Friday, May 02, 2014

Tolerating Rot

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.


    Lorne said...

    Thanks for that great link to the Samara report, Owen. I am going to put it on my e-reader for later perusal.

    One can only hope that a tipping point is being reached when it comes to public tolerance of the unspeakable state of affairs Goar discusses. It time to get even with these reprobates by reengaging in the political process. Otherwise, no housecleaning is possible.

    Owen Gray said...

    It's time for a Herculean effort, Lorne. We have to clean out King Augeas' stables.

    Toby said...

    Several people have told me why they don't vote. They simply see no value in it. We have all seen new people enter the political arena fired up with honest hopes and aspirations who become unrecognizable six months after being elected. Our political systems have mastered corruption as well as any Third World dictatorship. Voters give up.

    Remember the Reform Party under Preston Manning promising that Reform PM's would be responsible to his or her riding? That lasted until the day Preston Manning moved to Ottawa. Good intentions do not survive the heat at the centre of power.

    For better or worse, Canada seems to follow US trends several years behind. My suspicion is that the Americans will sort it out first, much as they did with the New Deal and Canadians will eventually figure it out better.

    Real change will not come until the problems get bad enough to reach just about everyone. The New Deal required the Great Depression and WWII to really engage the population. We can see several threats on the horizon (global warming, plagues, poisoning of the food supply, etc.) that might trigger more responsible government but the risk is worse government. Things don't look good.

    Owen Gray said...

    I agree that things look pretty dark, Toby. However, we don't have forever to clean up the mess.

    The clock is ticking.

    Anonymous said...

    Tom Flanagan says he quit his post as Harper's chief of staff in 2005 because, wait for it...

    He was:

    “tired of all the psychodrama.” ...there is also a dark, almost Nixonian side to the man,” - Tom Flanagan

    Dana said...

    I am so very close to just pulling up the drawbridge and preparing the pots of boiling oil.

    Toby says, "Real change will not come until the problems get bad enough to reach just about everyone."

    I can't disagree with that. The problem is that by that time "almost everyone" is going to be screaming for the government to do something about dwindling food supplies, the cost of fresh water, infrastructure collapse among others and especially the hordes of climate change refugees arriving to eat up more of the dwindling food, drink more expensive water, make even more demands on the crumbling infrastructure. Well guess what that means - more police, more military, more central control, less personal freedom. And "almost everyone" will heave a huge sigh of relief and even cheer in the streets when a "strong leader" takes the reins and promises to keep Canada for Canadians no matter the cost.

    There are no good scenarios left folks.

    Owen Gray said...

    It's pretty clear that we're sleepwalking to an ecological crisis, Dana.

    And our "leaders" keep insisting they're the smartest guys in the room.

    Owen Gray said...

    And the psychodrama continues, Anon, with Harper's attack on the Chief Justice.

    mogs moglio said...

    Casual lawlessness? I have a hard time believing Harper is still prime minister with all his government has been involved in. Here are news items from 2013 which clearly show Harper is not fit for the job of prime minister:

    Harper has involved himself with many known convicted criminals and some who are actively fleeing punishment for their crimes in other jurisdictions.

    With Harper I believe it is not casual but premeditatedly formal behavior.

    Owen Gray said...

    Harper has convinced himself that only other people break laws, Mogs. He, on the other hand, makes them.

    Anonymous said...

    We must close Union Offices, confiscate their money and put their leaders in prison. We must reduce workers salaries and take away their right to strike.

    Adolph Hitler May 2/1933

    Harper's list of degenerates, is as long as a football field. Some of them are in prison, others are on their way. A dictator such as Harper, always has the criminal element, to do his underhanded work for him. When Harper can no longer exploit them, he shoves them under his bus.

    Owen Gray said...

    Every tyrant needs his stooges, Anon.