Ethics on the po­lit­i­cal stage

The Western Star - - EDITORIAL - Brian Hod­der

It’s hard to be­lieve that the pass­ing week­end was the Labour Day week­end which pretty much marks the be­gin­ning of fall in this re­gion of the coun­try. Sum­mer is draw­ing to an end. Most peo­ple have fin­ished their va­ca­tions and chil­dren are pre­par­ing to re­turn to school.

As our minds shift back into work mode this fall, we are also faced with the prospect of a fed­eral elec­tion and we can ex­pect all of the po­lit­i­cal par­ties to be­gin to work to con­vince us that they are most de­serv­ing of our sup­port in the elec­tion. If the same work ethic was ap­plied to serv­ing as a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the peo­ple as was ap­plied to get­ting elected, we would be bet­ter served in our democ­racy; sadly, much of what oc­curs post-elec­tion ap­pears to be more po­lit­i­cal the­atre to give the ap­pear­ance of do­ing one’s job while protecting one’s po­lit­i­cal party above all else.

The lat­est piece of po­lit­i­cal the­atre to be played out be­fore the Cana­dian pub­lic oc­curred last week when the Ethics Com­mit­tee met in Ottawa to dis­cuss ask­ing Ethics Com­mis­sioner Mario Dion to tes­tify on his re­port into the SNC-Lavalin af­fair. He had writ­ten in his re­port that Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau had acted in­ap­pro­pri­ately in pres­sur­ing then-Jus­tice Min­is­ter Jody Wil­son-Ray­bould to in­ter­vene in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion and op­po­si­tion par­ties wanted him to tes­tify and pro­vide more de­tail in a ses­sion that would be broad­cast to the pub­lic.

To no one’s sur­prise, the par­ti­san play went as ex­pected with the ma­jor­ity Lib­eral mem­bers quash­ing the re­quest while ac­cus­ing the op­po­si­tion of keeping it go­ing for po­lit­i­cal pur­poses. Mean­while the Op­po­si­tion voted in favour while pi­ously de­cry­ing the eth­i­cal trans­gres­sions of the prime min­is­ter, stat­ing how the pub­lic ab­so­lutely needs to know all of the de­tails of the af­fair.

The only dra­matic twist was Lib­eral Nathaniel Ersk­ine-Smith who voted against his party in favour of let­ting Ethics Com­mis­sioner Mario Dion tes­tify but — par­rot­ing the prime min­is­ter who dis­agreed with the find­ings — wanted Dion to ex­plain how he ar­rived at this wrong con­clu­sion. While it may have seemed en­ter­tain­ing to watch as the par­ties played to their own po­lit­i­cal base, the out­come of this vote was known be­fore­hand for all of those in­volved.

None of this looks good for a Lib­eral gov­ern­ment seek­ing re-elec­tion es­pe­cially one that came in four years ago promis­ing to do things dif­fer­ently. The Lib­er­als have clearly failed in this re­spect and the po­lit­i­cal game in Ottawa con­tin­ues as it has for years.

In case Cana­dian vot­ers have short mem­o­ries, many of the Con­ser­va­tive mem­bers who are now roundly crit­i­ciz­ing the eth­i­cal fail­ings of Prime Min­is­ter Trudeau served un­der pre­vi­ous prime min­is­ter Stephen Harper, who faced his own is­sues of ques­tion­able ethics and who used the same types of tactics as the Lib­er­als did in this af­fair, in­clud­ing ma­nip­u­lat­ing com­mit­tees and bury­ing leg­is­la­tion in om­nibus bills.

I would en­cour­age vot­ers to Google “eth­i­cal con­cerns un­der Stephen Harper” to jog their mem­o­ries and to keep this in mind when par­ties ask­ing for their sup­port this fall claim that be­cause they now have a new leader, things will be dif­fer­ent this time around.

We have watched this kind of po­lit­i­cal the­atre go on for too long now and, frankly, it’s be­com­ing stale. It’s like watch­ing a Shake­speare tragedy and hop­ing for a happy ending while al­ready know­ing the out­come. Our present sys­tem of first-past-the-post favours the cre­ation of ma­jor­ity gov­ern­ments which have al­lowed this type of po­lit­i­cal the­atre to thrive as those in power are able to con­trol how the script is writ­ten.

The big­gest mis­take of the present gov­ern­ment was the fail­ure to fol­low through with demo­cratic re­form and bring in a form of pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion as promised. We need to de­mand that par­ties com­mit to a sys­tem that would re­quire them to work to­gether for us in­stead of act­ing to pro­tect their own party and priv­i­lege. I don’t know about you, but I am ready to see some­thing new in Ottawa and plan to have this con­ver­sa­tion with any­one who asks for my vote this fall.

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