Saturday, April 23, 2016
The conclusion of the Duffy show trial offers a useful point for Canadians to reflect on what their nation should mean and how Canadians should serve it and be served by it.
It's easy to lose sight of fundamental principles after a decade of technocratic rule facilitated by the application of deeply corrosive wedge politics.
How few of us appreciate how we and our democracy were down to our last line of defence - a brilliant constitutional enactment by a leader long past and a courageous Supreme Court. That alone was the wall through which Stephen Harper could never break. It contained him. It restrained him. It frustrated the hell out of him and his plans to reduce Canada into so much constitutional rubble.
How few of us understand that Stephen Harper waged an internal coup d'etat. He did it, with barely a whimper from the press, by seizing the public service, the armed forces and the national police apparatus and harnessing them to his personal partisan political purposes. He sequestered them from the public they were to serve, the citizens whose taxes paid for them. He blinded us to what they were doing. Harper set up what most closely resembled a corps of political commissars to screen incoming communications and to later edit outgoing responses to ensure they comported with the government's message. Even reporters couldn't have free access to public servants.
Here's something many have forgotten. It concerns the RCMP, the Cavendish Cottager and the commissioner, Bob Paulson. As the Duffy scandal broke and began to unfold, Paulson issued a directive to his senior officers by which they were absolutely prohibited from communicating or even socializing with MPs or Senators without the commissioner's express consent. Those wishing such permission had to submit their requests to an office jointly controlled by Paulson and then public safety minister, Vic Toews. Talk about an act of career seppuku. They weren't even supposed to talk about their inability to talk, their gag order. That only surfaced when Paulson's email directive was leaked to CBC.
There are some who think the magic elixir lurks within some sort of electoral reform. That would help but it's hardly any guarantee approaching what we need. Every country on Earth is entering what is going to be a difficult and protracted era, the very sort of thing tailor made for manipulative charismatics and I've never read of one yet who was frustrated by democratic fetters.
Maybe it would help to tighten up the running of this ship. Let's define duties. Who is being served by whom would be a good first step. Do you work for one guy and his personal, partisan interests? Do you work for the country? Do you work for the people? What are the boundaries that mark a state of political capture and hence corruption? So many questions.
What is Canada? What are Canadians? We know all too well what divides us but how much of that - the fear, the anger, the paranoia - will be washed away if we focus on what unites us, what we agree upon, what we want for our kids and grandkids? Yes our society is deeply divided but that was conditioned into us. That is not who we really are and that should concern us.
If we're going to rehabilitate our society, we have to think about raising the drawbridge and dropping the portcullis to ensure that we're never again taken over by another Harper. We've had his kind. We've seen what that means. We can't let another of his kind ever do the same to us.