Vive Le Canada

David Emerson: Minister for National Imbroglios
Date: Monday, February 13 2006

David Emerson has an abundance of “chutzpa”, usually defined as effrontery or unmitigated gall. It has also been defined as someone who kills their parents and then claims welfare as an orphan. He is a nabob and as such is not bound to the rules, regulations and ethics of lesser more earthbound creatures.

He claims his sudden conversion to conservatism was no switch at all as he is not a partisan. Of course the very essence of our parliamentary government is based on partisanship--a strong (hopefully) government held to account by a vigorous (hopefully) opposition.

He further attempts to justify his decision by claiming there is a “blurring” of party differences. This is so true. There is little difference between, say for example, neo-liberalism and neo-conservatism. But this is a corruption of the political elites and not the voting public.

In order for people to vote they have to believe they are making a deliberate and distinct choice between competing ideologies. Where this choice does not exist we do not have democracy but oligarchy, totalitarianism or some other variant behavior. Choice, Mr. Emerson must understand is the very essence of democracy and must be respected.

Emerson, it appears, needs to be tutored in basic civics.

He also claims immunity from public persecution by virtue of being a corporatist and is touted as being very talented in this context. However, corporatist structures are rigid and hierarchical, not necessarily a carte blanche recommendation for political office and depending on the individual may be a detrimental attribute. The corporate good is quite often contrary to the public good and this is one of the underlying schisms in modern political debate.

Our newly minted Prime Minister has been swift to defend his choice of ministers and his reasoning is equally specious. For him the voters of Vancouver Kingsway are raising “superficial” concerns. From someone who so recently graduated from the ranks of the Reform and Alliance this is a querulous defense. These were populist parties advocating direct democracy, recall and referenda. Now, weeks later, after pillorying the Liberals for the same sort of unethical behavior, there is a visceral contempt for the will of constituents.

As the PM is so ecumenical as to hire former Liberal cabinet ministers it remains to be seen if Liberal appointees, Frank McKenna, Canadian ambassador to Washington, and Allan Rock, our ambassador to the UN hold their jobs. Both appear to be doing a good job and pork barreling might be the only “good” reason for replacing them.

Emerson is blessed with any number of distinguished defenders, including the new Minister of Foreign Affairs, Peter MacKay. MacKay no doubt owes his new appointment not so much to regional balance as to being the king maker when he so expediently decided to sell out the Progressive Conservative Party--Emerson and MacKay, in ornithological terms, are birds of a feather, wing shot, and their flight capabilities greatly diminished.

At this juncture in time it might be worth reminding ourselves how the Bloc Quebecois came to be.

Lucien Bouchard, a minister in the Mulroney cabinet, and later PQ premier of Quebec, decided Quebec was not getting a fair deal in Confederation. With grandiose moral indignation he quit the conservative party, enlisted a group of like minded Quebec MPs and declared themselves a political party--a separatist party. They did not submit to by elections to have their decision ratified. The voters in those ridings went from having a conservative MP to a separatist MP with no say in the matter. In other words they were disenfranchised--a kinder version of betrayal.

When Conservative MP Garth Turner advocates MPs who change their affiliation must submit to a by election for ratification of that change he is clearly right and it is legislation long overdue.

Politicians must realize that every time they resort to this sleazy chicanery it debases our democratic system and the public trust. Politicians are supposed to be the worthy custodians of our democratic institutions and values. Too often, though, they are the very first to violate that trust. The voting public for its part must insist on strict maintenance and accountability.

[Proofreader's note: this article was edited for spelling and typos on February 14, 2006]

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