Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Triumph Of Naked Ambition


Eve Adams' floor crossing was the latest example of what has become a plague. Politicians used to claim they believed in public service. Now all pretense has been swept aside. Naked ambition is out of the closet. Perhaps the ascent of Stephen Harper has given all politicians the temerity to trumpet their conviction that they stand -- first and foremost -- for themselves.

Consider the transformation of Mr. Harper. Tom Walkom writes:

Stephen Harper used to trumpet his government’s handling of the economy.
In those days, the prime minister portrayed himself as Professor Harper, the bespectacled, cardigan-wearing economist under whose wise leadership Canada avoided the worst of the global recession.

Today, the professor has been replaced by Stephen Harper, Warrior Prince.
The spectacles are gone. The gaze is steely, the rhetoric muscular.

A change in circumstances requires a change of costume and a change of role. And the prime minister walks away from the mess he helped create:

Going into a meeting of G-20 finance ministers this week in Istanbul, International Monetary Fund director Christine Lagarde called for concerted international action to stimulate growth, particularly on the part of advanced nations.

In a note to the summit, the IMF asked countries with strong fiscal positions (like Canada) to delay balancing their budgets in order to spend more on infrastructure.

In Europe, a political backlash against austerity is playing havoc with the elite consensus that for decades has ruled the continent.

The election of a serious left-wing government in Greece has once again put the euro, a common currency of 19 European nations, at risk. In France, the far-right National Front continues to make political gains.

Here in Canada, the collapse of oil prices has savaged the petroleum producing provinces. Alberta’s economy is taking a beating. Newfoundland is expected to go into recession.

It's all vintage Harper. Never take responsibility for your mistakes and never apologize. Just look for an out -- and take it, as fast as you can. That's naked ambition.


The Mound of Sound said...

Public service in Canada ended with the election of Stephen Harper. The progress that Martin had made - the Kelowna Accords, the Responsibility to Protect initiative, all that was swept aside.

The clear sign that a Harper government would not trouble itself with public service came early on when he gagged the civil service and then the armed forces, cutting off any notion of free access to them by the Canadian public.

The complacency of our journalists to this was a betrayal of the Canadian people because, by this one act, Harper transformed it all - the public service, the armed forces, the RCMP - into his personal, partisan agencies.

We grouse about it every now and then but usually half-heartedly at best. Our media have gotten quite comfortable with it, almost Pavlovian in their now embedded acceptance.

There can be no notion of public service in a government deliberately severed from the public.

mogs moglio said...

Naked ambition? The would be Emperor of Canada has no clothes. And Canada really no longer exists...

Owen Gray said...

The Canada you and I grew up in is on life support, Mogs. Whether it survives or not depends on the next election.

Owen Gray said...

Harper has always viewed the public as an unfortunate impediment to life in general, Mound.

And he's been quite successful is his quest to reduce its influence.

Anonymous said...

Godwin's Law

"As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1"

I expect better from you Mr. Gray.

Owen Gray said...

Did you see any mention of Hitler, eugenics, the Halocaust, Anon? Large numbers of people can be the victims of political ambition.

When that happens, you start down the road to tyranny. Those truly devoted to public service will temper their ambition.

rww said...

Yes that picture at the top was just random and had nothing to do with your post.

Owen Gray said...

Dictators come in several varieties, rww. And they have had several different names -- Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Pinochet.

If you get hung up on names, you miss the broader point. Dictatorship is rule by one man.

Hugh said...

Going deeper into debt as a way to stimulate growth is the wrong approach. Like pushing on a string. There is no more growth. Earth can't take it.

Owen Gray said...

E.F. Schumacher suggested a generation ago that economies should be organized around the principle of "Small is Beautiful", Hugh.

He wrote a book with that title. And time has proved him right.