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3 min

Devaluing public life

Of the many things that irk me about the ways in which politics and public service gets devalued, I find it very unhelpful when the Prime Minister himself says that he’d rather be an NHL hockey player than Prime Minister. Erm, excuse me? You’re the freaking Prime Minister. You know, a post that only twenty-one other people have held in the history of this country. You beat the odds, proved that somehow a person with a disturbing lack of charisma can unite two political parties and rise from obscurity and win two consecutive elections (albeit in minority governments). You’re the head of government, wielding an absurd amount of power – and you’re not shy about wielding that power in increasingly disturbing ways – and yet, you’d trade it all away to be an NHL hockey player? Excuse me?

“It’s probably terrible to say but any Canadian boy, if he could play in the NHL, would play in the NHL,” Harper told Sports Illustrated. First of all, a) no, not any Canadian boy – certainly not this one – and b) I’m certainly there are a fair number of girls who would also love to play in the NHL if they were actually allowed into the boys’ club. But that aside.

It cheapens the value of public life when hockey players are valued above Prime Ministers in the eyes of said Prime Ministers. It saddens me when I hear parents talk about how they want their children to grow up and play professional hockey, rather than cure cancer, or stop global warming, or become Prime Minister. But this is what you get when you constantly reduce the nation to a bunch of Tim Horton’s drinking, hockey watching simpletons who apparently don’t care about our place in the world, or about the bigger picture. Maybe we need to recalibrate on that front as well?

Remember the Conservatives’ plan to cancel the March and spring breaks for MPs? Bring it on, say the Liberals, the Bloc, and tentatively the NDP (who want to see the exact motion before giving their full stamp of approval). Of course, everyone is pointing out that this is simply an exercise in damage control, but really? Be careful what you wish for. For one, the government spent the past several weeks touting the value of constituency work as a defence for prorogation, and now they’re implicitly devaluing it by keeping MPs in Ottawa. But the bigger issue, I think, is what this is going to do to the tone and demeanour in the House. I mean, they’re downright squirrelly after four weeks without a break week, but now keeping them there for what? Eight? Nine weeks? They’re going to be downright feral. It’s so not going to be pretty. (And I have ringside seats).

Unimpressed by the talk from other parties – and the media – that the Liberals commitment to a childcare programme was just like their previous unfulfilled promises, Paul Martin fights back. He created a system, he reminds Canada – agreements with all ten provinces, funding in place, the works. It was just dismantled by the Conservatives shortly thereafter. And he’s right – but whether it can be restored is going to be the real question.

Conservative MP Bob Dechert had his office torched by an arsonist. That’s pretty unsettling – these offices are supposed to be places where the public can access their elected representatives (or, when they’re in the constituency at least, which apparently won’t be for the months of March or April, barring the odd Saturday). If this means they have to start implementing all manner of absurd security measures, it will be a palpable blow to democracy.

Up today – The Liberals are taking their roundtables on the road, this time to Guelph, where Michael Ignatieff and MPs Frank Valeriote and Wayne Easter to discuss a National Food Policy, doctors in rural communities, the rural infrastructure deficit (not just roads and water but also internet), and bio-energy and bio materials in the context of the green economy. Phew! Quite the line-up for a Friday.

And the government has an early morning press conference to announce a what is expected to be a deal on the Buy American provisions. Scott Brison will have his own press conference shortly thereafter.
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