Controlling and devaluing voices

Written by Submitted

Polls are seldom reliable in predicting elections but they can serve as a snapshot of a nation’s mood.
In a nation-wide poll conducted by Ipsos-Reid between March 28 and April 3, 2013, Justin Trudeau scored 10 percentage points ahead of Stephen Harper and NDP leader, Tom Mulcair for qualities of trustworthiness, ethics, values, political vision and the world stage.
Now the poll results could be interpreted that the Liberals under Justin Trudeau will gain ground in the next election. Or more likely, it could be interpreted as a chastisement of the current Prime Minister for not delivering on his promises of accountability, openness, honesty and transparency.
When first elected, Harper delivered quickly on his accountability and transparency promises.  He established an independent Parliamentary Budget Officer and appointed highly respected Kevin Page as its head.
Page’s work was stellar. He exposed the real long-term costs of the F-35 purchases, the true costs of the Afghanistan war now and later, and the long-term financial consequences of many of the “tough on crime” legislative proposals.
It was exactly what Canadians voted for.  It gave politicians three sources of input before making catastrophic financial decisions—the bureaucrats/military (the users), the manufacturers (the suppliers) and an independent body representing taxpayers (the financers).
Yet Kevin Page was seen as a traitor of government, rather than a protector of the public purse.  His contract was not renewed and the role of the Parliamentary Budget Officer is now under review.
Trudeau, in his leadership campaign, said “if maintaining power is your only goal, then government oversight by independent bodies becomes very pesky”.
Canadians may like Harper’s economic plan. Yet many Canadians also want a Prime Minister who has the ability to balance the need for party discipline with MP grassroots representation.
Trudeau uses phrases such as “controlling, and de-valuing voices” and “the need for divergent voices to provide checks and balances and representation”.
It resonates with the public and particularly stands out with Harper’s recent move to deny his own backbenchers the right to ask questions reflecting constituency concerns.
Ironically, the Brian Mulroney Conservatives were dumped in favour of the grass-roots Reform-Alliance Party because that’s exactly what was ticking off Westerners—Prime Ministerial control.  Yet now we have a Western Prime Minister who has taken top-down, hyper-controlling management to a new level of paranoia.
The poll results likely don’t speak so much to Justin Trudeau’s appeal, but rather to Canadians desire for better leadership. Canadians are so done with MP’s and MLA’s who say one thing and do another.  They’re so tired of Senators, senior bureaucrats, government appointees to quasi-independent bodies, and elected officials cheating on their travel and expense forms.
If Justin Trudeau were elected there’s no guarantee he would be different.  In fact, if the past is a predictor of the future, he won’t.
But that hasn’t stopped Canadians from continuing to search for that Prime Minister who will prove our skepticism wrong.

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