Here in Canada, we were plunged into a long-overdue (IMHO) election last week when the Harper Conservative government was found to be in Contempt of Parliament for not providing the elected Members of Parliament with the necessary information on the cost of the purchase of F-35 fighter jets as well as the cost of its proposed crime bills. The Harper government expected MPs to approve spending taxpayer’s money on these Conservative initiatives without having all the facts. It turns out this is against parliamentary law. The Harper Conservatives were also facing an election fraud scandal, and a second contempt motion because of International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda’s
“misleading” statements to the House of Parliament about how the cancellation of funding to KAIROS, a Christian aid organization, came about.
What those findings should tell Canadians about our current Prime Minister and his
minions MPs is that they flaunt the rules of our parliamentary institutions, fail to disclose the information necessary for our elected representatives to make informed decisions, and (per Minister Oda) play fast and loose with the truth. They are not team players. For the last three years, the Conservatives have been allowed to run a minority parliament as if they have a majority. Less than 40 % of Canadians voted for the Harper Cons, and yet they have made decision after decision without consulting any of the other parties who represent the majority of Canadians. Why the opposition parties have let them get away with it is another blog posting altogether.
In the meantime, Harper has tried to paint a possible coalition or alliance of Liberals/NDP/Bloc parties as a big scarey bogeyman. However, this strategy might be blowing up in his cold, unfeeling face, as both the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois have reminded Mr. Harper of his courting of them in 2004 to form a coalition as an alternative to Paul Martin’s minority government.
In the meantime, Murray Dobbin, over at The Tyee.ca, asks the question that all Canadians should be asking “Why Can’t Politicians Talk About What is Real?”
In trying to anticipate what a federal election campaign will look like — and it seems increasingly likely that we will be unable to avoid one – it is striking that the biggest issues facing humankind are not even on the radar, yet alone being framed as planks in any party’s campaign platform.
This amounts to whistling past the graveyard with potentially fatal consequences. In our conventional political universe we are talking about jet fighters, corporate tax cuts, growing the economy and abolishing the Senate — and if we are lucky some mention of climate change, poverty and the dire financial straits of seniors.
But the other universe is virtually invisible despite the fact that it is very real and well known. That parallel road that no one in authority wants to acknowledge is one which is taking us over a cliff. That universe tells us that we are rapidly reaching the planet’s limits to growth, that we are well past the start of a global fresh water crisis, that we have already reached peak oil, that climate change will have ever-increasing planet-changing impacts and that rapidly rising food prices will lead to mass starvation in the developing world.
Mr. Dobbin concludes that there has been a successful effort by corporations and the political right to frame every political debate around the economy. The question “is it good for the economy?” trumps any other consideration these days. As Dobbin points out:
Canadian bureaucrats at international meetings no longer refer to Canada and other nations as countries. They refer to them as “economies.” It is a fundamental change in language that has infected our governing institutions and helped justify the now constricted economic role of governments: they just need to get out of the way of business through deregulation, privatization and tax cuts.
Prime Minister Harper showed Canadians how true this is for him by his comment, leading up to the G8/G20 meetings last year, that the economy trumps everything, “all the rest is noise”. Dobbin, and others, question this slavish devotion to the economy as if it is unconnected to anything else. Lord Nicholas Stern, former Chief Economist at the World Bank and author of a report on climate change and economics for the British government, recently stated that the current view that separates the economy and the environment is “a basic analytical and intellectual mistake.” Dobbin concludes that:
Until we reverse this heightened status of the economy as a separate entity, which can act with impunity against the interests of every other institution, including democracy, that parallel universe of the really critical issues we face will be almost impossible to engage. Climate change, environmental degradation, unfettered and unregulated growth, the obscene gap between rich and poor — these are all now the purview of “the economy.”
Until we take control of it, these issues will remain beyond our grasp to change.
Mr. Harper’s thinking on both the economy and coalition governments is fundamentally flawed. For more of Harper’s record on climate change, check out Climate Action Network Canada’s summary. And check out this Lead Now video, a tribute to the time when Canadian politicians were willing to cooperate for the good of all Canadians:
Complete Lead Now’s Online Values Survey at LeadNow.ca
Support Elizabeth May’s right to participate in the leaders’ debate: Demand Democratic Debate
The Government of Canada’s record on climate change (2006 – present)
What Can’t Politicians Talk About What Is Real?
In Contempt of Parliament and the Harper Government