Power or Good Government. Pick One.

(I wrote this article about a month ago and, for whatever reason, didn’t post it. Although the federal government appears to have backed away from the contribution, the points discussed within remain relevant, I think. You’re free to tell me otherwise)

Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently announced a federal contribution of $170 million towards the construction of a $400 million arena in Quebec City, which might help the city win the right to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, and win back an NHL franchise which would likely be called the Nordiques.

Although the move is seen as being popular enough in and around Quebec City that none of the major parties dare condemn it, it is being criticized, within the press and by partisans of all stripes outside of Quebec who see this as the worst form of pork barrel politics. Some have gone so far as to compare the move to Mulroney’s decision to award a contract to build CF-18 fighter jets to a Quebec company instead of a arguably more qualified company in Manitoba, just to bolster the Conservatives’ fortunes in Quebec. That move catalyzed a wave of dissatisfaction in western Canada and led to the birth of the Reform party, which basically ended the Progressive Conservatives as a national political force and, irony of ironies, elected Stephen Harper as a rookie MP.

I can see why people would have problems with this move. The country is suffering under a huge deficit. Needed improvements of infrastructure remain unfinished. Why should Harper commit $170 million to a hockey arena in Quebec City when an LRT in Waterloo Region could use the funds, or any number of roads or bridges? Dissatisfaction is growing in western Canada as well, as both the Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames play in two of the oldest arenas in the league, and Winnipeg still mourns the loss of its beloved Jets. Regina has already asked for federal assistance towards the construction of a new football stadium, and if Harper doesn’t cough up the cash, the obvious question that follows from these people’s lips is, why Quebec City and not us?

For principled Conservatives and libertarians who question why the federal government should be getting involved in subsidizing professional sports at all, this is another in a long line of frustrations. Already there are some dissatisfied voices speaking out within the Conservative party.

For principled Conservatives who may feel like they are wandering in the wilderness as the leadership of their party abandons the principles that made them supporters in the first place, I think they may be pleased to know that there is a way they reach out to similarly principled individuals in the other partisan and non-partisan camps. We individuals might not agree on overall policies, but I think there is something we can agree on.

Harper’s moves here are not about good government; they’re about acquiring power. They are about buying enough votes to gain him enough support that he can rule unfettered by a minority parliament. And as a result he is making choices that are bad for this country and unfair for its citizens. And it’s part of a larger problem with Harper’s whole style of government. The pitbull tactics in question period, his negative advertising attacks, his work to disrupt the committees of parliament, all of it, is based on the equation not of what will make this government work for the benefit of all Canadians, but what will grant Harper as much power as possible, as soon as possible. Harper may not be the only politician in Ottawa to act this way, on either side of the Commons’ floor, but he is the one in charge of this country, and he is not governing with an eye towards its benefit. In short, Harper is willing to sacrifice good government in exchange for power — the one thing that, ideally, he wants to come to power to do. Or does he?

If you as a principled Conservative or a libertarian are sick of how the Conservative Party leadership is conducting itself, then maybe the time has come to reach out to similarly principled individuals in the other partisan and non-partisan camps, to try and look for politicians of all stripes who will govern because they feel the need to serve rather than the need to reign. Whose policies are motivated more by what is good for the country rather than what will win votes. You might not agree with the favoured policies of those in other camps, but unlike Harper and the politicians like them, these individuals may be more interested in debating those policies on their own merits, rather than tossing them aside in a mad dash to try and win power. At least, among ourselves, we can talk.

If you feel the way you do, I would argue that Harper has not only failed to provide the policies you hoped for, but has failed in his whole approach to government. He has forgotten who is actually in charge here. And regardless of what your political stripe is, this means that Harper simply isn’t giving you the quality of government you deserve.

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