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We let these people run the country?

by Archives March 31, 2009

WINNIPEG (CUP) – Our House of Commons is not plagued so much by our lack of messianic instruction as it is by the carpet bagging and the opportunism of our political left.
Canadians don’t have to embrace any prophetic political visions. We don’t have an executive family that, if given a chance, could advertise and sell Pepsi-Cola. We have yet to see bobbleheads, key chains, T-shirts, or poker decks bearing the likeness of our Dear Leader. There is no such thing as Harpermania – and this, contrary to popular belief, is probably a good thing.
I would rather have a leader that is questioned and at times disdained by the majority than one who is unknown and unconditionally loved. Canada doesn’t need its own Barack Obama. The character of the president and the praise he has received is unique to American society and unique to their history. We should remember that there’s a slippery slope between political adoration and unaccountability.
But, our parliament is fractured by the unprincipled ambition of our federal politicians.
On Nov. 27, 2008, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty delivered the fiscal update. Within that update, the Conservative government sought to abolish voter subsidies – a mechanism of public funding that keeps smaller parties like the Green Party afloat.
The Liberal Party, which relies on the subsidy for 63 per cent of its funding, would have been in dire financial straits after their historic defeat, unlike the Conservatives, who only rely on it for 37 per cent of their funding.
However, disregarding these circumstances, cutting the voter subsidy makes sense.
Despite claims that it levels the playing field, subsidies disproportionately favour the governing party. The party that receives the most votes receives the most money. Perhaps this is why Jean Chrétien instituted it near the end of his reign shortly after limiting corporate and individual campaign donations. With a cap on donations, and without the wherewithal to earn plenty of small contributions, where would the Liberals find their money?
Cutting the subsidy would, in principle, level the playing field. Rather than parties like the Bloc receiving federal funding, each party would work to fundraise from their own supporters.
Yet, in practice, upon cutting the funding, each party does not start at zero. The Conservatives would be financially stable. The Liberals would be broke. It was a low partisan tactic to put forward a cut of that magnitude in November 2008.
But could the issue of voter subsidies have been handled in a mature way by seemingly competent parliamentarians? I think so. Why wasn’t it?
The coalition was touted as a way to avoid an election while still opposing the fiscal update in a confidence motion. The problem, of course, is that Prime Minister Stephen Harper, in response to the opposition threat, backtracked from the subsidy cut. It would no longer be a part of the fiscal update. The coalition proceeded, but shifted its justification: the opposition parties were committed to economic stimulus that would benefit Canada while Harper was merely playing partisan games.
We watched as political enemies shook hands for the acquisition of power on Dec. 1, 2008. Then-Liberal-leader Stéphane Dion, who had criticized the NDP platform as an experiment with “monopoly money” in October, smiled and embraced a grinning NDP leader Jack Layton.
Dion, author of the Clarity Act (legislation that, in effect, killed the possibility of Quebec’s separation through referendum), firmly gripped the hand of Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe, a strident separatist.
And yet, on Jan. 28 of this year, the federal budget passed, with a Liberal amendment. Could the fiscal update have been amended in a similar fashion? Certainly. And it could be argued, as the Conservatives backed away from subsidy cuts as well as several other motions, that the update was amended. So why wouldn’t the opposition parties support the amended fiscal update and simply wait for the tabling of the budget in January?
In the aftermath of the coalition fiasco we have witnessed the pouting, preliminary opposition of the NDP. They decided to vote against the January budget before having read it.
We saw the final resignation of Dion and the “anointment” of Michael Ignatieff who, as his first decision in a Parliament hinged on party discipline, decided to support the Tory budget while allowing four MPs from Newfoundland and Labrador a temporary vote of protest.
We were forced to hear, further, that Green leader Elizabeth May was vying for a Senate seat during the coalition discussions. And, after the Green party’s recent policy convention, May is still debating over whether or not to continue her stunt of running in the ultra-Conservative riding of Central Nova Scotia.
And we take these people seriously?
Canada doesn’t need a prophetic figure. A little competence and a handful of real convictions should do.

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