Wednesday, October 21, 2009

All ridings are equal. Some ridings are more equal than others.

Ahh...the winter of 2005/2006. The Eskimos beat the Als in overtime to take the Grey Cup, Crash edged out Brokeback Mountain for Best Picture, and everyone was singing about their lovely lady humps. In Canada, a young reformer swept into power on a platform of transparency and accountability, promising to clean up government:

Addressing a gathering of party faithful in Ottawa Friday morning, Harper said his plan is aimed at a complete government makeover.

"This is about more than the specific sordid details of this specific scandal," he said to cheers. "It's about accountability."

In a speech outlining what amounts to his party's election campaign platform, Harper made clear his vision for the Prime Minister's Office.

"When I become prime minister I will undertake an unprecedented overhaul of the federal government," he said. "That is my commitment to you."

"Cleaning up government begins at the top," he added, accusing Prime Minister Paul Martin of deflecting blame whenever the taint of scandal touches him.

"Under Paul Martin's watch the waste and mismanagement and corruption has continued."

But Harper said things would change under his leadership, beginning with the introduction of a "Federal Accountability Act," as soon as the Conservatives form a government.

"We must clean up corruption and lift up the veils of secrecy that have allowed it to flourish," Harper said, promising to "replace the culture of entitlement with a culture of accountability."

So, how did that "culture of accountability" thing turn out?

Well, despite early evidence that the new boss looked a lot like the old boss, the hard cores were always able to find excuse.

Appointed Senators and floor crossers in Cabinet? Fine, fine, they said, he needs representation from Montreal and Vancouver. The in-and-out scandal? An Elections Canada witch hunt. A broken fixed elections date law? Well, it doesn't apply to minority governments, obviously. A flurry of Tory hacks sent to the Senate last December? The coalition made them do it. A second round of patronage this summer? Harper did it to bring about Senate reform - he's clever that way.

You can now add "partisan advertising with taxpayers dollars", "pork barrel politics, in the form of money to government-held ridings", and "a lack of transparency" to the list. And the Tories have stopped trying to find excuses - they now readily admit that Harper has converted to the religion he used to preach against. From Wherry:

“Here is what the Prime Minister said,” the Minister continued. “‘Listen. We are the government. I don’t see why we can’t try to get credit for what we do. I hope we do so. There is nothing to be ashamed in that.’ Do members know who said that? It was Prime Minister Jean Chrétien.”

The Conservatives behind Mr. Baird did not boo. They howled delightedly. Indeed, several stood to applaud.

So it was spoken and now so it is written in the record of Parliament, forever cast in proverbial stone. Nearly four years ago, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives came to power on one promise: that he and they were nothing like Jean Chrétien and his Liberals, that he and they were different, better. And here, nearly four years later, was John Baird, one of Mr. Harper’s most trusted ministers, wrapping himself in ideals of a man who represented everything the Prime Minister once despised, making Mr. Chrétien’s words his own.

So much for all that then.

Indeed. Given all the talk about pork-barrel politics, it's hard not to think of the final line of George Orwell's Animal Farm, about the reolutionaries who become the very thing they rose up against:

The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which."

Labels: , ,


  • Dan, this post is one of the reasons why you are consistently rated one of the best political bloggers on the web. Well done.

    By Anonymous Impressed, at 12:07 p.m.  

  • You're in Toronto now, perhaps you've found that elusive Recreation centre at the top of TD Tower? Or is it the roof at the outdoor rink at Toronto City Hall that needs repair?

    That George Smitherman, always allocating needed infrastructure money to Conservative ridings.

    If you want to follow the Liberal use and abuse of statistics story line, can you at least remind readers that Toronto didn't even want to follow the same process that every municipality across Ontario had to follow in applying for funds?

    By Blogger Paul, at 5:52 p.m.  

  • Paul, precisely which statistics have been "used and abused" by the Liberals? (and the Globe, Ottawa Citizen, Halifax Chronicle-Herald, etc.) Just curious...

    By Anonymous Baking Powder?, at 8:09 p.m.  

  • BP, to do a proper analysis one must examine secondary causes of bias. For example, we already know that the Conservatives do better in suburban and rural ridings than in the urban core.

    But how many recreation centres and rinks are under-maintained in those same suburban and rural areas, where the population density increases the cost of maintenance?

    So to say that more money is going to ridings where these facilities require maintenance does not necessarily reflect any political bias.

    Then, some media outlets have apparently combined First Nation funding with other infrastructure funding in order to create an appearance of favouritism.

    The results of the analysis are highly dependent on how the statistics are assembled: that much is clear from the analyses presented to date.

    By Blogger Paul, at 9:29 p.m.  

  • Only four comments on CG's best post probably ever? Jeez, where are all the partisan hacks who read this blog?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:23 a.m.  

  • Regardless of whether the charge of the Conservatives favouring Tory-held ridings is disproven or not, your over-all point is still valid and well-stated.

    Stephen Harper and the Tories said they would do things differently with regards to ethics, honesty, accountability (etc), and they very, very clearly have not.

    By Blogger Robert Vollman, at 10:30 a.m.  

  • Robert, the Liberals passed taxpayer cash to their friends in brown paper bags.

    Standing in front of a large cheque clearly showing where the money is going is very much doing things differently, despite a few minor flaws in the graphics being used on the props.

    By Blogger Paul, at 9:00 p.m.  

  • I would argue (I am seeking to explain Harper's behavior, not to forgive it) that Harper doesn't see himself having been elected on an accountability/reform platform at all.

    In 2004 Harper ran aggressively on the accountability issue. He would have spent a fortune on the auditor general, etc. His platform, insofar as it was emphasized, was not a quilt collection of grab-bags. Its centre-piece was a large income tax cut. Harper lost despite Adscam.

    In 2006 Adscam was less of an issue, and instead, Harper ran as a retail politician. Accountability was one of five "priorities" (six counting money for the provinces). Despite initially trailing badly in the polls, Harper swung things around dramatically.

    In office, Harper has periodically avoided flak for breaches of ethics. In-and-out, Cadmangate, David Emerson, breaking his own election law, emasculating his own oversight Czar, stacking the senate, etc.

    Harper has also, if anything, gained support for flip-flops away from Crusader/honest Harper. The income trust tax was generally supported in the press. The Quebec nation motion was also well-received as a masterstroke. The Afghanistan withdrawal date has largely removed the issue from public debate. Harper's best-yet poll numbers were obtained when he railed against a coalition he once considered putting together.

    When Harper has been ideologically consistent, he has largely been punished. The fiscal update was poorly received. Harper's response to Lebanon, outside of the inroads made into Jewish-Canadian ridings, flopped. Harper's environmental policy has also been a consistent source of weakness.

    What lesson has Harper drawn from his experiences? That Canadians would rather have a somewhat unethical flip-flopper as Prime Minister. Indeed, the less ethical Harper is, the less he looks like a right-wing ideologue. Oh, and the more he looks like most Canadian PM's. Perhaps the real question should be why Canadians like unethical leaders?

    There is no whore like an old whore.

    By Blogger french wedding cat, at 4:58 a.m.  

  • Paul that you can say that with a straight face speaks volumes about how low the country has fallen.

    Every time you speak Paul, an angel dies.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:28 a.m.  

  • In March 2006, Dwight Duncan was taking credit for saving Ontario:

    So Dwight, how's that workin' for ya?

    By Blogger Political Outsider, at 1:31 p.m.  

Post a Comment

<< Home