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.