A Dearth of Leadership

Justice Gomery has lifted the publication ban and the juicy details of recent testimony is now before the public. Again, the right side of the blogosphere is abuzz, partisan Liberal bloggers are wincing, and the average Canadian seems not to care strongly one way or the other.

The new testimony hasn’t changed my mind about the Liberal government. Why? Because I’ve long held the Liberal government does not deserve re-election. In two months, it will be eight years since I last voted for the Liberal party in any election.

The question in my mind, and I think in most Canadians minds is that, while the Liberals do not deserve to be re-elected, does any other party deserve to be elected either? And while the testimony continues to do damage to the Liberals, it does nothing to tell us why the other parties deserve our support.

The Conservatives? They continue to be hampered by their opposition to same-sex marriage and the statements of social conservatives in their caucus. The damage done by Liberal corruption is terrible, but it’s impersonal and it can be fixed. The damage done by the viewpoint that there are people in our society who do not deserve equal protections under the law by virtue of who they are is far more personal.

The NDP? They still haven’t shaken off their tax-and-spend, nanny-state image, despite the fact that Ontario premier Bob Rae was the first leader in Ontario to cut that province’s spending. And while nationalists might appreciate the NDP’s willingness to take tough stands against American influence on our economy and security network, they’ve yet to communicate a strong plan for replacing America’s contribution to our economy with other trading partners.

The Bloc? Among other reasons, they’re physically prevented from winning more than 75 seats.

So, we’re in a situation where the Liberals don’t deserve to form a government. That’s been the case for years. We’re in a situation where no other party currently in parliament deserves to form a government. That’s also been the case for years. And that’s been the reality since June 28, 2004, when Canadians voted to politically castrate Paul Martin but reward no one else, by breaking parliament so that no one party had a clear mandate to govern.

And that hasn’t changed.

What has changed is that Paul Martin has shown himself to be a near failure in working with the conditions Canadians set for him. It may be time to hand the opportunity to somebody else. But that doesn’t mean that we’re willing to hand that person all of the keys to 24 Sussex Drive. We’ve had three consecutive Liberal majorities to show us what a government can do when the opposition is anemic. Before that we’ve had two Conservative majorities and one more Liberal majority to get us pretty darn sick of majority government. So while I’m sure that Canadians are willing to punish Paul Martin further by removing him from his office, we’re not willing to contemplate Prime Minister Harper or Prime Minister Layton without putting them on the end of a very short leash.

Despite months of bad news and dithering leadership, the Liberals have yet to relinquish their lead in the polls. Even if they do give up that lead this week, all signs point to anemic support for their likely replacement, the Conservatives. If an election were held tomorrow, the BQ’s immense support in Quebec would make a second minority parliament a near certainty. Stephen Harper might be prime minister, but he would have to count on NDP, Bloc or possibly even Liberal support to get his agenda through parliament.

Not that this would be a bad thing. A second minority government would be something Canadians would vote for, if they could. Canadians ensured that nobody had a clear mandate to govern without consulting the other parties. Paul Martin has proven himself to be a failure in this regard, so Canadians might be willing to offer the job to Stephen Harper — if and only if he can show that he can build bridges with the various groups.

Failing that? Despite the overt animosity between the Liberals, the Conservatives and the NDP, a number of their supporters have much in common. There are plenty of conservatives who fear the Conservatives position on same sex marriage. There are loads of Liberals who are aching for an alternative they can readily vote for. And there are a number of NDPers who would switch their allegiance to the Liberals if a Conservative majority became a realistic outcome.

All three groups detest the state of the Liberal government as it now stands, and they detest the state of the opposition. They should sit down together and see if there is a new option that they can unite behind: one that doesn’t oppose same sex marriage and yet has a clear reputation. One that has strong environmental policies, but aren’t big tax-and-spenders.

It’s becoming more likely that I’ll be voting Green in the next election. Some people say that this is a throw-away vote. Some others say that this is a vote that won’t ensure the Liberals get the punishment they deserve, or that this is a vote that gives the Conservatives a free hand to pander to their social conservative base. But I say that these individuals, respectfully, are too limited in their views of what’s possible.

We have a Liberal government that’s grown tired and corrupt, and we have an opposition base that isn’t good enough to replace them. If the parties in the system aren’t sufficient in bringing about the change we want, we need to look elsewhere. And of the elsewhere, the Greens are the ones best positioned to make a difference. They are the ones most likely to pick up support of disgruntled Liberals, Conservatives and NDPers.

So, come with me. A vote for the Greens is a vote against Liberal corruption and Conservative pandering to social conservatives. It is a vote for eco-friendly business and a tax system that isn’t mindlessly anti-rich. The old guard has failed to provide Canada the leadership it deserves. Let us thumb our noses at them, and show them what Canadians are capable of.

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