Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here!

So, a very short post today.

I've followed through on my idea to create a Canadian Political Philosophy blog. The first post is up and ready, and is admittedly more philosophy than politics; but it is an instrumental topic to cover as it will be an underlying current that plays a role in future posts to come on the blog.

So, without further ado (and for those strong in heart) you can find a link to the new blog here: Canadian Political Philosophy

The first topic, for discussion: Is Humanity Evil?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Where is Our Anger?

I was trying to embed a video, even though the subject matter isn't what this post is about, but it seems to be having trouble. As such, just click the link below:

Video

As we approach the end of the year, we find ourselves in a time of reflection. In the political world, there is a lot that we need to reflect on. As time marches forward, we find ourselves in what I would argue is a state of continued apathy. For the first time in Canadian history, we have a government who has proven their vagrant disrespect for the laws of the land and the collective response is less than an audible yawn.

We have a government who, even while in opposition, lowered the discourse level of debate in the House of Commons. Furthermore, they've completely shut down the discourse altogether. Conservatives have been attacking the media and 'leftists' who say that time allotment and closure are the same thing. Well, if it walks like and duck and talks like a duck...

The Conservatives have us arguing over semantics and the national lexicon, rather than focusing on the heart of the issue: Which is whether or not it is appropriate to limit the debate in the House of Commons. Yes, there will come a time when debate has run its course and the time to vote has arisen...But the Conservatives haven't allowed this point to be reached on more bills then I can name.

For a government that was first elected on transparency they are doing everything possible to keep us in the dark.

As such, it is imperative to the nature of good government to allow debate and discussion. Using time allotment or closure, really flip sides of the same coin, prevents this from occurring and denies the due process that we should expect of those creating laws that we must follow.

Despite Canadians being denied due process and good governance, we continue to say nothing. Some of us are vocal and condemn these events, but it would seem that the vast majority of Canadians cannot be bothered to care about what is going on in Ottawa. The Harper Government sets fire to our institutions, and not a damned soul can be bothered to even yell 'Fire!' with any sort of conviction.

That brings us to the Wheat Board. Despite a federal judge saying that the Conservatives were violating the act that regulated the board by not having a farmer vote; the Conservatives were hellbent on passing through their bill that would scrap the board. Despite pleas from the opposition to halt the bill and have due process, the Conservatives refused. They rushed the bill through the House of Commons, and invoked closure in the Senate as well.

Hopefully, though doubtfully, Governor General David Johnston will have enough common sense to refuse to provide royal assent; or at least make it conditional on the outcome of the courts.Though, Canada hasn't had a GG rock the boat since Byng-King, so this scenario seems highly unlikely.

Add this to their contempt charge, and we have a government who clearly does not give two shakes about the rule of law.

And yet, despite this, Canadians remain silent. The bulk of us seem to have our fingers in our ears, our eyes clenched firmly shut, and the hamsterdance blocking out all other sounds in our minds. We have a government who is committed to keeping us in the dark and denying our elected officials the ability to do the jobs that we have elected them for...Who also seems more than willing to break the law and have the audacity to claim that they aren't.

And then there's the Irwin Cotler affair...I'll make this one brief: The Conservatives have been running a phone campaign saying that Cotler is going to resign and there is going to be a by-election in his riding. The Conservatives, surprisingly, admitted to being behind the phone calls...But suggest that they're protected by free speech and other flimsy excuses.

The Speaker has called the practice 'reprehensible'; but, it turns out that the company making the calls was hired by his campaign in the last election. Awkward.

So, not only are they completely undermining our political system...They also seem to be completely morally bankrupt. Did anyone vote for that?

All of this created a situation that was eventually going to come to ahead...And in some ways, it did. Now, I've made a habit of making sure that the content of this blog confirmed to a certain sense of decorum...Especially when it comes to curse words. But, for the purpose of this post, I would feel hypocritical talking about this subject yet curbing the words.

So, for those faint of heart, some mildly strong language follows below.

Given all the things the Conservatives have done since their re-election, its understandable that a Member of Parliament would stand up and lose their temper. Enter Justin Trudeau. Perhaps it should have been clear that he would be the one, given his father's short temper as well, but it was still surprising.

When Environment Minister Peter Kent came back from an international conference where Canada announced it was pulling out of Kyoto (though, let's face facts, we'd pulled out of Kyoto long before this official announcement) and was basically not open to further international agreements...Mr. Trudeau promptly called 'Bullshit' and called Kent himself 'a piece of shit'.

Strong words indeed.

Trudeau was quick to apologize for his overzealous and unparliamentary behaviour...But, why is he the one apologizing?

I've said before that sometimes we expect too much from our politicians, after all they are human, and I'm sure all of us have reached a point where we lost our temper at a time when we shouldn't have. Yes, Trudeau probably shouldn't have sworn in the House of Commons; BUT we can understand how he reached the point of frustration that caused him to have this outburst in the first place.

Which brings me to the point of this post: Trudeau has clearly shown his anger, as has NDP MP Pat Martin (via twitter and with even STONGER language), so why haven't the rest of us?

This is behaviour that affects us all.

And I'm not speaking about the opposition MPs...This is a government that is hellbent on changing Canada and they have already succeeded in many ways. They're destroyed our international reputation, from peacemaker to 'warmonger'. From elder statesman at the UN, to unprincipled amateur prone to temper tantrums. From reasoned thinkers who spur on global change, to the loudest voice of denial in the room.

And with words today that the government could cut more than expected (especially in regards to health care transfers to the provinces), they will now focus on destroying our internal reputation now that our international one is promptly destroyed.

I love this country, but I worry deeply about what it will look like in a few years time. We are not powerless. To borrow a phrase, 'people should not be afraid of their governments, governments should be afraid of their people.'

The Arab Spring that occurred this year, shows that that phrase is indeed true. People are fighting for democracy and choice across the world, and we're allowing it to die a slow and lingering death. Our MPs are becoming increasingly useless, nothing more than arm candy, under this government...While real power is siphoned into the PMO and PCO.

This is not what we voted for.

So, I ask...Where is our anger? I'm not calling for revolution or anarchy or anything like that...But we still have power in this country and we can keep a government to task for the things they do in our name. A government will abuse its power when it thinks that the people are not willing to stand up and fight for the things they believe in.

I know that perhaps Canadians aren't known for their anger, but this is an instance where we need to be ready to stand up for our country and ourselves. We need to find our anger and we need to direct it to the right places.

We can prevent this government from running roughshod over us, and our beliefs as a nation, but we need to be willing to fight for the things that we know in our hearts are right.

To borrow another phrase, from the video I've linked to earlier: "Better to find your anger now, than wake up after the next election cycle and ask yourself where are my rights?"


On a random side note, I am toying with the idea of starting a second blog revolving around more abstract and philosophical questions. Should this idea stick with me, I shall be sure to let you all know.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

What Is Wall Doing?

Source: CBC News: Brad Wall Defends Pay from Saskatchewan Party
Source: CBC News: Party for Government Politicians Raises Concerns
Source: Leader Post: Sask. Party Provides Pay Top-Up to Premier
Source: Leader Post: Wine and Cheese Receptions Not an Avenue for Lobbying, Premier Says

So, let's all take a deep breath and get used to issue responding posts before moving on.

There, now that we're all acclimated to the old format we can begin. Scanning the headlines today, these were the two most significant news topics I could see today (in regards to Saskatchewan politics, at least.) Let's start first with Wall's salary top up and then talk a bit about whether or not a wine and cheese party is a place where lobbying can occur.

News came out today that Brad Wall, who in a recent request for information didn't release his salary, that the Premier was receiving not only his public paycheque but a top up from the Saskatchewan Party itself. Wall, whose salary is $154,247 a year, is receiving an extra $37,000 from the party that he represents. Wall is defending the payment by saying that its an extra bit that acknowledges the extra duties that the party leader has and reflects this.

So, let's examine that for a moment.

Wall is suggesting that he needs an extra $37,000 to perform his duties as Leader of the Saskatchewan Party. Do you know what is wrong with that sentence? The problem rests in the idea that despite being Premier, Wall is still restricting his view to being Leader of the Saskatchewan Party.

I get the sense some of you might not see why this alone is a problem, allow me to try and explain. By suggesting that there are duties as Leader of a Party that fall outside his current pay scheme; Wall is essentially saying that there are times when he CEASES to be Premier of Saskatchewan and is simply the Leader of the Saskatchewan Party.

Or to break that down into simpler terms: There are times when Wall is only acting as Leader of his PARTY, not Leader of the PROVINCE.

Now, I'm struggling to find out where such an occurrence would exist. If he's talking to the business community, is he acting as Premier or as Party Leader? If he's talking to Federal Counterparts, is it as Premier or Party Leader? If he's outside of Saskatchewan for a conference, is it as Premier or Party Leader?

The only thing I could think of would perhaps be internal party work, such as attending Sask Party conventions...But, a convention is hardly something that a person should be paid for. I mean, we don't pay the general people who have taken time off their schedule to attend; why would we pay the current leader of the party to attend?

If anyone can clearly think of a legitimate reason, please pass it along as I'd be happy to know what it is.

That brings me back to where we were. This top-up payment seems to be a problem in two ways: Firstly, as mentioned, the payment suggests that there are times when Wall ceases to be Premier and acts only as a representative of the Saskatchewan Party.

The second problem comes from the money itself. Wall has been quick to point out that the payment is not from taxpayers, but comes from the party itself. The problem with this is that money is likely coming from donations made to the party. And these donations can, and in most cases do, create a tax return for the person making the donation.

If I can remember my tax scheme correctly, a $100 donation equals a $75 tax return to the person making the donation. That means a person making a $100 donation to the Sask Party receives $75 back, while there $100 could be put towards Wall's $37,000 top-up.

So, while taxpayers are not directly paying for this top-up, we are indirectly paying for it due to the nature of tax returns on political donations.

Furthermore, this raises a problem in terms of conflict of interest. In a system where the Premier is receiving a top-up from his party, that opens the door for impropriety. Allow me to explain.


Saskatchewan legislation, according to Elections Saskatchewan, has no limit on how much a person can donate to a political party. (Source) Furthermore, companies can contribute freely to the political party.

So, let's say Company A makes a $2,500 donation to the Saskatchewan Party. Now, that donation is money that the Sask Party can do anything with. They could print flyers, they could run advertisements...Or, they could use a percentage (or all of it) to put towards the pay top-up.

Indirectly, that Company is now responsible for part of the $37,000 that Wall receives from the party. You can see how this is a touchy subject. If you don't, allow me to try and explain a bit better.

Wall is essentially receiving money from those donating to his party. So, if Company A donates money to the party, there's a chance part of their donation goes towards Wall's top-up payment. Now, the problem with this lies in the fact that a Company A could be 'inclined' to provide more to the party, knowing that their donation will go towards paying the Leader.

So, should a bill come up where the Company would benefit (or even perhaps a public tender), the leader of the party might remember the Company who helped provide an extra $37,000 to their pocket. Now, you should see the problem.

To clarify, I'm not saying that Wall is currently taking direct payments from corporate or private donators in exchange for political favours. There's no proof of that. However, this kind of top-up opens the door for such financial influence to exist.

What else is telling is Wall's language regarding the pay. He said that he received these payments during his time in opposition, and that former Sask Party Leader Elwin Hermanson also received these payments. What's telling is that Wall has admitted that it was $37,000 for the last two years. He only vaguely mentioned that the amount, while in opposition, was 'similar' to what he is being paid now.

As such, Wall needs to actually release the figures of what the party was topping his pay with since he took over the helm of the party. If he was paid more, or less, is a valid question we should be asking. If the pay has substantially increased since he became Premier, it would seem to argue that the top-up may indeed be tied to some donations being made to sway the Premier.

If the payment has decreased, or stayed the same, then at least no one can claim that Wall is indeed being privately courted by donations to his party...But we can all agree that the process needs to stop because it is opening the door that would allow that situation to exist.

Public officials are paid from the public purse for a number of reasons. The main reason being that it keeps those in power beholden to the public, and reminds them that they make a living off of serving the community at large. When a private group contributes, or controls, the pay of a public official then it changes who that official is beholden to.

If Wall wants to show leadership, for a change, he can stand up and stop this practice in his own party.

And that brings us to lobbying, though we have touched on the subject with Wall's top-up payments. After the Legislature opened, a party was thrown in a Regina establishment by four different companies (a law firm, an oil company, an office supplies business, and an accounting firm) for members of the government caucus.

Now, obviously, this party has raised the ire of a lot of people and put Wall on the defensive. Wall is saying that this type of get together is not a place where lobbying of government officials occur, and that it is just a simple get together.

But, let's look at the problems with that statement.

Both articles allude to the event being invitational. The CBC article talks of how the event was for government MLAs and their staff; as does the Leader Post. Yet, they both fail to mention for who the invitations were sent out.

The invitations promised food, drink and great conversation...Yet, they don't mention who these invitations were sent out to. Were they sent to the Sask Party MLAs and staffers? Were they sent to local business owners? Were they sent to local citizens? Were they sent to Sask Party donors? Or all of the above?

I can't say, simply because I do not know. Though, the invitations existence would seem to suggest that the event was for people outside of the caucus and staff. The wording, especially the part about great conversation, would seem to suggest that the four businesses throwing the event were focusing on the caucus and staffers as 'guests of honour' rather than just the targeted guests.

As such, it would seem that this event was thrown to get the right people into the room with Sask Party caucus members and key staffers. That's just speculation on my part, but it's certainly how it reads to me.

Now, Wall says that these types of events are not the venue for lobbying...But these are the exact kind of events his party used to throw for members of the Enterprise Club; food, drink, and good conversation with Ministers and the Premier himself. The Sask Party abandoned the practice when it became public knowledge, but now they seem to have outsourced the event to the private sector. (Is there anything they're not trying to privatize?)

Wall deflected by saying that events that promote lobbying are usually thrown by associations and groups who are actively seeing the influence policy, and that events like that are attended by MLAs from both parties...

But what Wall is neglecting is the simplest fact of politics: ANY event is an event where lobbying will occur.

It doesn't matter who is throwing the event, or the reason why, but any sitting member of government or opposition will be approached with issues. Those issues range from personal initiatives to policy ideas, but politicians are always going to be approached by the public at ANY EVENT and asked their opinion on an issue and be told by those gathered the best way to deal with the issue.

As such, a wine-and-cheese party is a place where lobbying would occur. The nature and the complexity of the lobbying may be different, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't happen.

And if there was no lobbying occurring and it was just another 'new legislative session, boo-yah!' party; then surely staffers and MLAs from the other side of the house would have been invited to par take as well. As far as I know, none were.

So, here we seem to have a PARTY LEADER who is confused about what lobbying is and just who exactly he works for...It's going to be a long four years.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Scott Muses: Would I Lie To You?...Yes, Apparently You Would.

A warning, today is an expansion on the Peter MacKay helicopter debacle. For the most part, it is going to be a 'philosophical and historical' look at just how the hell we've gotten to the point where a politician could stand up in the House of Commons and WILLFULLY lie to the House...Especially lie without any repercussion.

In the 1970s, a scandal unlike anything else the political world had seen at the time was starting to break inside the United States. I refer, of course, to the Watergate Scandal. In 1972, several Republican 'White-House backed' gentlemen broke into the Watergate Hotel (which was being used as the Democratic HQ at the time) and proceeded to wiretap phones, in an attempt to give Republicans an edge in the upcoming election. The men were caught, and the following investigation into their actions led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon only two years later.

Perhaps most the shocking thing of all from this scandal, was Richard Nixon's consistent denial of any involvement or knowledge of the Watergate break in. History has shown at Nixon's involvement was far greater than what he had uttered or claimed, and that the President had lied about the extent of his knowledge. As that became more known, Nixon's defence changed to the idea that the President cannot do anything illegal. And yet, Nixon remains the only person to have resigned the Presidency.

As Nixon became more and more wrapped up in the details of the Watergate Scandal, the Congress of the United States began to take quick action. The move to impeach the President for obstruction of justice, abuse of power, and contempt of Congress was starting to gain steam. Furthermore, Republicans were joining the process and the Congress would have enough numbers to impeach Nixon. In view of his coming impeachment, Nixon resigned.

This background is incredibly important. Here we have a politician who lied to not only the nation, but to its legislative body, and he found himself punished by the system that he had attempted to manipulate. Nixon would not have remained in office, even if he hadn't resigned, as the impeachment process would have moved next to his removal from office. As such, in the 1970s, lying to the people you were representing was still an offense in which you could, and did, lose the job you were elected to do.

Then, twenty some years later, America found itself in the position of considering the impeachment of a president again. Bill Clinton found himself in a similar position as Nixon, what with Congress considering his impeachment. As everyone should be aware, Bill found himself in a position where he too had actively lied to Congress.

In what is now known as the Whitewater Scandal, Mr. Clinton denied that he engaged in oral sex with a White House intern. This was not the first time that Clinton had been accused to extra-marital affairs, but it was the most significant, given that one of the intern's friends had recorded phone conversations which seemed to conflict with Clinton's denials.

As such, Clinton was impeached under perjury (lying under oath) and obstruction of justice. Despite being impeached by the Congress, the legislative body fell short of getting the votes needed to remove Clinton from office. As such, Clinton was impeached but not removed from the presidency.

The reason I mention this is because this is, as far as I can see, a major turning point in regards to what people will tolerate from their politicians.

To take a Canadian perspective, before getting to the bulk of the argument, let's look at Brian Mulroney.

In 1995, the RCMP launched an investigation into the Airbus Affair; in which it was accused that Mulroney and others of taking 'kickback' payments from Karlheinz Schreiber for the purpose of securing the purchase of Airbus airplanes for Air Canada. Mulroney's response was to not only unequivocally deny these charges, but to launch a libel lawsuit against the Canadian Government.

The government settled outside of court in 1997, paying Mulroney $2.1 million dollars in legal fees and public relations costs.

Fast forward to just a few years ago, when Schreiber (facing deportation to Germany) acknowledged that he did indeed provide payment to Mulroney. Schreiber suggests he paid Mulroney, who was no longer Prime Minister but still a Member of Parliament, $300,000 over the course of three meetings. Mulroney denied the number, arguing instead that he received $225,000 for lobbying work done regarding the purchase of armoured vehicles.

Mulroney continues to admit no wrongdoing; even though his admissions and the admissions of Schreiber contradict Mulroney's libel lawsuit and effectively make a strong case of the former Prime Minister committing perjury and perhaps even obstruction of justice in the 1995 RCMP investigation.

Yet, Mulroney has never been asked to pay back the $2.1 million that he received from taxpayers; nor has he faced any other legal recourse. Granted, Mulroney's reputation was in tatters when he left office and he is generally reviewed as one of the least popular Prime Ministers in Canadian History...But, there was never any official punishment for his actions.

Now, the list goes on. I could cite Jean Chretien's pledge to remove the GST if elected, only to never bring that promise forward. I could cite Stephen Harper's pledge of transparency and open government, only to become one of the most secretive and controlling governments in Canadian History...But, let's not spend too much time focusing on 'campaign promises'.

After all, if every politician who ever turned away from a campaign promise was convicted of a crime, we'd see a lot of our current politicians sitting in a jail cell. But, what is worth discussing, is whether the idea of reversing a campaign promise is a symptom of the system or part of the problem?

So, let's focus on that for a moment. Broken campaign promises seem to exist since the dawn of the social contract. It's easy to look back in history and find examples of the political system being manipulated and deceived. One could look at the French Revolution and the 'Terror' that came from Robespierre under the guise of government. Promises made in a time of change seem to be part of the system, rather than a symptom that has arisen due to corruption of that system. As such, we're not going to hoist every politician who has made a misleading promise during a time of election.

Which brings us to the heart of this discussion. When Nixon breached the law and lied about his involvement, he suffered the penalty of the loss of his office. Indeed, Nixon also lost what little credibility he had left and all good will towards him. But twenty years later, Clinton held onto the office of the presidency. And when he left office, he left with a high approval rating despite Congress passing the measures to impeach him.

How did this happen?

Sadly, as much as I'd like to have a magic bullet answer, none exists. At a time when we demand so much from our politicians, the requirement that they tell the truth seems to have fallen to the wayside.

Look at Anthony Weiner or John Edwards.

Weiner was a vocal democrat, one of the few in Congress who regularly challenged Republicans and their morals and was a damned fine representative. However, his penchant for explicit photographs of himself proved to be his undoing. After tweeting inappropriate photos of himself, Weiner lost the support of many of his constituents and the support of his party, and eventually resigned his seat.

John Edwards was also a good example of the higher standard towards sexual deviance. Edwards committed a mortal sin in the court of public opinion when he cheated on his wife, who at the time was deathly ill with cancer. That revelation alone was enough to get Edwards booted from the race for the presidency.

Matters only got worse when it turned out he had fathered a child with his mistress, and used campaign funds to keep her quiet. He even had a young staffer pose as the woman's boyfriend on campaign trips to prevent people from asking too many questions.

Even before these allegations, Edwards' political career was sunk. And while adultery is a serious charge, the misappropriation of campaign funds is a more serious one in the political realm.

Then we have a slew of Republican politicians, from Herman Cain to Larry Craig, who have stepped out of the sexual norm and paid a serious penalty for their philandering. There is one other thing that many of these people have in common: Most of them, when the scandals broke, denied the charges being leveled against them.

In many cases, they lied.

But it was not the lying that put them into the hot political soup, it was the actions they committed outside of that.

Let's look at George W. Bush.

Bush has done a lot of things, and gotten away with most of them. He suspended habeous corpus for 'terror suspects', he authorized torture, and he mislead a nation and their politicians into a war over (as Michael Moore would say) fictitious reasons.

Bush lied to a nation, and a world, and no consequences have be fallen him over it. I mention this because it warrants a major point: In the political world, lying no longer has any consequences affixed to it. Edwards, Weiner, and others fell from their positions for inappropriate behaviour. Which suggests by its very nature that we hold politicians to a higher regard and expect a certain level of maturity and decorum from them.

But when we fail to punish those who lie to us, we are giving the system carte blanche to keep us from the truth.

Let's look again at Canada.

Stephen Harper's Government was found in contempt of Parliament; AKA they misled Parliament about spending. AKA they lied to Parliament. A slap on the wrist was more or less the only punishment that the government received. Instead of Harper and select cabinet ministers being removed from their offices and being barred from seeking re-election, Harper and many of his cabinet ministers were reinstated in the ensuing election which also gave them a majority.

Despite lying to Canadians, Harper won a majority government.

With that simple act, Canadians cemented the idea that we do not care about the truth. And it's a message which has reverberated throughout the government ranks.

Peter MacKay misuses a government helicopter, and lies to Parliament about it being a SAR demonstration. Yet, the Prime Minister excuses MacKay and says the use of the helicopter was 'appropriate'. Charlie Angus drops an F-Bomb on twitter, and suddenly the government is calling for his resignation.

Somewhere we lost of ideal of political morality. There was a time when the most egregious sin a person in government could commit was that of misleading the nation. Lying to the legislative body was essentially lying to the people of the nation, and it was a practice that no one would tolerate. People who committed this act were punished by the system and removed from it.

But now, lying seems to be permissible by omission of consequence. Now, we only care about how our politicians appear. God forbid they swear on twitter, or use the service to send inappropriate photographs of themselves. Granted, those are not things our politicians should be doing either, but they are no where near as bad as our politicians lying to our faces.

Ask ourselves, if twenty years ago a cabinet minister was caught lying to the public, would they still be in cabinet? Those old of you to answer that question probably answered with a resounding no. So, where did we lose our moral fiber?

Is our sense of morality so misguided that we only condemn those who commit the greatest flaw of being human? Allow me to explain that one. Edwards did a horrible thing by cheating on his dying wife, there is no doubt about that. But to play Devil's Advocate, think of the position he was in. A dying wife, the stress of a public life, and numerous other factors probably made the companionship of another woman a port in the storm for him.


It doesn't excuse his behaviour, but one can see how someone in his position would look for any comfort he could find in such a time. It is human nature to make mistakes and poor decisions; some would also suggest that its human nature to lie.

The difference is mistakes are something that are made in the passion of the moment. An opportunity that arises that seems too difficult to pass up; or a decision made purely in the now. Whereas lying always seems to suggest forethought and self-interest.

A cheating man knows that some day what he is doing is going to catch up with him, and that he will have to answer for his actions. Whereas a lying man is lying for the sake of not having to answer for his decisions. Both of these are serious, but we are only treating one as if it is.

Bev Oda, Peter MacKay, Peter Van Loan, Tony Clement, and numerous others have stood in the House of Commons and openly told untruths. They have denied involvement, they have denied courses of action, and they have done so knowing full well that documentation exists which proves them wrong.

And while some Canadians have stood up and demanded punishment for this behaviour, the punishment doesn't seem to be coming. Rather, these people are allowed to keep their cabinet positions (and the pay increase that comes with it).

I wish I knew how we had reached this point. Our very morality tells us that lying is wrong, and yet we are living in a world where those who do lie are rewarded rather than punished.

I could get into the debate of whether humanity is naturally inclined to evil or not, but that's not really the type of subject to discuss on this blog. What I will suggest, however, is that our system is quickly be defined by this lack of response. Harper's Government has been playing fast and loose with moral questions since being elected in 2006.

Each time they've been caught, the Canadian public's response has been 'So what? Who cares?' And with each muttering of that sentiment, the Harper Government has become more and more deceitful and ambitious.

We need to return to the days when a politician who misled their nation was punished for their actions. If we punish infidelity in the bedroom, we must punish infidelity in the legislature.

There is an idea that we as a people elect the government that we deserve. If we do nothing, then we deserve to have a government that lies to us and does god only knows what behind closed doors. In many ways, that's what we've already done. By electing the Conservatives with a majority, in spite of them being found in contempt, we have sanctioned state dishonesty.

And in a system like that, we will only see more dishonesty.

In four years time, we will have a clearer picture of what the Harper Government has done. We shall see the true extent of their dishonesty, and all of us who did nothing to prevent it will have to live with the fact that we allowed it to happen. Silence is deafening, but so is response to wrongs.

Something is WRONG in Ottawa, and many of us can see it. Perhaps those who don't are happy to be spoon fed the pablum that the Conservatives dish out; to close their eyes and believe that all is well despite evidence to the contrary.

Politics is not a competition of winners and losers. Lying is a tactic that the Conservatives are using to save themselves embarrassment, and they believe that that in turn will help them win the next election. Well, when politicians use methods like that they may indeed win...But it is the nation who will lose when we elect a self-serving government that cares more about public opinion and four-year election plans, then serving the people they are supposed to represent.

I sense I've strayed off topic a bit, so let's close with this final thought:

Honesty is a virtue, it's a phrase we've all heard. For those of us with children, we raise them with the idea that honesty is the best policy. We expect our children to tell us the truth and we equate the notion of truth with the idea of being a good and noble person. If we can expect so much of our children, why can't we expect the same of our politicians?

Surely, if a child has the capacity for honesty a politician must. Either we must hold our politicians to account, for all of their missteps; or we must admit that we simply don't care and abandon the social contract that we have created.

We expect police officers to be truthful in their reports, should we ever be accused of a crime or need them to vouch for us as victims. We expect doctors to tell us the truth about our medical state and not prescribe drugs that we don't need. We expect our teachers to impart the truth about history and our world to our children, not indoctrinate them into a misshapen world view that is inaccurate.

If we expect truth from so many others in the public service, why don't we demand the same of politicians?

I've said this before, but I'll say it again: In the Parliamentary System, we bestow the title of honourable upon those who serve. It's high time we demand that they live up to the title.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Lies, Tell Us Lies, Tell Us Sweet Little Lies...

Source: CTV News: Emails Contradict MacKay on N.L. Chopper Flight

Does anyone else remember when we talked about the issue of Challenger jet flights?

Good, that will bring us all up to speed then. After Canada's Top General got caught using a challenger jet to fly down to the Caribbean for a vacation. Then days later word came out that Defence Minister Peter MacKay had used both a Newfoundland Search-and-Rescue chopper to leave a vacation at a fishing lodge; as well as using a challenger to fly to a lobster festival days later.

MacKay defended the use of the chopper by saying that he was taking part in a search-and-rescue training exercise that was in the area.

And now, e-mails obtained by access to information requests directly contradict the answer that MacKay provided in the House of Commons.

In fact, the e-mails suggest that the military was more or less pushed into picking MacKay up from his fishing trip. On top of this, there appears that a SAR helicopter was not MacKay's only option for leaving his fishing trip a day early. In fact, MacKay was only a 90 minute boat ride and then a 30 minute drive from the nearest airport. 120 minutes, altogether. Furthermore, MacKay or his staff have yet to provide a reason as to why this alternative was unacceptable.

So, what's the real issue here?

Well, we've got MacKay lying to Parliament, for one. Then there's misappropriation of military aircraft/resources...

The lying to Parliament thing is probably the biggie though, given that this government is quickly establishing a sterling record for saying one thing while doing another. After all, we've got Tony Clement saying that he wasn't involved in deciding what projects in his riding would receive funding from the G-8 Heritage Fund (though information that has been released directly contradicts his statement)...Then there's the entire Harper Government team saying that the PMO/PCO did not issue orders to refer to the Government of Canada in news releases as the Harper Government...(Even Harper's former press secretary denied this claim, though memos have now come out showing that the order did indeed come down the bureaucratic chain.)

If anything, this is just a further list on the things this government has done that shows they have zero credibility or reliability to tell the truth. This is like the kid who gets caught with their hand in the cookie jar, then has the gaul to suggest that it's actually their older brother taking all the cookies.

Now, I sourced this yesterday, so I didn't re-source it today.

In response to SaskTel's cellular problems, the Wall Government as dismissed ten managers from the Crown Corporation. In Wall's style (which we saw when they first came to power and cleaned out the civil service) cause for the terminations were not provided to the employees and they will instead be paid out full severance packages and other benefits.

Which brings us to Wall's talking point for SaskTel. Wall has, for the second time, suggested that SaskTel does not have the capacity to meet service expectations. This is conservative speak for a private company would not have these problems.

Now, it is indeed possible that this is the first opening salvo from the Wall Government with regards to destroying SaskTel. After all, the government as already robbed them of their profits from the past few years and increased the Crown's debt level due to the need for private loans.

We'll see when the government and the crown rehire the positions that have just been opened. If the government is overhanded in selecting people for those positions, it's a bad sign. If any of the positions are 'consolidated' to save money, it's a bad sign. If any of them are left vacant, it's a bad sign.

SaskTel is being put into a precarious position by this government, and if the government continues to raid SaskTel's profits, then we could very well see this crown corporation fall apart in the years ahead.