4 min

Partisanship and the system

Liberal MP Keith Martin gave an “exit interview” to Samara, and he points a big finger at party leaders’ offices as part of the biggest problems with politics today – they reward partisanship as they grab more power. True enough. But he also says that he no longer encourages smart people to run, but to rather work outside the system, while still saying that they need to change the culture to be more productive.

I take some issue with this advice to work outside the system, because that’s part of what has led to the current path of system dysfunction. It’s because the grassroots aren’t engaging in the party structures that the leaders’ offices are taking more control rather than being held in check by the membership. The solution isn’t to work outside the system – it’s to get back involved in the system and demand to be heard again. Abandoning and hoping for some kind of a panacea to reform it will only make things worse and allow the centre to grab even more power than it has now.

Question period was a bit of a sedate affair yesterday, but the Liberal strategy was to try to turn Jim Flaherty’s words about “risky spending in a time of austerity” against him (as demonstrated here). First Ralph Goodale brought up the F-35 fighter purchase, followed by the rest of the laundry list – summits, megaprisons, a “bloated PMO” and the rest. Not that it swayed John Baird from his talking points. Marcel Proulx followed up with more of the same, focusing on municipalities and spending priorities, to which Chuck Strahl boasted about all the jobs they created (which is not borne out in fact). Gilles Duceppe and Jack Layton both asked about a vote for the Afghan mission, and Bernard Bigras asked about the tar sands and emissions targets.

For round two, Siobhan Coady brought up G20 spending and the spectre of the Conservatives covering up for Julian Fantino (their candidate in the Vaughan by-election), while Scott Brison brought up the Conservatives’ record spending. Marc Lemay and Yvon Lévesque asked about First Nations issues, Claude Brunelle about that power line between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador, Bob Rae asked about the spending on having to leave Camp Mirage, and Joyce Murray asked about climate change.

From there, questions turned to a “secret deal” on new helicopters for Afghanistan, defending supply management systems in trade negotiations, the lack of an outside audit of our food inspection system, Haiti assistance, spending on the “cultural capital” program, and pat-downs and body scanners at airports.

Sartorially speaking, snaps go out to Rona Ambrose for her subtly sparkly top under a tailored black jacket with a black skirt. The style citation goes out to Scott Simms, because he chose an utterly wrong shade of greenish-blue tie with a pink shirt and a dark grey suit. Bev Oda’s faded terracotta jacket didn’t do her any favours either. The Megan Leslie outfit watch reports a black top with grey trousers, but I had difficulty determining the cut of either from my vantage point.

The Bloc has an opposition day motion coming up on Thursday, and they want to debate – and vote on – the Afghan mission. And the Liberals appear to be going ahead with the vote, but it’s not a real, binding vote, so our constitutional powers of Crown Prerogative and Responsible Government aren’t entirely being sacrificed on the altars of populism – right? Wait until the government starts pulling out the old line of “You voted to extend the mission” when things go pear-shaped, rather than being held to account… (Remember – populism is not democracy! Please stop confusing the two.)

What’s that? The Conservatives grossly overstated the cost of the long-gun registry and buried the report stating this so that it couldn’t come up in debate? You don’t say!

A Jewish group is calling Stephen Harper a “modern-day Abraham” for his defence of Israel in his recent speech at the Ottawa conference on combating anti-Semitism. Really? A “modern-day Abraham?” Isn’t that a bit much?

There’s been a great deal of discussion around the fact that the government is turning down Edmonton’s demands for assistance in their 2017 Expo bid (which has the mayor “incredibly disappointed”), while still keeping Quebec City’s arena plans on the backburner (because there are votes to be had in Quebec, and not Edmonton).

As the Conservatives continue to talk about making pardons harder to get (in a vain attempt to look “tough on crime”), the Commons public safety committee was introduced to a group of ex-cons who told them their stories, and how making pardons harder to get makes their struggles to stay crime-free that much more difficult. Will it help? Maybe. Or maybe the PMO will decide that human faces don’t count when you need to look tough for your voter base.

And one of Alberta’s “elected” “senators-in-waiting” has “resigned” (if you can call it that, considering it was from an imaginary posting anyway) because the premier hasn’t done enough to push Senate reform. Not that he has a workable model for a “reformed” Senate to really push for, except that it’s supposed to be elected (no word on said new body’s powers, responsibilities, or log-jam mechanisms). And I’m really not shedding any tears because this “elected” “Senator-in-waiting” was the former publisher of the vile homophobic Alberta Report magazine, and his not getting a new national platform doesn’t break my heart in the slightest.
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