So, What Do I Want?


I get mail. Suzanne Fortin writes:

The Blogging Party of Canada is trying to get bloggers to post a message to MP’s telling them that their behaviour during Question Period has been very immature as of late:

Please consider making your own blogpost to that effect. When you are done, you can have it posted on the Enough!!! website:

To submit a post, use this contact form:

I will try to publicize this campaign.

Your co-operation is most appreciated.

One thing I want to note about this is that Dino, who runs the Blogging Party of Canada, is a Conservative party supporter. Suzanne who runs the blog Big Blue Wave is a staunch social conservative. Both are ticked at the juvenile behaviour of our parliamentary MPs after a particularly bad week that was topped by our prime minister insinuating that one of the opposition’s MPs had terrorist ties.. Couple this with left-leaning Stageleft’s e-mails to Speaker Peter Milliken regarding parliamentary procedure required to cool MP’s heels, or Rational Reason Mike’s anger, and I think you can see that growing public disgust over the conduct of our politicians is widespread and non-partisan.

Those principled conservatives in particular, taking the MPs to task, including Harper himself, are probably especially disappointed, since after finally electing somebody new to replace the increasingly arrogant and corrupt Liberal government, the new guys have shown themselves to be discouragingly similar to the old. Even the left-wing Stageleft, if I recall correctly, hoped perhaps vainly that the defeat of the Liberals might restore some civility to parliament. Alas, it was not to be.

There are a number of reasons for this rash of bad behaviour, I think. The current minority government under the first-past-the-post system is probably largely to blame, since everyone in parliament believes that the government or the opposition is one sucker-punch away from winning a majority government. For Olaf at the Prairie Wrangler, this realization was enough to make him a convert to proportional representation.

But I think the problem has deeper roots than that, and is more widespread. Mike Harris’ parliaments at Queen’s Park were noteworthy for their viciousness, prompting speaker Gary Carr (then a Conservative) to explode at the house, throwing MPs out right, left and center. Harris was comfortable in his majority at the time. The problem was, Harris and his MPs were absolutely certain of the rightness of their actions, just as the opposition MPs were absolutely certain of the opposite. What used to have been a civil debate has been allowed to expand to a war of words.

We’ve lost perspective, in my opinion, of why we have politics in this country. We have been so consumed in the search to look after our own interests and advance our own ideas, that we have lowered our tolerance for other individuals advancing their own interests and ideas. More and more of us have closed our minds, and I think we need to give ourselves a shake periodically.

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about this. Here’s a quote from a post I wrote almost five years ago, and it’s just as applicable today:

Basically, we hate politicians only when the political winds blow against us. If government does what we want, it’s not politics. Professor Thomas Qualter said it best in his book Conflicting Political Ideas in Liberal Democracies:

“Commonly, we will find in practise that those who argue for forgetting about politics in the interests of the common good are really saying ‘I know what I think, and I don’t want to have to consider any one else’s opinion.’ […] This view reveals a profound misunderstanding of the nature of a democratic society, which in essence is based on the propriety of politics. Political activity to resolve conflict is at the foundation of our way of life, without which we would not be a democracy.”

It is natural for individuals to disagree, on what needs to be done, and how to go about doing what needs to be done. But for all our lip-service to the idea of the individual as being the centre of our society, we’ve grown intolerant of hearing individual opinions that run counter to our own. It’s our individuality we care most about, not the individuality of those around us. Disagreement is no longer just two individuals speaking their own minds, it is a direct challenge to our fundamental being. This is what I think is motivating Stephen Harper’s actions in this parliament, not to mention a whole slew of other MPs, as well as congressmen, senators, campaigners, bloggers and average citizens on both sides of the border.

I would rather debate individuals on their policies, rather than complain as I often seem to do about their methods. In some ways, its easier. It’s easier to stand back and attack individuals for policies you disagree with. Put them on the defensive, and you’re well on your way to the type of debate that so many of us are complaining about. It’s easier to oppose than propose. Real courage in this environment comes from individuals who actually stand up and propose things, who bring forward honest ideas and encourage criticism.

So, I guess it would be helpful, after I’ve spent time sniping at the parties of this parliament, to outline what it is I want to see over the next few years over the next few parliaments.

Overall, I am happy with the services that our governments provide, though I am not so naive to believe that improvements can’t be made and we shouldn’t be constantly looking for them. I want my governments to continue to provide those services — healthcare, education, infrastructure — and to provide them well, but I will endeavour to keep my mind open, and if one can show me that the marketplace can serve all Canadians equally well or better, I’ll support a move towards privatization in that area.

I want to see more money spent on our military. I want to see a concerted effort in closing the infrastructure deficit and expanding public transportation in our cities. And I believe that our society would be well served by increasing immigration and education in this country, especially as our baby boomers are about to retire.

I am aware that these initiatives all cost money, and I am aware that taxes are a burden. Tax cuts are not my priority, but I welcome them if they can be implemented without curtailing my government’s ability to provide its services effectively. I believe that governments are not inherently less efficient than free markets (although the two have different measures of success), although we need to exercise a lot more political will to close the gap between the two.

There you have it. My neck is stuck out. I invite comment and criticism on my proposals, and I will try to respond as civilly as possible, even if it is only to agree to disagree.

blog comments powered by Disqus