05/02/2012 03:03 EDT | Updated 07/02/2012 05:12 EDT

Canadian Politicians: Lie First, Apologize Later


Calls for resignation are one of our democracy's favourite proxies for taking action.

Whenever there's been a screw-up, lack of accountability, bloated personal expense account, or big fat lie, someone's head on a platter is requested. Of recent note -- Ministers Bev Oda and Peter Mackay

In the end, the resignation is often ours. Lies and miscalculations rule the day and we don't seem too bothered. Since they seem to work, politicians scatter them liberally. Candidates spew promises they have no intention or clue how to keep. We are repeatedly shocked to see them broken.

Are they lying to our faces? Not always, but earnest self-delusion or naiveté also qualify as falsehood. Politicians count on us being too busy watching So You think You Can Dance, or American Idol to express more than non-stick disgruntlement and indignation, before turning back to the TV. They depend on historical loyalty and our fear of change.

Do we simply trust they won't do too much damage? Or not raise a stink because we're not the ones who stand to lose? At what point will being duped force us to sit up and take action?

Federal government cuts will leave Statistics Canada, and policy makers impotent. Who needs data, facts, or expertise to make hundreds of billions worth of decisions? In the interest of saving money the government is permitted to go with its gut. Did Peter Mackay's gut generate the $9 billion dollar underestimate for the F35 fighter jets that he now admits he knew back then would cost closer to $25 billion?

It's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. Oh yeah, and they rarely ask for forgiveness.

The research, analysis and planning required for true fiscal responsibility is somewhat antithetical to four-year political terms, and it can too easily be labeled superfluous to the real work of government -- an ever-shifting terrain. Fiscal responsibility is now synonymous with less spending rather than smart spending. The lies are neatly tucked-in under the rhetoric of responsible government.

Some of the greatest lies going are climate change lies. Meteorological data point unequivocally to dramatic change. Yet GOP candidates and like-minded Canadians -- Wildrose leader Danielle Smith, or Stephen Harper -- range from arguing a hoax, to plowing forward with pipeline plans and emergency oil spill office closures, to turning the other cheek to the environment, all the while waving the jobs-and-prosperity flag. The fossil fuel industry pays for denial and their pet political parties protect the current system of power, wealth and political influence.

But what of progressives who believe that global warming is a true threat? It's harder to overhaul behaviour than to continue on our current path with the odd green light bulb, compost heap or hybrid car.

Our reliable indifference lets politicians overlook hard evidence, and make stuff up. Harper brings in mandatory minimum sentences for drugs then announces at the recent Cartagena summit that everyone knows the current approach to the war on drugs is not working. But it is unclear what we should do. So why did he go ahead and do it?

Funding was cut to Lifeline -- an award-winning program which successfully keeps prisoners out of trouble in prison, and reduces their likelihood to re-offend.

We are then expected to believe, as Rob Sampson told us a few weeks back, that Harper will invest in education and training to get prisoners meaningful jobs once they are released. Happy to be proven wrong. But my guess -- it's not going to happen.

As children we are raised not to lie, and are punished for it when we do. But we let our leaders do it every day with impunity and reward them by inviting them back to do it again. Who's the fool?