Friday, September 29, 2006

Libranos, McSquinty, and Furious George making a mockery of Politics

It had been a long time since I had spent an afternoon taking in Question Period from the Ontario Legislature gallery and a couple of days ago I did just that. What I witnessed was nothing short of appalling, scandalous, and disheartening. It was a travesty of civility and collegiality worthy of memorialization by the great Tolstoy himself. The legislature was being conducted by an arrogant, pretentious, and smug government, whose ungraciousness was overshadowed only by its buffoonery.

If it seems like I'm coming down overly harshly on the McGuinty government, there is good reason other than the fact that I don't support this government- yes I'm partisan, none of us isn't so, even if one is impossibly partisan to being unpartisan. There is no opting out of ideology ("you are doing it, but do not know it").

Regardless, in our system of government, it should be remembered that it is incumbent on the government to be gracious and dignified to the opposition. This is one way of curtailing the inherent danger in majoritarian government which Mill called "the tyranny of the majority". And contrary to what I recently heard at an all candidates debate, the opposition is integral to the accountability and responsibility of the government. When Sylvia Watson urged voters to support her because as a member of the prevailing government only she could be of consequence and accountable, she was being patently undemocratic.

Returning to my observations of the legislature. Questions addressed to the government were met with stark rudeness. Most of the time the Libranos didn't even feel compelled to pay attention to the questions being posed. They just carried on indifferently amongst themselves or they shouted down the questions like a pack of jackals- this was most often done by the inconsequential MPP's like Fonseca occupying the rump of the legislature. Alternatively, questions were indignantly deflected or bullishly addressed. Furious George (Smitherman) simply attacks anyone and anything that comes his way. He has the tact of a gorilla, while McSquinty simply pretends to listen to questions and then offers the stock response "trust us, it's complicated, it's the previous government's fault, we're working on it".

Although, I must admit that even I was shocked when he callously dismissed entertaining the reinstatement of a special dietary allowance for a person with ALS (aka Lou Gehrig's disease). He mean spiritedly referred to the extant regulations and flippantly dismissed this poor guy's case (an abjectly poor man living with a grossly debilitating disease whose doctor recommended he supplement his diet with Ensure wholeheartedly ignored. That's appalling!)

OK. Admittedly, there is full complicity of all parties in this sordid and ungracious state of political comportment in contemporary politics. Although if truth be told, I did find the opposition and the third party to be much more well behaved. But so much more is at stake here.

We have here a Liberal government in the fourth year of its mandate. This government was entrusted by the public to mend a failing system. It was given an overwhelming majority and enjoyed a favourable economic climate with which to keep its promises. At what point does this government begin to see itself as responsible? How long can it keep blaming previous governments? In the last year of its mandate, at least in the last year of forming a majority government, the McGuinty Liberals have done little more than break promises, offering up as consolation that it's not their fault, that we need trust them, that they are working on it.... At what point do we hold this government accountable?

Worse yet, they have instead used their majority status to turn our legislature into an inhospitable and uncivil arena of political debate. Our legislature is being run by a government of self-righteous, ungracious and incompetent thugs who have rightly earned the name the Libranos. And I am disheartened, not only regarding the future of politics in this country but also because I too am infected by this contagion and reduced to the same name calling and irreverence that I deplore.

How do we restore basic dignity and ethicality to politics? Perhaps by avowing that this is an important question in the first place.

Yet another new bottom reached by the Libranos: Liberal MPP Rick Bartolucci during question period earlier this week charges that "Conservatives abuse children." This is followed by half-hearted apology where not for a second does he acknowledge the grievousness of his indiscretion, but does find time to wish his mother a happy birthday. The Liberals' sense of entitlement is revolting. And just when I thought this government couldn't sink to lower depths of callousness and crassness following Ontario Energy Minister's, Dwight Duncan's, suggestion that folks relying on hydro for warmth this winter should just turn down their thermostats, get a nice bottle of red wine, and cuddle up under a warm blanket with someone they care about.

Monday, September 18, 2006

McGuilty as Charged: Liberals left Limp in PHP By-Election

The entire Ontario Liberal state apparatus was unable to defeat a lone church lady in the Sept. 14 by-election in Parkdale- High Park. The Liberals had to work hard to get this trounced.

Firstly, they grossly misconstrued the character and credentials of the opposing candidate. This was not some fresh faced poli-sci grad, or a diva like Puppatello who surely would have buckled under such slanderous pressure. Rev. Dr. DiNovo is indeed a rare species of politician: human, honest, charitable, credentialed and highly educated. One need only to have read the endorsements of her record and her character, as well as to have known of her history of tirelessly challenging injustice and advocating for the poor and marginalized to have realized that an attempted character assassination would not work.

Secondly, they underestimated the NDP itself. The party marshaled a great campaign. There was the Peggy Nash effect. The NDP won the sign war, Watson's ghost constituency notwithstanding. They stuck to the issues and a lot of credit needs to go to organizers and volunteers alike.

Thirdly, and most importantly, the Liberals not only misjudged the electorate, they thoroughly insulted the voters. U.S. style fear mongering and intimidation are not yet de rigueur in Canadian politics and my hope is that it always remains that way. And Watson had the audacity to accuse the NDP of fear mongering for suggesting that the Liberals may allow schools to close.

I leave you with this observation. On very rare occasions, mistakes and mishaps speak the unbearable truth. I recall when Bush Jr. coughed up the last word that should have come out of his mouth, but still the most truthful word yet uttered regarding U.S. foreign policy. That word was, as you will recall, "crusade"- later to be spun into "operation enduring freedom". In this recent by-election the disavowed truth also was unintentionally coughed up. As part of her closing remarks at an all candidates debate, Sylvia Watson implored the audience to vote for her and lend their support for "McGuilty". In that moment, the truth of the election was spoken. More worrisome, however, was that whereas Bush paused and obviously regretted his mistaken choice of words, our Liberal candidate simply laughed with abandon as if to say and there's nothing you can do about it. Watson was after all the candidate who implored voters to support her solely on the grounds that hers was the party in power and she, therefore, the only candidate who would be accountable to the electorate. A spectacular misrepresentation of democracy as the system where might makes right.
So McGuilty of what?

Most obviously McGuilty of broken promises, dozens of them. Also, as mentioned earlier, McGuilty of crass misjudgment that insulted media, candidates, and voters alike. McGuilty of scurrilous accusations which were either completely fabricated or completely groundless for anyone who has a shred on acumen, decency, intelligence, and academic integrity. McGuilty of relying on a bunch of pimply-faced young Fiberals like Jason Cherniak (btw I'm still waiting to hear from Dion on whether he wishes to associate himself with Cherniak's drivel) concerned only with self-promotion and willfully disingenuous attacks on another's dignity. McGuilty of using the highest offices of the government, as well as taxpayer dollars to launch this appalling vilification. The Limperals used Cabinet Ministers and MPP's, to deliver this drivel to voters' doors. Like a bunch of thugs, they attempted to intimidate voters with malicious fear mongering. All with the tacit and public endorsement of McGuilty himself. They even deployed St. Gerard Kennedy and Bob Rae himself in their self-righteous campaign to win at all costs.

And not surprisingly, the Limperals continued to run the sleazy electioneering tactics for which they're so notorious. They surely won the ghost vote- all of whom took a large sign, they littered public space with their signs -Lakeshore Blvd., railway bridges, High Park. On e-day I actually witnessed Sylvia Watson and her coterie of Liberal losers storm past Rev. DiNovo who was canvassing outside of a subway station, saw them descend into the station where they distributed their smear literature in the Subway. Classy Sylvia! The Limperals translated their smut to scare old Polish and Ukranian ladies into voting against the bad, fallen Protestant woman. Not to mention the select old European men who couldn't believe there's a church that would deign to ordain women. Really, who does she think she is? etc, etc... Desperate and undignified, oh not to mention, many of them illegal, is what these tactics were.

In the end, the Limperal campaign was a complete farce and outrage. A farce because the entire Limperal machinery could not take out little ole' Rev. DiNovo. And an outrage because as many have noted this was the nastiest, most unethical political campaign on record. It sullied politics, candidates, and voters. I'm still trying to wash the stench off me.

In this by-election, voters sent an unmistakable message to the McGuinty government: McGuilty. I implore Canadians everywhere not to endorse these tactics. I implore the people of Ontario not to forget this on Oct. 4, 2007. McGuilty must be held accountable for his audacious sanctioning of these tactics. This arrogance, presumption, and scurrilousness cannot be rewarded! Or should I say "forgiven", but then that's an entirely different subject.

p.s. before you go throwing the Bob Hunter debacle in my face, I'm on record already as condemning that too. Still, remember there are significant differences, most glaring that this smear campaign was tacitly endorsed by the highest office of the provincial government, that the defamatory information was leaked from a Cabinet office and later distributed door to door by cabinet ministers on Sylvia Watson letterhead...