Following a week long break and a rather hectic schedule of events back in the home riding, I’ve just arrived back in Ottawa in preparation for another three weeks of “rock-em, sock-em” politics. For me, it doesn’t hold much relish.
But others clearly love it and this can only be bad news for what’s coming up in the next couple of months. As this particular parliament grinds itself to a standstill, there is an increasing sense that we have somehow lost our way. Put simply, the country is catching on that we can’t get our act together as a parliament and we’re sensing it too as politicians.
What makes it even more frustrating is the reality that huge issues like the environment, or pressing realities like our faltering economy, hardly form any kind of preoccupation at the moment. I can sense from MPs from all parties that they’re frustrated as well, but the party machinery is so fearful of giving the other side the edge that we’re stuck in this kind of gridlock that the Speaker of the House – Peter Milliken – recently described as “chaos”. Minority parliaments can work, as was evidenced in the Lester Pearson days. And in recent governments, the knowledge that important issues were challenging the nation prompted all parties to focus their energies either for or against those issues. Remember the debate over free trade, the repatriation of the Constitution and the two main attempts to bring Quebec in a more formalized placed within that Constitution? Such things will definitely focus the mind and the political will.
In their place we now have rancor, bitterness, a lot of bullying, and an increasing sense of disorder. We’ve already mentioned the environment and economy, but what about thousands of lost jobs in manufacturing, the massive breakdown of infrastructure in our cities, the worry over proposed immigration changes, or the evolving situation of the Afghanistan conflict? These are hardly trite, and might very well alter the future of our country. But instead we choose to focus on $300,000 lost in the Mulroney era, whether Chuck Cadman was offered a million dollar incentive, or whether the Conservatives actually broke the law in laundering a million dollars with their now infamous “in-and-out” scheme. Do such things compare in importance to the other things mentioned above? Hardly
Perhaps this parliament has outlived its usefulness. I still believe, however, that we can make parts of it work if we would just step back from the partisan edge and at least seek enlightened debate on those things that matter most to this country. I didn’t come here to find $300,000 or even a million bucks. Climate change, poverty, the loss of jobs and much more – these are the things that occupy my mind on a daily basis and preoccupy my worries. If there is no answer to this, then let’s get on with it and just have an election.