24 March 2011

Bring on the Ballot Box!

It seems that the Harper Government will fall on Friday, 25 March in the afternoon. There will be a motion of non-confidence put forward by the official opposition related to the finding of the government’s being in contempt of Parliament and the vote is supposed to take place at 1:30 pm. I, for one, will try to catch this streaming on CPAC or on CBC.

Now, I have never voted for the Conservative Party or for any of its predecessors, but I want to take a moment to share my perspective on why I think others should avoid them, without necessarily recommending any of the other parties, all of which seem to have their own shortcomings. A little list, then, of terrible things that this government has done that need to be undone.

The In and Out scheme. According to the last court decision, currently under appeal, the party illegally transferred money to the campaigns of certain candidates who were not going to reach their expense limits in order to have those candidates re-contribute the money for ads that were part of the national campaign, which had already reached the limit. This way, the candidates got bigger refunds of their (inflated) expenses and the national campaign got to overspend. One candidate considered the scheme so suspect that he refused to participate. As a voter who expects the rules to be respected and a taxpayer who doesn’t care to subsidize (through refunds of campaign expenses) schemes that skirt around the rules, I feel like I’ve been subjected to a little of the “in-out, in-out” and I’m not feeling like having a cigarette.

Ideologically-based decisions on matters that shouldn’t be politicized. From the cancellation of the prison tattoo program (evaluated as a success in terms of disease prevention and skill development) to the persistent attempts to close down the supervised injection site (that they do no pay for) to a broad rejection of proven harm reduction techniques, this government has ignored evidence to make the decisions they want to make. Worse, they have cowed their own staff and those seeking funding into avoiding key words they know will get them fired or defunded, and that is not supposed to be the way our professional public service works.

Blaming others for the decisions they have made. We saw it with the decision to make the long form census optional (and render it statistically irrelevant, because why would you want good information for your decisions?), when the minister responsible tried to claim that the Chief Statistician at Statistics Canada had recommended the move. The professional resigned. We saw it more recently when a minister had “someone” insert the handwritten word “not” in a sentence that would otherwise have accorded a renewal of funding to a group that is well-respected in the world, and then claimed she didn’t know who had written in the word. A junior staffer took the fall for that. You’re entitled to make your bad decisions as a government, but you should be brave enough to take responsibility for them.
Spending billions of dollars on major projects while not disclosing the whole cost. Not even to Parliament, which actually has a right and obligation to receive such information. In this category, we have the fighter jets, coming in at three times their announced cost and not even subjected to a bidding process (we call this sound fiscal management?), and plans to build prisons for supposedly “unreported” crimes, because I guess we are going to start imprisoning unconvicted felons…or will people be so inspired by the existence of new prisons that are costing them more than disclosed that they will start reporting the crimes of which they are victims? Referring back to our second point, I might add that a few calls to an office do not constitute proof of the level of “unreported” crimes.

So Friday we are set to make history, with the first instance of a sitting government being declared in contempt of Parliament anywhere in the entire Commonwealth. I can only naively hope that some other voters in this country will consider these items and others that I haven’t enumerated here to make a decision based on the evidence, something this government doesn’t seem to like to do.

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