Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Doing the limbo under an already low bar

A lot has been said in recent days about the Conservative party's not-so-subtle campaign against Irwin Cotler in the riding of Mount Royal. To have the Government House Leader not only acknowledge the use of such tactics, but to go on and defend them has, as many have remarked, laid bare the depths to which our politics has fallen.

It is akin to setting the bar low, and then limboing under it. It takes a freakish skill and you can't care how you look. In this case, it is the Conservative government which has stepped up and responded to the challenge "how low can you go?"

To say that this is unfortunate is an understatement. We are seven months into a majority mandate, and for the first time since 2006 the "election around the corner" has been pushed to the back of our political minds. Or at least we hoped it had.

Rather than embark on the business of governing, stay above the fray, and do their job while the two main opposition parties turn inwards as they look for new leadership, the Conservative government has remained in their perpetual campaign mode. Sometimes it seems like they just can't help themselves.

Political stability should have brought a levelling off of the constant campaigning. It should have brought responsible government and meaningful opposition. And it should have brought debate, particularly on the more pressing issues of the day (hint - this does not mean prisons or the gun registry).

Unfortunately it has brought us very little of these things. What it has brought us is a vicious circle. Each week that we are subjected to events like those in the riding of Mount Royal sadly reinforces for many a sense that Parliament doesn't work and that there is no point to being engaged.

Rather than act as a lightning rod or a catalyst, these events simply accelerate the lack of engagement in our politics. People are tuning out, and there is no imminent election or stability among the opposition to grab their attention.

In this environment, Canada loses.


Political tactics and constant campaigning are undermining the already shaky foundations on which our belief in Parliament stands. We need to not only expect better; we must demand it.

Unfortunately letting someone know that this is not acceptable cannot be done by turning one's back. Improper actions should result in greater scrutiny, not less. If your concerns fall on deaf ears, talk louder.

There might not be an election around the corner, but some 308 people are in a 4-5 year job interview. And you are in charge of hiring. Don't let them forget.

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