Lisa Raitt's apology last week to those Canadians awaiting cancer treatment may have been heartfelt. I do not doubt the pain the disease has inflicted on the minister and her family. After all, it killed both her father and her brother.
The problem, as Lawrence Martin, wrote last week, is that the apology was "too long in the making;" and it was an abrupt about face. "You can bet," wrote Martin, "that the prime minister's office instructed Ms. Raitt to get out before the microphones yesterday. You can bet that the day before, the same operatives had instructed her not to give an inch."
The problem for the last Conservative MP from Halton was that he refused to do the PMO's bidding. Garth Turner was infected with the novel idea that he was answerable first to his constituents and then to the Prime Minister. For this heresy, he and fellow MP Bill Casey were ejected from the Conservative caucus.
As James Travers also wrote last week, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is in trouble because his own caucus has been infected by the same virus. It occurs -- or should occur occasionally -- in true parliamentary democracies. In 1990, Travers reminded his readers, "Conservatvies tossed Margaret Thatcher for the very minor John Major."
For all his wonkishness, in any situation, the prime minister's first principle is crass political calculation. Is that surprising? Or new? Or limited only to the present government? No.
But what is surprising is that a minority government -- caught in the grips of the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression -- should display its ambition so nakedly. To Ms. Raitt, the shortage of medical isotopes -- caused by problems at the Chalk River nuclear reactor -- was a "sexy" chance to take control of a situation and make a name for herself. The obvious question is, "Whose interests are being served?"
The present government has operated from the beginning on the logical contradiction that self interest is in the public interest. That contradiction is at the heart of the financial meltdown and the devastation of Canada's manufacturing industries.
The real question is how long will the victims of this quackery tolerate such balderdash? Today Mr. Ignatieff will provide us with an answer.