As Rob Ford heads off to rehab in Chicago, Carol Goar writes that Canadians are besotted with shameless politicians:
A casual lawlessness has crept into the high offices of the land.
It is not outright criminality, punishable by fines and jail time (at least not yet). It is an attitude among those entrusted with power that they don’t have to play by the rules; that wrongdoing carries no consequences; and that a half-hearted apology will set everything right.
Besides Ford, she enumerates several other recent examples of political bad behaviour:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has tossed aside long-standing parliamentary tenets and ethical standards. He stuffed the Senate with free-spending loyalists, then turned on his appointees viciously when their expenses leaked out. He maligned his former chief of staff who spent $90,000 of his own money trying to fix the Senate mess. After his party broke Canada’s election rules, he unilaterally tried to rewrite them. He has been rebuked by the Supreme Court of Canada five times for overstepping his mandate.
Brampton Mayor Susan Fennell helped herself to ratepayers’ money for at least five years to pay for luxury hotels, high-priced dinners, first-class airfare and entertainment. She insists she has done nothing wrong.
Former Alberta premier Alison Redford likewise used taxpayers’ money to pay for indulgences she considered her due. Six weeks ago, after spending an eye-popping $45,000 to attend Nelson Mandela’s funeral in South Africa, she stepped down blaming “party and caucus infighting” for obstructing progress in the province. Since her resignation she has not set foot in the legislature although she continues to collect her salary as an MLA.
Goar believes that there are three reasons for this state of affairs:
The first is an unprecedented level of secrecy or obfuscation by public officials.
The second is a sizable bloc of voters that can be counted on to support a besmirched leader no matter what he or she does.
The third is an electorate so unconcerned — or jaded — that it does nothing.
In the end, only citizens can change the situation. As long as we are prepared to tolerate rot, it will keep piling up.