Our National Embarrassment

Posted on Thursday, May 12 at 13:31 by Reverend Blair

That was apparent on Sunday, May 8, when our Prime Minister could not be in Holland for the ceremonies honouring our veterans because he and the other leaders are afraid to let each other out of their sights. They all showed up a day late and a dollar short so the people who were honouring our country and the veterans who risked their lives to liberate Holland could be inconvenienced by having a special ceremony to provide our four most eminent monkeys with a pre-election photo-op.

Of course they werenít quite done. Our miscreant quartet held a press conference after the ceremony so they could snipe a little more at each other like school children. Of the four, Jack Layton was the only one who made the attempt to seem statesmanlike and at least took some responsibility by including himself when he criticized the childish actions of our party leaders. "I think that there wasn't a sufficient collective attention given by the House of Commons, the leadership, all of us, to making sure that we all could have been here," Layton said. The words would have carried a lot more weight if Layton, at least, would have been there for the ceremony the day before.

This week in parliament, Stephen Harper and Gilles Duceppe are in such a rush to force an election that they have decided that they canít wait a week for a chance to bring the government down. They want to do so immediately. They tried to bring down the government on Tuesday. There are a few problems with this. The Veteranís Charter, which all four leaders agreed to fast-track on the way back from Holland, is not through Parliament yet. If the government falls, the bill wonít pass. This legislation, that all four parties felt was important on Sunday night, would be stalled in the limbo of partisan politics while our veterans were once again given the short end.

There is also the impending visit of Queen Elizabeth. She is coming for the centennial celebrations in Saskatchewan and Alberta and both provinces have gone through considerable expense and effort to arrange for celebrations. The Queen cannot visit Canada during an election. The money would be wasted if the visit was cancelled at such a late date. Worse yet, it would show a lack of respect for a visiting dignitary that is palpably disgusting, as is the lack of respect for the provinces involved.

Not long before the fiasco in Holland--a mere couple of weeks--Paul Martin went back on his promise to meet Canadaís goal of allotting 0.7% of our GDP to foreign aid. This is the same Paul Martin that has spent much of his time as prime minister travelling around the world promoting Canada as a caring nation that wants to help solve the worldís problems.

Fortunately the promise was made to U2 singer Bono. U2 happened to be on tour in Canada, playing a concert in Vancouver. Bono, who considers Paul Martin a friend, found himself on CBC Radio Oneís The House. He was very critical of Martin; and when host Anthony Germain asked if Bono was going to give Paul Martin a call, Bono replied, ďYes. I mean not just a phone call. I want to give Canada his phone number. In fact I might even have it here, hold on a sec. If anyone is listening, I would call Paul. Itís 613-992-4211. Thatís the prime ministerís office, thatís the switchboard. And this is important stuff. Itís not just about me being a nuisance. This is about Canadaís identity in the world.Ē

A little bit of grandstanding by a rock star with a cause? Certainly. When Bono speaks, however, people take notice. And a lot of them take notice, and not just in Canada. Bono draws a wide audience around the world and our leader forced him into the position of having to criticize our country for going back on its word.

Martin was trying to use the excuse that Canada may not have the money. An odd claim to make, especially since subsequent events have shown us to be flush with cash. It is far more likely that he was bowing to pressure from his political opponents and the corporate backers of the Liberal party to put tax cuts before our international obligations. Just a little bit of fancy footwork to try to keep the Conservatives onside for a little longer.

The mess of Ballistic Missile Defence is another example of our international ineptitude. First Martin and Harper were both for it. Then Harper wasnít sure. Then Martin wasnít sure. Then they were going to have a vote to decide what they thought. Then Martin was against. That prompted Harper to be for it.

As we sit right now the right decision has been made. Canada is not taking part in the United Statesí plans to build a system that doesnít work and will result in the weaponization of space. Except we donít really know that for sure. If Harper becomes prime minister he will sign on. Or maybe not. He wants a place at the table, though, or a slot at the trough. Unless that proves politically unfavourable in Alberta, or maybe Quebec.

If Martin remains prime minister he wonít sign on to BMD. Or maybe he will. He could change his mind again. The original decision wasnít really based on deep thought or consideration of Canadaís place in the world, after all. We arenít sure what it was based on, but we can be pretty sure that it wasnít any kind of careful consideration.

This kind of internationally embarrassing partisan politics is becoming commonplace in our country. Our leaders seem to have lost all sense of even the pretense of propriety. They stumble around causing crisis after crisis taking cheap shots at each other the whole way. Itís bad enough that they have turned the House of Commons into a circus sideshow and are using committees to score cheap political points instead of doing the jobs we pay them for, but now they have taken the act on the road.

Our leaders obviously have no manners. They have become surly and rude and have given up whatever remnants of etiquette they may have possessed. Their animosity, back-room deals, and incompetence are beginning to have effects outside of Canada. The neighbours are hearing the screaming and are starting to ask questions. Our ambassador to the United States, Frank McKenna, has been asked about the political shenanigans going on in Ottawa. He managed to deflect the question by referring to the USAís hanging chad incident; in any case, that our multi-partisan lack of leadership is drawing international interest is certainly disconcerting.

We can be assured that the debacle in Holland raised some eyebrows. The Queenís handlers are, no doubt, watching nervously to see if she will be allowed to come to Canada. The press to our south are asking what we are doing. Rock stars are giving out the phone number to the prime ministerís office in an effort to get us to fulfill our international responsibilities.

Our leaders have only one answer to Canadaís parliamentary problems. They will bicker like school children over who gets to make our country look foolish next. Thatís their answer to everything. The only consolation we have is that watching these monkeys is entertaining. Maybe we can market them as an alternative to live animal acts.

[Proofreader's note: this article was edited for spelling and typos on May 15, 2005]

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