I admire politicians who are respectful, honest and principled. Perhaps that is what I find so fascinating about the Brent Rathgeber affair. But for someone as principled and articulate as Rathgeber, I am surprised he never spoke directly to the Prime Minister on the night he decided to leave the caucus.
For a long time, it seemed Stephen Harper and the Conservative government were made of Teflon. Defying predictions that he would be too right-wing to ever become prime minister, Harper won a minority government in 2006. However, in recent weeks and months, something has changed; Harper's Conservatives suddenly seem less invincible.
The Conservative caucus must be stunned at this on-going drama that unfolds day after day. In both the Penashue case and the recent Senate revelations the public is left with the impression that the Prime Minister is protecting individuals who have done something wrong. The public quite rightly should be asking "why?"
Fiscal responsibility has been the hallmark of the Harper government from day one. It's therefore quite interesting to see in year seven of his reign that the opposition is focused on trying to destroy the credibility the Tories have on that front. It's a good strategy on their part, enabled by some help from the government side.
Stephen Harper is not interested in root causes or academic debates. When Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau suggested in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings that acts of terrorism are best seen in the context of their social causes, Harper swiftly rejected the idea which points beyond anti-terrorism legislation and partisan spats to the deeper roots of Conservative strategy.
Ten percenters are sent out through the House of Commons (i.e.: using taxpayer's dollars) and they are a mail out that is designed to allow an MP to communicate a few times a year with a mass mailing to 10 per cent of their constituents. In this day and age of technology and multimedia communications do we even need ten percenters?
The arrest by the RCMP of two individuals who were allegedly planning out a terrorist attack on a VIA Rail train will only heighten our level of anxiety as the scare hits closer to home. Reintroducing these provisions seems nothing more than an attempt by the Conservative government to further prove its 'tough on terror' credentials. But when our laws appear to be working -- results of brave and successful law enforcement operations -- attempting to play on our fears by using emotion over reason does not do justice to the seriousness this discussion this requires.
Whether or not to allow more free votes in the House is an option to consider. This allows an MP more freedom to represent their constituents on key issues and gives them some freedom when moral issues such as abortion or capital punishment are raised. Why not let government MPs stand and be recognized to ask one of their own ministers a question? If Parliament is to be relevant, it must change.
The federal minister of Finances, Mr. Jim Flaherty, made public comments and exerted pressures for Manulife Bank to withdraw its offer for a five-year-fixed mortgage rate of 2.89 per cent. NPD leader Thomas Mulcair accused Mr. Flaherty of using his position of power inappropriately. I couldn't have said it better myself.
My congratulations to Justin Trudeau. My condolences to the Liberal Party of Canada. With Marc Garneau's recent withdrawal from the race for the party leadership, the "battle" is all but won. Marc Garneau offered a glimmer of hope for the optimists amongst us who wished to see a Liberal who might give the Conservatives a run for their money in 2015.
Finally the NDP is making Question Period interesting to watch. And they have the Conservatives to thank for handing them the issues and the ammunition. I am speaking about NDP attacks on the Senate and the financial questions. It is often said that governments defeat themselves and it is issues like these that accumulate over time and eventually ruin your brand.
Political parties over the years have promised more freedom for MPs, more free votes etc., but little comes of it. All too often deviance from the party line by an MP becomes a media story and it plays as an embarrassment of the respective leader. It is no wonder then that party leaders react so strongly when this happens.
If voters sit down and scrutinize the political and economic policy proposals put forth by each party in 2012, it becomes apparent that it is nearly impossible to tell where one party stops and another begins. So unless you sit slightly to the right -- in which case every party embodies your politics -- the next time a canvasser, pollster, government official, or public figure asks, "which political party do you support?" consider responding "none of them." Can you really be considered apathetic?
How can we create a workplace environment that encourages public servants to do the best job possible, while celebrating the very finest among them? Make government jobs opwn to everyone -- not just those already on the public sector payroll. And put an end to compulsory union membership and mandatory dues.
Mulcair has made his party and himself invisible while moving his party so far to the right in the blind pursuit of power and it is becoming impossible to distinguish it from the Harper Conservatives. I bet Jack Layton would have been disappointed. For the late beloved leader, he would have settled for continuing to be the "Conscience of the House" rather than sell the soul of the party via a short cut to power.
The management of public finances may not have received due attention from the premiers in Halifax. But as our federal and provincial political leaders gear up for next year's budget season, they would be wise to acknowledge the seriousness of growing government debt and put forth bold plans to balance their budgets. Kicking the debt down the road simply isn't an option.