Listen Up! Obviously, Trudeau has not delivered the reformed parliamentary system he promised

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Hugh Mackenzie
Huntsville Doppler

How much has the SNC-Lavalin scandal really changed the political landscape in Canada? I am not sure it really has that much. In fact, I am coming to the conclusion that it has shown that there has actually been no change. All it has really accomplished is to open the kimono and show that the same old practises and procedures are in place; that you do as you are told, that you don’t question power and you stay in line or you lose your place in line.

In fact, it is even tougher discipline here than it is in Britain from whence our democratic process evolved. Over there, a Cabinet Minister resigns when he or she disagrees with government policy, but they remain in Caucus as do backbenchers who vote against their Party. In Canada, you get booted all the way out. Backbenchers here, are not much more than trained seals. Their influence is highly controlled and rarely important except when it comes time to vote and then they are told how to vote. They are given little jobs to do, to make them feel useful and happy, and if they do them well, sometimes they get rewarded. There is no such thing as free speech in Parliament, or for that matter in Provincial legislatures. That may not be pleasant to hear, but it is a fact of political life. Not cynicism; reality.

The real failure of the Trudeau government was their promise that all this was going to change. Parliamentarians would have more influence, Cabinet Ministers would actually run their departments, the Senate would become independent and women would have equal power with men, to mention just a few of their promised reforms.

The Liberal Party recruited candidates with this mantra. You did not have to be particularly partisan. You were told you could speak your mind and be your own person. You were encouraged to speak truth to power and to stand up for what you believe in. Sunny ways indeed. The reality is that after nearly four years, it never really happened.

Trudeau’s first Cabinet may have been gender- neutral but the majority of power positions went to men. The so-called Independent Senate is a joke. Every “independent” Senator was appointed by a Liberal and when they vote, they support the Liberals 95 per cent of the time. That was not Senate reform, that was Senate takeover. Cabinet Ministers’ discretion was only respected when it was in sync with the PMO and backbenchers only read from briefing notes, carefully prepared by their masters. The backroom boys and girls in the PMO are just as strong and brutal and dictatorial as any of their predecessors. They wield far more power than their elected counterparts.

Unfortunately for the Liberal Party, some of their new members, albeit just a few of them, but ones who were considered “star recruits”, actually believed the Prime Minister when he said things would change and when they didn’t, they stood up to him. They did not always drink the Party Cool Aid and when it came to matters of principle or the rule of law, they did not play along to get along. That, my friends, is when the egg cracked wide open.

The system was exposed. Nothing had really changed. The Prime Minister was caught flat-footed for boasting about change that really never happened.  His self-declared feminism was brought into serious question. He wanted these women who spoke out, to think and act like the good old boys. They didn’t. As well, his insistence that his Government was doing things differently; more transparently, more honestly and more inclusively, bit the dust and bit it hard.

That to me, is the real tragedy of the SNC-Lavalin scandal. The scandal itself will be resolved one way or another, hopefully by the Courts and not by political interference. In our system, it is not for Government to decide who should be put on trial. But it will be resolved, and we will move on. One year from now SNC-Lavalin will just be another entry on a list of government scandals that have occurred over the course of history.

The bigger issue to me is that through this process, because two strong and principled women stood up to power, we have been exposed to how government and how parliament really works in this country and it is not a pretty picture. This is something that should not go away and should not be a footnote in history.

There is an election coming.  It is time for a hard discussion about how to make our Parliament and our Government really work for the well-being of all Canadians. When dealing with the really important issues, issues like climate change, which only a fool would deny, issues that make SNC-Lavalin pale by comparison, we need a system that puts principles above special interests and effective solutions above partisan politics. We don’t have that now and until we take a serious look at reforming how Parliament works, we won’t.

That’s the way I see it anyway.

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6 Comments

  1. “To anger a conservative, lie to him. To anger a liberal, tell him the truth.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

  2. Jim Logagianes on

    Thanks Hugh . When every Legislature in the Country blocks transparency instead of engaging in meaningful dialogue we should all be concerned. And now our Prime Minister is threatening to sue the leader of the opposition for holding the Government accountable. Even though he repeated the same question over and over during question period. Our Prime Minister did everything but answer the question with a simple yes or no. What if we had a law that made it illegal to lie when being questioned in any Federal or Provincial Legislature, similar to a court proceeding. We have allowed our elected officials to make a mockery out of our Legislative Assemblies. Try watching question period on TV, and you will realize very quickly that are Legislatures no longer engage in any meaningful dialogue. What kind of future will we have if this type of behaviour is allowed to go unchallenged.

  3. Does it really matter who we vote in to power.
    They are all cut from the same fabric and once elected they
    represent themselves and the party not the people.
    Yet our MP’s have the gull to ask us to believe other forms
    of governments are so much worse. Look in the mirror Mr. Trudeau.

  4. Hugh Holland on

    Indeed, democracy is not perfect. As Churchill said, “Democracy is the worst system in the world, except compared to anything else”. Democracy is hard. That is why in their 2018 detailed Democracy Index rankings, the respected Economist Magazine Intelligence Unit ranks only 20 countries as “Full Democracies” and Canada is ranked as #6. The other 180 countries (including the USA at #25) are ranked as “Flawed Democracies” or autocracies.

    Norway is ranked #1. Canada and Norway both rank at 9.64 for the functioning of government. The biggest difference between Canada and Norway is political participation where Norway ranks 10 and Canada ranks 7.78. That allows Norway to have a very clear picture of where voters want to go, and that is important because politicians can’t get too far ahead of the voters.

    We should not let any individual issue cloud the bigger overall picture. We should be proud of the fact that for years and through governments of both stripes, Canada has ranked among the top 10 in almost every international comparison. It’s hard to be perfect at everything, so as Hugh says, we should place top priority on the biggest game-changing issue currently facing Canada and the world, and right now that is climate change, with all of its human and economic ramifications.

  5. It was obvious that we elected the wrong government when the 1st order of the day was to invoke discrimination and assign a cabinet quota of 50% per gender. Feminism is defined as the advocacy of equal rights for both genders. This being the case, to assign positions based on gender and not experience and merit is discrimination against which ever gender did not get the job due to the quota. So perhaps, cabinet could have been 60% woman as an example but 10% of them now don’t have those positions because less qualified men took the positions through the quota system. I wonder how those woman who have been overlooked through quota now feel? Equally, the case can be made in reverse for men since feminism is not defined as advocating for the rights of woman, but for the rights of both genders. Is it any wonder than a government that discriminates within its own ranks, does not see an issue with political interference in prosecutorial matters.

  6. I HAVE LOST ALL INTEREST IN THE LIBERAL PARTY FOR SURE, WE NEED AS A COUNTRY TO

    KNOW THE TRUTH AND IT HAS NOT BEEN PROPERLY SAID.

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