Thursday, March 31, 2011

Of Feet and Fires

Accountability is one of the cornerstones of our democracy.  We want a government that is accountable to the people and we expect our opposition parties to ensure that happens.   We expect the opposition to hold the government's "feet to the fire."   This isn't supposed to be just a matter of hollow, self-serving criticism or denunciation.  That sort of thing may benefit the opposition politicians but it holds little of any real use for the public.   We need, our democracy needs, legitimate criticism and thoughtful, realistic proposals for reform and improvement.  That's what works for the public.

But what happens when government policy is rotten and the opposition, for its own self-serving purposes, doesn't hold the government's feet to the fire, doesn't expose and criticize its failures, doesn't offer proposals to set the government back to the service of the nation and the public?  Surely when that occurs, what good is the legislature at all?   What  happens when Parliament falls silent, wilfully mute about pressing problems of the day?

We have no shortage of politicians wanting to rule our country but an astonishing dearth of those interested in governing.   Ruling is arbitrary, whimsical, unguided, reactionary.   It is building mega-prisons in an ongoing era of reduced crime.  It is creating fears where fear is unfounded and ignoring legitimate anxiety over real threats as though, by not speaking of them, they'll go away.

Governing is political husbandry.   It is administration and management.  It is acceptance of a fiduciary responsibility for the country and its people, both now and for generations to come.  Governing is acknowledging and confronting the challenges of the day and leading the public to the best solutions.  It is leaving the land better than we found it, the people stronger and more cohesive.  Even the architect of conservatism, Edmund Burke, espoused this.   It was wholeheartedly embraced by Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt.

I like the Liberal election platform, as far as it goes.   I like the education proposal, the health care and pension platforms.   Yet, to me, those are all Tier 2 issues.  They're important, necessary but surely not the great issues and challenges of the day.   Education, health care, pensions are pretty thin gruel in contrast to the destructive problems that already beset our society - the growing gap between rich and poor, the need to arrest global warming, and the long-neglected imperative of assisting Canadians to meet the challenges, domestic and foreign, that the climate change already coming will pose.   These will affect the stability, strength and resilience of Canada and the Canadian people, qualities we need to bolster to meet the changes that are already setting in and will tax us greatly in the coming decades.   To me these are Tier 1 issues.

When Tier 1 issues aren't prominent on political agendas, aren't even incorporated in platforms, what it tells me is that I'm not looking at a party interested in governing but one merely seeking to rule.  It's not a party that genuinely wants to build a better Canada but merely wants to hold the reins of power for an intermediate term of years.   That's a party that stands, however unintentionally, to add itself as just another layer to all our other problems.

If our country didn't stand at a crossroads I might, as I have a few times in the past, accepted the "lesser of two evils" rationale and voted Liberal.   But we are at this crossroads and the two evils, Greater and Lesser, plan to steer us in the wrong direction.   I just can't go down that road.

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