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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

You know it's getting bad when...

So it was during my morning scanning of the intertubes that I happened upon "What's the matter with Canada?", an article originally posted and shared so very kindly by Cherelle on her Facebook page.

If you ever needed a barometer to tell us that our country's on the wrong track, look no further. We now have Slate, an American magazine, publishing a pretty insightful article about, well, how 'mean' we've become as a country.

Yes, it's written by a Canadian - Christopher Flavelle was Stephane Dion's former speechwriter no less - but it's written with the intention of showing our world to an outsider, a quasi-interested 3rd party.

And it's that tone, that sense of drawing back the curtain for someone else that struck a chord with me.

"But beneath the calm exterior, Canada's political system is in turmoil. Since 2004, a succession of unstable minority governments has led to a constant campaign frenzy, brutalizing Canada's once-broad political consensus and producing a series of policies at odds with the country's socially liberal, fiscally conservative identity. Canada is quietly becoming a political basket case, and this latest election may make things even worse.

Just scan the headlines. In June, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development warned that Canada—for years the only G8 country to post regular budget surpluses—was likely to fall into deficit this year, thanks to a reckless cut to the national sales tax. In February, the government proposed denying funding to films and TV shows whose content it deemed "not in the public interest," sparking cries of censorship from a sector that has historically received public support. In 2007, a member of the governing Conservative Party proposed a bill that would reopen the debate over abortion, a topic that governments both liberal and conservative have avoided for decades."

Now the thing I find interesting - and this is something I hadn't considered - is that while Christopher put some of the 'blame' on the Conservative Party, he also put brought up another good point: The Conservatives are getting away with this kind of behaviour because the Liberal Party - the once-proud stronghold of Canadian politics is in utter shambles.

"But the Conservative Party wouldn't be in power, let alone willing to risk such divisive policies, were it not for the collapse of the country's most formidable political institution, the Liberal Party of Canada. The Liberals have been Canada's left-wing standard-bearers since the country's independence in 1867. And just as Canada's right-wing parties were coming together, the Liberal Party was coming apart.

In early 2004, Canada's auditor-general found that under the Liberal government, public funds intended to promote the federal government in the province of Quebec had been diverted toward advertising companies connected to the Liberal Party in the form of inflated payments. In response, the prime minister called a public inquiry, which only prolonged the controversy.

In the 2004 election, the Liberal government was reduced from a majority to a minority. Nineteen months later, it lost power entirely, and the party's leader resigned. The Liberals then embarked on a long, fractious leadership campaign—leaving the party exhausted and broke, and tempting the governing Conservatives to introduce ever more draconian policies with little fear of the consequences."

And there it is. Like that bolt from the blue.

As our political parties were left scrambling for scraps in the power vacuum left in the Liberal Party's wake, the path was opened, the way made clear for the Conservatives to claw their way through the morass and rise to the top.

It all makes sense.

But now that we know how they got here, now that we know how the Conservatives came into power (let alone what they've been working towards with the limited amount we allowed them) .

I ask you this, as election day draws near: what can we do about it?


EDIT: I also want to point you to some very interesting views that I found in the comments section of this article. Some of them get pretty technical and go a bit over my head, but - from both sides - there's an interesting take.

Here are a few:

"A cursory glance at Canada's plight leads me to believe that it has fallen to the same global movement that has impacted much of the world:" (Continue)

"I cannot believe the obtuseness of this piece..." (Continue)

"Only in a country as skewed to the far right as the USA would the Liberals be considered on the Left of the political spectrum." (Continue)

"Actually, it's doing very well. The current minority government could well be headed for a majority; most folks are relatively pleased with the performance of the Conservative Party, as well as its leader, Stephen Harper." (Continue)

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