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Honesty: A Dream in any Colour

05-Jan-07 08:42 pm EDT Leave a comment Go to comments

Ya know, the more things change – the more they stay the same.  Not just a cliché; I think it’s emblazoned on the Conservative Party’s logo somewhere.  Or it oughtta be.

Back in the good ‘ol days when real Conservatives were Reformers and Reformers made bigoted remarks that embarrassed the party, at least they could cling onto one undeniable, defining reality: that there was room for honesty and candor in political debate.  Admittedly, even me with my obvious Liberal leanings, have to admit, there was something sexy about that idealism.  After all, I’m an idealist too – even if my politics are decidedly left of the Conservative Party’s own placement on the political spectrum.  I even agreed with some of the right-wing beliefs; a belief in a strong military, the rule of law in our society, and in candid (although unbigoted) public discourse.  But I also realized that, in politics, at some point, one has to appeal to a large enough slice of the population to get elected.  And declining to live in Stornaway as leader of the opposition is way too superficial and short-term a gesture to express a meaningful difference in convictions between the "old" party politics and what the, then, Reform party was claiming as their way.

After all, there was a reason the old Progressive Conservatives and Liberals behaved the way they did – and it stunk to high heavens of naiveté to suggest it was as easy as mixing up where the shadow-cabinet sat in the House of Commons.  And yet there were so darned many Conservatives that thought otherwise – enough to split the right-leaning vote in this country for 12 long years, virtually handing the Liberals back-to-back-to-back election majorities.

And then, finally, it seemed that the Alliance/Conservative party started to get it.  There would be a difference in approach, but a practical one – one grounded in the realities of the Canadian parliamentary system.  Finally, front-benchers would be front-benchers again.  Stornaway would no longer go unoccupied.  And the pitch would be redirected away from superficial gestures to enforcement of party discipline in defense of the goal of implementing the core philosophies and politics of the party.  And, above all, faith in the mantra "honesty", "honesty", "honesty"!

But it’s here that our little history takes a turn for the worse.  Because, once the move into 24 Sussex finally came, the previously pristine reputation of the young party got tainted by scandals of its own.  The David Emerson defection.  The charges of spending irregularities during the election (on the heels of criticism of Liberal election spending practices.)  And now, the defection of Ontario MP Wajid Khan.

Link to Ontario MP Khan leaves Liberals to join Tories

Is the defection itself so terrible?  No, not really.  I’ve recently been reminded that no good is done by staying where one doesn’t belong – and clearly, Khan didn’t belong in the Liberal party.  There is, yes, always a distaste with turncoats in any party.  I’ve never been fond of ’em myself, because it can be a symptom (not always) of dubious convictions or an opportunistic personality.  But what bugs me most about this defection, as with those before it, is how loudly the Conservatives will crow when one of their own defects to the Liberals – about how such people are betraying this ideal or that.  But not when a Liberal defects to them.  After all, Liberals don’t have ideals….do they?

So hypocrisy is more distasteful for me than treachery, but only because to be a hypocrite, one must already have betrayed principles they purported to have in the first place.  And either one lies about whether they had them, or is opportunistic – following principles only when they’re convenient or don’t interfere with the "higher" goal of increasing one’s own power or wealth.

I’d like to think that’s why the Conservatives won’t stay in power for more than 1 term too.  Yes, it was important to penalize the Liberals for their own betrayals – and that’s happened.  Now the Conservatives are accumulating their own baggage in office – less and less the idealistic party of Preston Manning.  This, coupled with the fact many more of their beliefs are inconsistent with traditional Canadian values and my own, it’s time to start looking at what the Liberals have to offer once again.  Because the Conservatives, in the end, have proven that, regardless of conviction, political parties ultimately succumb to the realities they operate in and that no party is more honest, nor more loyal than the other.  (Not even the Bloc Québecois – but that’s another story.)

Some might think I’m being too cynical here; painting a dark picture about the all-corrupting nature of Canada’s politics.  But it’s not all-dark, because I believe there are plenty of idealists & good people of character on Parliament Hill.  The message here should be to Conservatives: get your head out of the sand & stop thinking the only devils among us are card-carrying Liberals.

If Conservatives are the better party, they’re going to have to suggest their superiority lies not in how honest they are because the devils in their midst will gradually, eventually become known.


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