Why Aren’t Canadian Politicians Talking About What’s Real?

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:


Take Action:

Complete Lead Now’s Online Values Survey at LeadNow.ca

Support Elizabeth May’s right to participate in the leaders’ debate: Demand Democratic Debate

More links:

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

0 thoughts on “Why Aren’t Canadian Politicians Talking About What’s Real?”

  1. Terrific post Christine! You covered all the bases, as per usual! I’m frustrated by the “whistlin’ by the graveyard” attitude in this election too.

    I’ve added a link to your post on my latest post about the nuclear water lapping out our shores.


  2. I really like what LeadNow.ca is trying to do, and how they are trying to bring the power of the people back into the game.

    It is amazing how the election can focus so much on non-issues, when the real issues remain ignored. Frustrating!

    I plan on writing to my Conservative candidate, asking some pointed questions about the oil sands, pollution and climate change. My riding has the ONLY non-Con in Alberta – NDP Linda Duncan, who is a environmental defender!! The Conservatives are pouring money into our riding, trying to get it back. We will see what happens!

  3. Both of you live in interesting ridings – Sherry, Linda Duncan will need all the help she can get, as I believe that it was a close win for her last time. Good luck to both you and Linda! And Franke, you’re in Toronto where the Cons are really hoping to make gains (although I’m hoping the legacy of the G20 fiasco will haunt them). I’d be interested to hear your take on how the election is going from both of your perspectives any time in the next 6 weeks!

    • Excellent! Good luck on the hustings, Alan. Somewhere I saw a link to somebody who was tweeting LIKE JOHN BAIRD TALKS – SHOUTING ALL THE TIME. It was a great parody on Baird – if you’re interested, I can try and post it so you can follow him.

  4. A cute little video.
    The hot tub, of course, is one of those superfluous energy-guzzling business-as-usual items which we should be eliminating from our lifestyle.

      • at one point we had a wood-fired hot tub…

        But that has been abandoned in favour of convenience, right?
        In some ways, this little point gets right to the nub of the matter. In the developed world, we like our conveniences and indulgences, and have become so used to them we think we need them, or have the right to them, having “earned” them.

        Time was, when hot baths were a community facility, which is a little better. Ditto for swimming pools, say. Community facilities are no longer convenient enough, we want our personal versions – at considerably raised levels of consumption for manufacturing, distribution, and resource consumption (water and energy in the case of these items).

        PS – I do like your blog, and will be visiting frequently!

        • Hi Keen – thanks for dropping by!
          I have to correct you about why we no longer have the hot tub – actually, we moved and we never purchased another. In some ways, a wood-fired tub is actually more convenient than a standard hot tub with regard to regular maintenance. And we haven’t ever had owned another (standard or wood-fired), although we have definitely considered it.
          And my husband has experienced communal bathing facilities in Japan, so I understand your point.
          You’re right, our society has become accustomed to conveniences. But the truth is, our happiness quota is not very high – it certainly hasn’t gone up with our increased level of consuming. And the things that we need to do to respond to this crisis we are in are, as it turns out, things that foster community and improve our overall health and wellbeing. Things like walking and biking more, and growing our own food while at the same time eating less processed food, etc. The only thing that will be less healthy will be the wallets of Big Oil and Gas. So that’s something we can get excited about, and we can share that vision with others.

  5. Vote Compass (2011)

    I am fifty-nine (59), a CNC manufacturing engineer, now unemployed for two (x2) years, living off my life savings.
    I completed the full in depth questionnaire.
    There are questions about “other’ government sectors, I would not have even thought of.
    This is a real eye opener.
    Try it for yourself.

    Sorry to say, but with Canada having over twenty-five (x25) different political parties, I prefer the U.S. way.
    – Democrats (Left & Right).
    – Republicans (Left & Right).
    – Independents (Left & Right).

    Vote Compass (2011)
    After I completed this questionnaire, I discovered some real eye opening facts.

    Canada: Democrats (Left & Right).
    = Green Party
    = New Democratic Party
    = Liberal Party

    Canada: Republicans (Right Wing).
    = Progressive Conservatives

  6. I think Vote Compass is a great tool, thanks for reposting the link on my blog.

    But, just a reminder Ed, there are no more “progressive” conservatives – we’re left with Harper’s Conservatives. Nothing progressive about them, including their name.

  7. There are many “shocking” questions on ” Vote Compass ” that made me feel like I was doing a U.S. comparison between the Democrats and Republicans.

    Choosing answers on ” Vote Compass ” leaning towards –> (Socialism, Health Care, Lower Defense Costs), the compass arrow points to the NDP and Liberal Party’s.

    Choosing answers on ” Vote Compass ” leaning towards –> (Capitalism, No Health Care Changes, Much Higher Defense Costs), the compass arrow points “only” to the Progressive Conservatives.

    Can I be invited to Steven Harper’s campaign public meeting, sitting on comfy couches, drinking tea ? (Tea Party – Pun)

    What is your choice ? A Steven Harper Government or a Canadian Government ?

    I have renamed the Progressive Conservative Party to the –> “Private Corporate Party “.

  8. You’re right, Ed, there’s a lot of unhappy former progressive conservatives out there . Harper has, as you point out, pushed the Conservative party much further to the right, aligned with the teapartiers (and all their nastiness). You might enjoy Emily Dee’s blog – she’s a former PC voter, who now writes about Canadian politics on her blog, Pushed to the Left: http://pushedleft.blogspot.com/



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