Seems like the summer break can’t come soon enough to the gathering of children up in Parliament Hill. Actually, I should amend that. I’ve seen children, I’ve watched them play. They are far, far better behaved, and I shouldn’t insult them by comparing them to politicians.
However, the worst of the lot would seem to be our prime minister, Stephen Harper, himself, at least this week. Consider this report from the CBC, which tries to play it fair and down the middle, but if you read the points as they are presented, Harper’s being the petulant one.
The heated debate began when Liberal Leader St√©phane Dion demanded Defence Minister Gordon O’Connor resign over his handling of the expenses for the funerals of Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan
This is standard hyperbole. I don’t know when it started, but for as long as I can remember, the opposition has tried to collect cabinet minister resignations in the same manner that some people put notches on their bed. This, in my opinion, distracts from the real business of parliament. However, it is also true that Minister O’Connor is under something of a cloud, over his handling of the questions of torturing of prisoners of war (which had even Andrew Coyne shaking his head), to the fact that families of fallen soldiers have not had the full cost of their deceased’s funeral costs covered by this government.
There was many things Stephen Harper could have done to defend his embattled Defence Minister. Instead, he tried the tired old tactic of questioning his opponent’s patriotism.
“The minister of national defence is a veteran of the Canadian Forces. He has served this country courageously in uniform for 32 years,” Harper said.
“When the leader of the Opposition is able to stand in uniform and serve his country then I’ll care about his opinion of the performance of the minister of defence.”
I really, really hate this. This is a democracy where we are all entitled to our opinions. If you want to disagree, find the flaws in those opinions and make your argument, but don’t tell me that I’m any less of a Canadian for what I’ve done or not done. I do not need to have served in the armed forces in order to be allowed to express an opinion about how our war in Afghanistan is being handled. My opinion about how our troops should (or should not) be deployed does not make me any less of a Canadian than Stephen Harper. This was a disgraceful accusation, highlighting an intellectual bankruptcy of Harper’s position. Unable to defend his government on its own merits, he has nothing to offer the Canadian people but negativity.
And I really can’t fault the Liberals for firing back. Michael Ignatieff got off a decent zinger in response to Harper’s flatulent answer.
“I can’t remember the prime minister’s service record,” he said, as Liberal MPs around him laughed.
Some would say that turnaround is not fair play, myself among them. But Ignatieff’s comment amounts to little more than “people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones”.
And, point to the Liberals, it caused Stephen Harper to fall back on his intellectually bankrupt position of segregating his opinions into those who love Canada (i.e. him) and those who supposedly don’t.
“It’s true I’ve never served in the Armed Forces. I consider that an experience in my life that I’ve missed,” he said.
“But at least I’ve always lived and worked and paid my taxes in this country.”
Which is, of course, a swipe at Ignatieff for earning most of his living in Harvard, and illustrates again that Harper doesn’t seem willing or able to stand up for his accomplishments, and can only make himself look better by denigrating others for frivolous reasons.
Really, if anybody came out as a gentleman in this exchange, it was, believe it or not, Ignatieff.
“If they seriously believe that someone who’s contributed to this country outside and came back to Canada is less of a Canadian, they should get up and say that to the two million Canadians who live and work overseas.”
If this is the way Harper responds to criticism, one wonders how he’ll fare once Bob Rae, Gerard Kennedy and Martha Hall Findley take their seats in parliament. The Liberals have a pretty decent opposition setting up. Probably not where they want to be after the next election, but not a place where Stephen Harper is going to feel very comfortable, either.
What is Partisanship? Why Blog About It?
I should point out that an interesting discussion is starting up over at the blog Crux of the Matter. Sandy and I have been debating about the merits of blogging, after we got into a bit of a clash over how Sandy held herself up as non-partisan, criticizing Liberals who couldn’t see past their partisan blinders, while herself offering almost unqualified support for the Conservative party.
Her take is that she is who she is, and simple praise of a party you like is perfectly valid blogging. She’s right about that. She also believes that no individual can divorce themselves from their politics, and I disagree with that. I firmly believe that no political point of view is correct 100% of the time, and that we as individuals would serve ourselves better if we took more time to question our assumptions, and focus on the strength or weaknesses of the arguments that led us to our opinions. I also believe that the real power of blogging is giving us a glimpse of the people behind the opinions, and the thought processes that took us there. The beauty of the blogosphere is that, aside from the blind partisans, there are many individuals out there who go beyond the politics, and show there is little difference in the decency of the individual, whether Liberal, Conservative or NDP.
Anyway, go have a look, and offer your own opinions. Keep it clean.
See You in Ottawa
I’m hitting the road to Ottawa this afternoon and am looking forward to visiting the capital city. It’s always been a fascinating place, and the blogging community there has been most welcoming. I’ll be arriving during the weekend of Doors Open Ottawa and know what I’ll be doing on Saturday morning.
See you at the launch tomorrow!