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Before I get to today’s subject, two respondents to last week’s column asked why the use of SLICE in fish farms protected the Pink salmon yet not the Sockeye. The answer is simple – the SLICE was used by specific farms for specific runs for a short time span when the Broughton Archipelago Pinks went by. Sockeye migrate at a different time from a different river thus had no such protection.

Second, this from my colleague Damien Gillis just back from looking at carnage of the Chilean Farmed Fish collapse:

And so it was to my horror that I read Mary Ellen Walling’s callous take on the Chilean Crisis I had just witnessed. Walling [said]: “Prices are up 10 to 15 per cent over the past six months because of the lack of product in the marketplace…It’s good for the B.C. industry because we’ve got good, solid prices moving forward…There’s a significant lack of Chilean product in the U.S. market. It’s a great opportunity [for B.C. salmon farmers]” Rather like a spokesman for undertakers praising Hurricane Katrina as being good for business! Nice guys these fish farmers!

One cuddly cat, our Prime Minister.

One cuddly cat, our Prime Minister.

I took a whirlwind trip to Toronto a week ago and, as always, airplane rides are for contemplation and I began to wonder a wonder – why do we like some politicians and detest others? And how come we tolerate a system where the leader’s wishes trump parliamentary power?

Those who belong to one team or another tend to extend the hand of forgiveness to their leaders’ peccadilloes especially when they’re in government. When a government goes badly wrong though, as Glen Clark’s did, love can shift to hate overnight. The NDP are especially cruel to their fallen angels as Mr. Clark, Ujjal Dosanj, can no doubt attest.

Why, for example do I dislike the Prime Minister; have a gut feeling of negativity towards Mr. Ignatieff; think Jack what’s-his-name from the NDP is OK and rather like Gilles Duceppe of the Bloc.

And why should liking or disliking a leader matter?

Re Harper, maybe it’s because he was always late for my talk show though he knew that a guestless host closely resembles a fish flopping around in the bottom of the boat.

I don’t care for Mr. Ignatieff because he’s shown a massive disinterest in British Columbia and for me that’s fatal.

Mr. what’s-his-name is a decent sort of bloke and his only real failing is that he acts as if he were important?

I like Mr. Duceppe because he’s given me a standing invitation to go with him to a Hab’s game next time I’m in Montreal. He does an excellent job of keeping the country together by reason of being an official separatist. As long as he and the Bloc exist, Quebeckers can vote BQ to protest, secure in the knowledge that the bribes will continue thus they can safely go about their business of being Canadians without loving Canada.

Our  “fuehrer prinzip” reflects a system where all power reposes in the Prime Minister who acts not on the advice of MPs but unelected power brokers. We’ve come to look upon our elections as being 3 leaders plus Duceppe and vote accordingly. I know that will bring the cry “I vote for the person, not the party” to which I must reply “obviously you have no idea how the system works and you should confine your political action to electing directors of your golf club where the candidate’s ability may have some bearing on how the place is run.

The National Media understand this leader worship and tells us not what the party stands for but what the leader will do. If you vote for “the man” not the party your choice is about as important as your preference in ice cream flavours. Canada’s best journalists, an oxymoron if there ever was one, make the leaders’ debates look like a session of a Youth Parliament where only proper questions are asked and decorum outscores debate every time. Think about it, when was the last time an issue from BC, was put to the leaders during the debates? When was the question of the Pacific fisheries ever asked? Or Forestry? The plain fact is that British Columbia is as important to our political leaders as the Scilly Isles are to London.

Very little difference can be found where a leader’s response to issues invariably boils down to “me too but I’d do it this way not that way”. There isn’t a large “C” Conservative Party in the land except that hideous lot running things in Victoria. There certainly isn’t a socialist party and the Liberal philosophy has always been nice and simple – do what it takes to get elected then stay elected.

On issue of national unity nothing has changed in my lifetime. Quebec has fits of separatism like recurring bouts of poison ivy, but gets goodies like the child threatening to run away gets his Popsicle. Every election we’re told how important “The West” is indication the Central Canadians refusal to understand of the reality that there are three very distinct regions in Western Canada which only unite when Ottawa power brokers pisses them all off at once.

The winning formula never changes – get your votes in Ontario and Quebec and you’re high and dry. It would be different if we had some sort of Proportional Representation where MPs have some power but that won’t happen unless and until electoral reform becomes an issue of the people, not just university professors.

There’s a curious dichotomy playing out in this country at present – we’re all told and indeed tell ourselves that we don’t want or need yet another election yet we’re also told and believe that minority governments are terrible so we must avoid all forms of PR! Which is it to be, a five year dictatorship by a leader who has parliament in his pocket or a prime minister whose control of the purse and policy, depends upon Parliamentary consent?

There are of course other options such as the American “checks and balance” system where the executive, elective and juridical branches check each other’s power. It’s the best system I know – on paper. The perfect becomes imperfect because the elective branch can’t stanch the flow of money from interest groups to those they want to interest – and influence. But that’s not the product of the system but the lack of will to use that system appropriately. The US system – endorsed by no less an authority than constitutional expert Dr Edward (Ted) McWhinney, – has no buzz in Canada where those who profit from the system have no incentive to change it. We prefer the Canadian way – bitch over our beer only rousing ourselves to get another.

There being no will to reform, there’s no way to have it.

4 Responses to “Politicians and the mirage of popularity”

  1. Evil Eye says:

    Dead right Rafe. Canada will not change as the power ‘elites’ who run and profit from this country will deny change and I’m afraid Canada will dissolve as a result.

    The utterly and morally corrupt three national parties are laying the foundation for regional parties and eventually regional parties will want to secede from Canada.

    I see a not so quiet revolution in the country, where pent up public wrath will take its toll on national bodies and I even foresee shooting in the streets.

    Canada is not a democracy; it is a vile autocracy with showcase elections every now and then to appease the more sensitive international types. Canada, as a country is lost, only the population doesn’t know it yet.

  2. Jim Harris says:

    Good post Rafe, I feel exactly the same way as you do about our leaders federally and provincially. I sit on the fence alot during elections not totally comfortable on the right or the left and quite often vote based on personalities. The last provincial election I voted liberal for the simple fact that I could not support a party (NDP) that tells me that as a resident of Courtenay I don’t have the right to run as an elected official because of my gender or race. My only choice was Liberal. I wonder how many people won’t vote NDP even if we have the same values and ideas based on some of these things.

  3. Gabriel Laurence Cayer says:

    VERY interesting article. Canadian political rhetoric is sadly lacking in substantive policy debate. I remember hearing Dion (who I didn’t mind all that much) being called a policy wonk and thinking: are we so “politics-before-policy” that Dion is comparatively a wonk? I actually think this article sums up my feelings about Canadian politics. EXCEPT, that is, the praise of the American system. I believe the Canadian system of government is fundamentally better than that of the Americans. Theirs is far too easily gamed. Under a system of proportional representation and with a democratic senate, I believe our country would run quite smoothly. I’m an optimist, I suppose.

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