to stop or inhibit criminal investigations against them, like Silvio Berlusconi did when he became PM of Italy.

Finally, Canadians are not cursed with the petty corruption that many others have to live with. For example we do not have to worry about places like Ho Chi Mihn City, where you rent a motor bike so you can see the country side and you are "fined" by the local police four times before you get outside of the city limits because you do not have an international drivers license. And where the final policemen dings you with an extra "fine" because you have an "ill-fitting helmet" despite the fact all sorts of Vietnamese are zipping by without any helmets at all.

Can meaningful political discourse be resurrected? I hope so and I hope it happens before some of the really important issues that Canadians are facing come home to roost and begin to really hurt Canadians where it really matters.


Blogger Peter Wrightwater said...

Hey ottlib,
Welcome! I was wondering when you'd take the plunge. (Obviously I missed your first post/test.) PDO is pleased!

June 11, 2006 5:53 PM  
Blogger John Murney said...

No. You've seen the garbage I have to put up with on my blog; there is no hope.

June 11, 2006 6:30 PM  
Blogger Carrie said...

Well, I know how you feel. But every once in a while, I read a post like yours or a very select few others and realize, there is hope. Granted, it's faint hope, but it exists.

I've taken to not approving the ranting commenters, those who don't stay on topic or who hurl insults etc. instead of discussing the post I wrote. I have no time or energy for it. Abuse has no place in any discussion so I kill it before it starts when I can. As for the issues, few people "discuss" on the blogs. Every once in a while I get surprised. It's always nice to see, instead of "i'm totally with you" adulation or "you're wrong $%#@!" , some actual thoughts shared. Because that helps us all learn and keep communicating and moving forward in a good way.

Glad you started blogging. We need more like you.

June 11, 2006 8:37 PM  
Blogger Scotian said...

You will get no argument from me on the contents of this post and your stated objective of civil political discourse. However, I do have one point I disagree with you about in this. That being the CPC ran a morals campaign since literally the day it was born against corrupt government and promised a very high standard if they became government. Indeed as you noted it helped them get to the minority they have. Therefore it is entirely appropriate to hold them to the standards they were for while in Opposition and to highlight those occasions where they fail to meet their own standards.

Take the current questions surrounding the Minister of Health about his ownership of a drug company. While this is apparently acceptable to the Ethics Commissioner (the same Ethics Commissioner I recall the CPC repeatedly denouncing as unfit and incompetent in his job only a few months ago) the problem is that the appearance of conflict of interest is strong. Yet the CPC repeatedly brushes this aside by saying the rules were followed. Yet when it was Paul Martin’s ownership of CSL being raised and attacked by the CPC among others then the assurances of being in line with the Ethics rules of the day and the Ethics Commissioner once his office was created such an answer was not acceptable by the same CPC now relying on this defence. The hypocrisy is clear and the fact that in so many of the cases of ethical questions raised about the CPC government from the day it was sworn in precedents of the Liberals having done it in the past are used without any self-consciousness of the CPC relying on the ethical standard they were denouncing for years as corrupt and blatantly insufficient points to a level of inherent dishonesty/hypocrisy that cannot be and should never be ignored.

I am not willing to let the CPC use the morals campaign without having to pay the price of a morals campaign, which is why the ethical lapses of this government is something I pay a lot of attention to and tend to comment/blog about. It is not so much a partisanship driven matter for me as it is holding them to the standards they themselves laid down over several years. I particularly have a problem with those that paint themselves in moral authority and the cloth of righteous anger over corruption and ethical issues to once in power suddenly pretend that all those things they denounced a government for are suddenly acceptable now that they are the ones in power.

I am not a political partisan, I support no party. I am however opposed to the CPC in its current incarnation because I do not trust it nor do I trust the ideology which drives this party at its current core. Therefore because I am opposed to the CPC I am in the eyes of CPCers suddenly a Liberal supporter/operative/partisan. This is the binary reasoning which worries me so in the current Conservative ranks, that if you are not for them then you must be for the enemy (in this case the Liberals) without it once being considered that maybe I do not like the policies and principles the CPC stands for. Somehow the idea that one might disagree with the CPC on grounds other than party partisanship appears to be impossible for so many CPCers (elected and not) to grasp.

Unfortunately I fear with the importation by the CPC of GOP tactics/strategies/tools lock stock and barrel you will see only more of this binary reasoning and willingness to reduce intelligent discourse to nothing more than personal attacks and smears, misrepresentation and false equivalencies. Not to mention internet trolling to prevent any such serious discourse from happening in the ranks of the opposition (or as too many CPCers see it, the enemy). We saw this in practice quite clearly in the last election campaign. The Trolletariat is yet another GOP import and they appear to be increasing in number and shrillness not diminishing.

I wish you luck in trying to create such discourse and I will do my best to help contribute towards that worthy aim. I fear though things are going to get worse before they get better.

June 14, 2006 3:22 PM  
Blogger ottlib said...


Good points.

To your first point. I am not saying that we ignore the ethical lapses and hypocracy of the current government. What I am saying is the Liberals should not descend into the same sewer the CPC and NDP are occupying right now.

One of the reasons why I despise the CPC is they are nothing more than scandal mongerers. The National Enquirer posing as a political party. The Liberals made some bone-headed policy moves during their 13 years but they were largely ignored by the CA and CPC in favour of digging through the manure trying to come up with "scandals".

I do not want the Liberals to go down that road. By all means keep the government honest but begin forcing discussion of the other issues that matter to Canadians.

With regard to your second point. Yes the trolls always come out in force. However, even though it will be difficult we have to keep striving to rise above their BS and talk about those same issues that matter to Canadians.

Will it work? I don't know but I do know that we cannot ignore those issues for long without it coming back and biting us on the ass.

June 14, 2006 6:00 PM  
Blogger Miles Lunn said...

I fully agree. I wish we could move away from the US style smear politics and start talking about issues that matter to Canadians. I also don't believe in blindly opposing the Conservatives or blindly supporting the Liberals. I judge on an issue by issue basis, but off course I am Liberal since I agree with them more often than the Tories. Also lets stop the name calling of those who have different views, lets debate them. If they have flawed views, we can defeat them on the merits of their views.

June 15, 2006 1:34 AM  

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