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Friday, December 29, 2006

Will We Get Good Government From Either Harper or Dion

Citizens are angry about the shallow commitment they see in our politicians to open, accountable and transparent government. They are equally angry over the partisan gamesmanship that passes for political strategy and tactics, especially on the federal scene these days.

The Chr├ętien and Martin Liberal governments were masters at this gamesmanship and the Harper Cons are showing signs they are of the same ilk. The recent fight the Cons have had with Elections Canada over certain convention costs being party donations and the stacking of the 10-member panel to oversee and make policy recommendations on reproductive technologies and stem-cell research with social conservatives are cases in point.

The tactical cuteness of releasing the news of these events quietly on the Friday before the Christmas celebrations, obviously to avoid media coverage, has been noticed by the main stream media and only adds to cynicism. To their credit the MSM are commenting on these issues extensively now, when citizens are ready to read the news again.

The earlier Harper Cons “disclosure” of Dion’s dual citizenship is an equivalent piece of gamesmanship. Michael Adams’ excellent Op Ed in the Globe and Mail today deals with this issue intelligently and in a context of Canadian values. I personally believe Dion having dual citizenship is an advantage for Canada in international relations and in developing a better balanced foreign policy, especially with the European Union. The Harper Cons framing it as an issue of Dion’s loyalty to Canada is pure “Bush” league.

The Harper Cons are evolving as a government and have done some really sound forward thinking policy work this past year. When they get purely partisan, publicly “chippy” and use the governance power for tactical political gain they lessen their stock in the minds of Canadians. They show how misaligned they really are with mainstream Canadian social values.

Canadians have been test driving the Harper minority government for the past year to see how it works as an alternative to the institutionalized arrogance of past Liberal regimes. The reviews are mixed so far but the looming election will be the true test of the citizen’s sense of if the Cons are ready for the real power of a majority government. It will also test if Dion’s Liberals are to be trusted and if they are perceived as any different from the Chr├ętien/Martin Liberals of yore.

I, like most Canadians, like Peace, Order and Good Government. Today we have none of these. Peace will be awhile coming but we must unconditionally support our troops while we reflect on our role and goal in Afghanistan. Order will come with a majority government that, ideally, has representation in every region, if not every province.

Good Government is a bigger issue. It requires a change in the governance culture in Ottawa and almost everywhere else. That requires better leaders with qualities of character and a personal commitment to governing with intelligence and integrity with a long view and not just keeping and exercising power until the next election. It demands more Garth Turner types of backbenchers with independent streaks and clear thinking minds who can balance partisanship political demands with the responsibilities of a representative democracy.

I hope we have a spring federal election so we can restore some stability and order and get back on a path towards good government. For Canada to be at Peace again will take a bit longer. An election should help Canadians clarify why we are in Afghanistan, what we intend to accomplish there for the Afghan people and what it will take for Canada to achieve those ends.