Monday, January 11, 2010

When the going gets tough, the tough...prorogue?

Shame on me. There, I said it. Taking time off from real work, focusing not on my job and blogging, and instead using the time for whatever I wanted. I should be ashamed of myself. Who do I think I am, the Prime Minister. Oh wait...

Well, this appears to be the world I am in these days. It's a world where so many of us have tended to sit and let politics and the creature that is Ottawa play out to an indifferent audience, yet for some reason are (depending on who you listen to) now being seized by what is essentially an execution of well-established Parliamentary procedure. Why?

Let me offer some views:

1. Yes, prorogation is standard procedure. However, the way it has been executed by this government is not. Prorogation was never intended to be an exit strategy. A population that is already cynical about politics will see this for what it is - duck and run.

2. The justification (a) is not clear and (b) keeps changing. Depending on who you speak with and when, prorogation is needed because: the government needs the time to recalibrate, the government is avoiding a Parliamentary Committee investigating the Afghan detainee issue, the government wants to stack the Senate, the Olympics is too much of a distraction. Should anyone out there in cyberspace be reading this, do me a favour. Speak to your boss and offer any one of these types of justifications for taking time off. Let me know how it goes.

3. Related to the point above, no justifications save for the avoidance ones make sense. As Andrew Coyne noted last week, you should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time. The Minister of Finance said as much today when he said prorogation or not, pre-budget consultations would occur. There goes the re-calibrate argument.

4. The arrogance thing. We don't seem to like it in Canada. Ultimately, it's why our celebrities go south and our politicians are eventually sent home. We're funny that way here.

5. Over time, even the disengaged sense a pattern. None of this is new for the government. It is part of a pattern which has seen the government criticize whistleblowers, despite the fact that they celebrated them while in opposition. It is a pattern of secrecy from a government which campaigned on transparency. Ultimately, it's a pattern which says you are with us or against us. So much for making things work.

6. The "you criticize us, therefore you are against Canadian soldiers" line of rhetoric is insulting - to Canadians and to Parliament.

Scathing stuff? Perhaps. Whether any of this makes a difference in polling numbers or in an eventual election is debatable. That's where the Liberals come in.

What will they do in this environment? To start, they have embarked on a policy-based tour and have committed to return to Ottawa at the originally appointed hour. This goodwill and openness to engage in discourse is complemented by a series of attack ads which criticize the government for "shutting down Parliament."

Will any of it work? I am not sure. This blog has noted on several occasions that the Liberals need to do a better job of defining who they are and what a Liberal government will stand for. Yes, it's true that historically governments are more likely to be "defeated" than oppositions are "elected", but that only works when you have at least some sense as to what the alternative stands for and how they will govern.

Right now, Canadians know they what they like and dislike about the government. Yes, there may be suspicions which are preventing a majority, but by and large they "get" the Conservatives.

Can we say the same about the Liberals? I would say no, but the potential is still there. Canadians want an alternative, so give it to them. That doesn't mean they want a change in government, it just means they want the next election to offer a credible and clearly understood choice. Give us one.

In the meantime, I will be watching with interest to see if this anti-prorogation "movement" grows, or whether it loses momentum when the Olympic flame is lit. We'll see...

Comments? Thoughts?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Have a comment?

Canadian Blogosphere