Oh Canada – Is It Really Political Reform or Just Reform To Our National Anthem We Need?
Who owns the government; the people or the political parties who compete for their votes?
Most people would suggest this was a ridiculous question because the answer is obviously the people. While that may be what most people will think, it isn’t what most people will do or support. Our institutions have been hijacked by political parties and we have not simply stood by and watched; many of us have been active supporters and participants in undermining our own democracy as a result.
There is nothing in the constitution about the divine right of political parties and yet they dominate all aspects of government. It is absolute power given temporarily to one ideology or another and if power corrupts – absolute power in the hands of political parties corrupts absolutely.
Political parties corrupt our institutions because they themselves are corrupted by the quest to form government. It isn’t that a group of cynical people came together to form tribes to intentionally undermine our democracy – they are corrupted by ‘The Game’ that they have created in order to obtain and maintain power.
It is all the more insidious precisely because it isn’t planned. It is the slow erosion of principled and civil behaviour; one compromised value at a time. With each compromise, the next is easier to justify and rationalize.
Ethics are selective and inconsistently applied. What is a sin in others is excused or rationalized by or within the party we support. Tactics and strategies that are not merely distasteful but which are manipulative and too often dishonest are employed to get votes including buying votes with taxpayer money.
Robocalls, polls, attack ads, misuse of campaign funds, illegal campaign funding, spin doctors, lies and distortions are all part of the every-day arsenal used these days to win because winning has become more important than representing the people. It has become a win at all costs mentality that has polarized and divided people to the point where many now put their political ideology ahead of their nationality.
We see that as political parties import strategists and strategies from other countries, as do various groups including environmental protesters. What is good for the nation is lost in the belief that if it is good for the cause, then it will be good for the nation even if national values must be undermined in order to achieve the objective. It is a winning above all else, the ends justify the means, attitude.
I see “I am a conservative” or “I am a progressive” online far more often that I see, “I am Canadian” and the discussion is increasingly about advancing ideological values rather than Canadian values. No political ideology is solely representative of those values and increasingly none of them seem to accurately reflect what have traditionally been considered to be the values most Canadians embraced.
You remember those values: decency, mutual respect, civility, shared social responsibility, compassion, courtesy, a desire for good governance, fiscal prudence, respect for the individual rights of others and personal self-responsibility.
I used to live in Europe and one of the standing jokes with my European friends used to be that they could always tell a Canadian from other English speaking travelers – not by their accent – but by their manners. Canadians were polite. Some used to say, that they could always tell a Canadian by the fact that they always said please and thank you.
You don’t see much of that online these days.
We were proud of our military heritage; proud of the men and women who had served in our armed forces and of those who had sacrificed their lives in the cause of defending not only our freedom but that of others in other nations. We were equally as proud of our reputation as peace keepers.
We were a fair people who believed in equal treatment for all. We didn’t always accomplish it; we had our share of racism and intolerance but we struggled to achieve it because it was the ideal to which we aspired.
Ours was a quiet kind of patriotism. We didn’t feel the need to shout it from the mountain top, we were Canadian and that was good enough for us. It was less important to us that others thought being Canadian was special than the fact that it was special to us.
Until Pierre Trudeau came along, we were so fiscally responsible; we didn’t have a budget deficit. Now borrowing to buy votes and things we can’t afford has become the norm. Where we once were prudent, we have become spendthrifts.
We had political rivalries to be sure but there was a civility, even humour to that rivalry that is sorely lacking today because today, being Canadian is less important to most than being conservative, liberal, socialist, environmentalist, aboriginal, Quebecois or any one of a dozen other labels we use to subdivide ourselves.
And divide ourselves we do; by race, by culture, by language, by region and by political ideology. So entrenched have these divisions become that we no longer are capable of differentiating the ethical boundaries beyond ‘it’s ok if we do it but not when they do’.
It has become a vicious game that makes the Hunger Games look like a book club meeting that is eroding the very values we like to think it is protecting.
Political parties are at the forefront of the game and politicians its most willing participants. Winning is everything when serving should be the goal. Everything is fair game now and the supporters of a particular party are quick to condemn the practices in other parties that they support within their own.
Politicians are even quicker to employ the same tactics they condemn others for using. The hypocrisy of it all is lost on most people because winning is more important than anything else.
Billions of dollars are squandered in the game to the detriment of our health care system, our educational system and our infrastructure. Taxpayer money flows like water on pork barrel politics in order to obtain votes. Special interest dominates and influences policy and even reform of our political institutions is manipulated by political parties in order to preserve or to obtain advantage.
And we simply follow along like mindless automatons that are incapable of thinking for ourselves. We rationalize, accuse, defend, legitimize and above all else, toe the party line because political ideology is our new religion. It is not a religion of high moral standard.
In the past year and a bit this is what political parties have wrought on our behalf:
- A senior Liberal Parliamentary staffer is forced to resign after he admitted to using government resources to leak personal information about a cabinet minister on social media.
- The NDP were charged with illegal fund raising and fined more than $300,000
- The rights of non-francophone Quebecers are trampled by its own government and all federal political parties are complicit by their ongoing refusal to defend those rights.
- A former aid to the Prime Minister is charged with influence peddling
- Senator Raymond Lavigne was convicted of fraud and sentenced to six months in prison
- The front runner in the Liberal Leadership race was forced to apologize after calling a cabinet minister ” piece of shit” in the House of Commons.
- Joe Fontana, now Mayor of London, has been charged with fraud dating back to his time as a Liberal cabinet minister.
- Three senators are being investigated for falsifying claims to the Senate Housing allowance, one is charged with assault and sexual assault and one is being investigated by the RCMP for possible fraud.
- A ‘star’ Liberal candidate in British Columbia has been charged with six counts of failing to file corporate tax returns by The Canada Revenue Agency
- A Conservative member of Parliament is being investigated for illegal election campaign fund raising
- A Liberal member of Parliament was charged with fraudulent use of robocalls
- The Conservative Party of Canada has admitted to using robocalls in Saskatchewan in an attempt to interfere with the work of the commission examining the expansion of electoral ridings.
- The home of the Deputy Leader of the Green Party was raided by police with a search warrant in connection to an ongoing fraud investigation.
- The NDP was admonished by Canada Revenue Agency for misuse of its tax exemption status to fund raise when they tried to capitalize on the death of their previous leader even before he was buried.
- A former cabinet minister is forced to repay thousands for misuse of her expense account
- An NDP member is being sued for slander against an Alberta telemarketing company and closed his Twitter account after calling other members of Parliament, “rat-faced whores.”
- Legislatures at the federal and provincial level have been prorogued, in some cases for as long as six months
- The Liberal Party of Canada was caught trying to hide the fact that one of their senators who was suffering from dementia had been declared legally incompetent. They picked her up and dropped her off to sit in her seat in the Senate in order to prevent the government from replacing her.
- A former Ontario Liberal cabinet minister is involved in a hit and run that results in the death of a cyclist but receives preferential treatment and avoids a prison sentence
- An Ontario Premier refuses to enforce the law when aboriginal protesters become violent in Caledonia resulting in financial settlements to former residents that total in the millions.
- In Quebec, a Corruption Inquiry is underway that has already seen the resignation of three mayors and which is only now beginning to look at the activities of provincial politicians and their parties.
And that is just in the past twelve or thirteen months and all of it by politicians and staffers who put their vested self-interest ahead of the public trust.
Not all politicians are corrupt; many are sincere in their desire to serve their constituents but they too are trapped in a system owned and driven by political parties and their strategists. It isn’t oxygen they breathe, it is the rarefied air of power and it is more intoxicating than crack cocaine.
Like moths to a flame, they circle ever closer until one by one, their principles are burned away and replaced by expediency.
For all their supposed differences, all political parties share common traits. They are manipulative, irresponsible and ethically challenged. There are many who call out for system reform whether that reform is electoral or of our institutions like the Senate but I would suggest that it isn’t our system that needs reforming. It is our political parties who have lost sight of the fact that it is the people’s government – not theirs to do with as they wish.
It is a kind of reform that cannot be legislated. It can only be obtained when we the people put being Canadian ahead of being conservative or progressive. It will never be obtained as long as we are prepared to compromise our values by making excuses for those we support instead of holding them to an even higher standard than those we oppose.
Instead, you see people who have invested so much of themselves in their political ideologies that any criticism of their party, no matter how justified, is taken as a personal attack and reacted to accordingly.
It will only change when we place a higher value on integrity and ethics and particularly on our country than we do on ideology.
Based on my recent experiences and what I see daily on social media, I don’t expect that to happen any day soon. You shouldn’t either. It will be easier to simply make a modest modification to our national anthem.
Oh Canada – we ‘used to’ stand on guard for thee.
© 2013 Maggie’s Bear
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