It would seem that PR-massaged optics has supplanted good old-fashioned and honest content these days. Especially on the Canadian federal election campaign trail.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper would have earned himself an admirable historical legacy if ever his promises to restore transparency and accountability to the Canadian electorate would have come to fruition. God knows the long-in-the-tooth Liberals deserved the thrashing they received as they were consigned to history's back-benches.
But transparency and accountability are quixotic chimera in the last decade under PM Harper.
Instead, parliamentarians and their constituents have been starved for transparency’s and accountability’s lack. Instead we have been served up a diet of omnibus bills, far too large for any average MP to digest and therefore simply passed according to a majority government’s dictates.
Gone, the heretofore noble tradition of vetting bills at the committee level. Gone, the ability for government MPs to speak their minds and truly engage with their constituents without PMO intervention. Gone, the days where we believed in representative democracy.
At a time when Canadians seem to be clamouring for the real in our representatives, the major parties seem too preoccupied with presenting images that they speculate we will appreciate.
Thomas Mulcair and the New Democratic Party, mildly bouyant after a bump in approval ratings after Premier Notley’s win in Alberta, seem hell-bent on a Mulcair make-over that would have him seem benignly nice, and not the fierce attack dog that he can so ably be when occasion demands it.
And Justin Trudeau’s puerile “Yes I AM ready” marketing response to his opponents just reveals how inept he and his handlers are in a political arena where the so-called “high road” is the road to nowhere. Just ask Adrian Dix about how effective that campaign strategy is....
And then we have our government, the Harper-led Conservative Party of Canada.
The CPC believes in vetting. Just as long as the vetting doesn’t involve their pieces of legislation or questions related to the modus operandi of the PMO.
Instead, vetting comes in the form of public servants being told to clam up on social media and elsewhere during the election campaign, according to some of my civil servant friends.
Vetting comes in the form of a PMO that does everything in its power to avoid the uncomfortable truths of a senate billing-scandal as it begins to unfold. Vetting comes in the form of running a check on journalists and others who would like to attend a Stephen Harper stop on the campaign trail.
But sometimes the vetting process go awry. Like it did yesterday when attendees at a Harper campaign stop in Toronto emerged from a conference room afterwards to a scrum of reporters intent on just doing their jobs.
As Conservative spokesman Kory Teneycke succeeded in ducking away from the glare of cameras, a vetted supporter chose the occasion to launch an unprovoked attack on the gathered media.
I don’t think I can recall ever seeing anything quite like it. Admittedly the man wasn’t quite frothing at the mouth as he hurled invectives at the gathered journalists; but he was accusing them of tax fraud and went on to extoll the virtues of the “good government” we enjoyed in this country, all the while assuring reporters that the scandal unfolding concerning the PMO and disgraced erstwhile Senator Mike Duffy was nothing, zero, completely inconsequential.
The foul-mouthed Harperite turns out to be John Dozorsky, a generous donor to one of Stephen Harper’s loyal (and handsomely-pandered-to-) constituencies, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress.
No doubt, PM Harper appreciates the support from nationalistically-minded Ukrainian-Canadians that he has paid for with the lavish spending of taxpayer millions on ill-conceived efforts to support a dubious cabal in Kiev. But this outburst by Mr. Dozorsky is assuredly not the face that Mr. Harper would wish attached to his own run for another turn in office.
Perhaps the PM and his strategists will wish to re-think their proclivities for massaging the message and air-brushing the optics revealed on this particular campaign. Folks are restless for the real. In other words, politicians need to begin engaging once again with the electorate. Sometimes good old-fashioned honesty beats sterile image-making. Justin and Thomas take note.
— Jeffrey Loewen is a Kelowna-based writer who plays music by day and politics by night