If It Ain’t Broke…

We now pause for a brief political announcement…

As many of you are aware, Canadians are having a national election on the 23rd. Yes, we just had one 18 months ago, but apparently the voters were mistaken and the opposition parties want to give us another chance to get it right. They also had to bring down the government before the independent judicial commission looking into the sponsorship scandal could exonerate the government (for the second time) in its final report, since without being able to utter the word “scandal” every five minutes the opposition would have nothing to complain about. To wit:

In his first speech out of the chute, Harper reached for the word “change” more than 20 times. The use of this term is meant to have a conventional meaning agreed upon by pollsters and punditti, and understood by the public: since the present government has been in office for a dozen years and a quartet of elections, therefore the people allegedly/must/should (choose one) want a change.

What gets lost in the Change Mantra is that almost no one asks, “What, exactly, do we want to change?” It’s worth asking. On the face of it, it doesn’t look like we need a big change, apart from making sure that we don’t have another Sponsorship Scandal (and that supposedly is being taken care of by the Martin-appointed Gomery Commission, even if the opposition parties were too impatient to wait for the judge’s final report). The country is at peace; terrorism is minimal (it’s mainly confined to ethnic gang members who shoot each other — what one wag calls “niche terrorism”); we have the lowest unemployment in 30 years; there have been balanced budgets and big surpluses for about ten years in a row now; plus we have a raft of policies and lots of cash in the pipe for health care, environmental cleanup through the Kyoto Accord, urban infrastructure renewal, day care, equal rights, post-secondary education and all the rest. What, exactly, needs to be changed? Most citizens of thriving democracies elsewhere would say, Not much.

Stan Persky, Dooney’s Cafe

If it wasn’t for the Liberals (Pearson and Trudeau in particular), I wouldn’t be in Canada, I wouldn’t have equal rights as a woman and a minority, I wouldn’t speak French (which got me my first real job), I wouldn’t have a university degree (which got me my current job), I wouldn’t have control over my uterus, and I (and my parents) would be bankrupt from paying private doctors.

I’m certainly not a “what have they done for me lately” kind of voter, and I personally prefer the NDP and the Greens, but I’d be pretty ungrateful if I didn’t recognize the party that gave me the prosperous and free life that I have, and I’d be pretty stupid not to vote strategically. Remember November 2000? (Damn Nader!! I’m still not over that either.)

There’s a reason the Liberal Party has dominated Canadian politics for decades. It’s because they most accurately reflect Canada’s values. Obviously politicians should be watched, and there is always room for improvement, but let’s not mess up a good thing just for the sake of “change.”

Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

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6 comments on “If It Ain’t Broke…

  1. Milan says:

    I know what you mean.
    I already cast me absentee ballot for the Liberal candidate in North Vancouver.

  2. Talmida says:

    Oh, Sylvia, I agree from an historical point of view, but Martin has said he'll remove Ottawa's power to use the notwithstanding clause!
    He's abdicating the legislative power to an appointed judiciary.
    Didn't he say he'd use the notwithstanding clause to prevent religious groups from being constitutionally required to perform gay marriages?
    Won't this turn us into a little America, where the Supreme Court interprets an unchanging constitution? If we give our judges this much power, won't the next step be electing them?
    I am so disappointed in Martin, I can hardly speak. For the first time in many years, I think I will be unable to vote the big L.
    And Harper? Hmph! The only thing that odd collection of conservatives has in common is their dislike of the Liberals. Will they agree on anything long enough to rule?
    I hate this election so much. I just hate it. There's no one I want to vote for.

  3. Sylvia says:

    The Charter's freedom of religion clause (which tops the list of freedoms) already gives religious organizations the ability to discriminate in religious matters, which they do all the time with no problem. There's no need to use the notwithstanding clause in this case.
    I remember being told in school that the notwithstanding clause was put in for Quebec's sake (although affirmative action is also allowed, which I would think would be enough…?). Reading it now it kind of makes me nervous that any parliament or legislature can use it to override the Charter (although it's only effective for 5 years).
    I see your point that without the notwithstanding clause the only way to override an unwelcome Supreme Court judgement would be to amend the Charter, which would be a much bigger pain than this election! But I just can't imagine what kind of Charter-based judgement would be disagreable to me. The Charter already allows for “reasonable limits.” How much more flexibility do we need?

  4. Talmida says:

    Well polygamy is the issue that leaps to mind.
    The BC gov-t & the mounties are holding off on charging people in the town of … Bountiful, I think? They're a fundamental offshoot of the LDS church and they are polygamists.
    And the govt is afraid that if they bring charges, these people will claim charter rights adn the courts will uphold them. Then what?
    It seems to me that there is a point when the rights of society to order and a stable social structure have to put the rights of the individual in second place. Not often, I agree, but if all individual rights are granted, it seems to me that the social structure will collapse.
    I don't know, maybe I'm wrong. I just think Trudeau would have been rolling over in his grave when Martin pulled that rabbit out of his hat.

  5. Sylvia says:

    Oh right, I forgot about polygamy. Yes, it is Bountiful. That's a tough one. If people freely choose to live that way, what can you do? No one can prevent me from marrying an abusive man, which would be very disruptive to the social order, so why prevent two women from marrying the same man?
    Of course the reality in Bountiful is that the girls don't have much choice (as in cases of arranged marriage in other groups), but that's more about their right to liberty than about their form of marriage. Personally I can't see polygamy as being a psychologically healthy kind of marriage, but who am I to impose that opinion on others? We don't outlaw adultery, and that is certainly much more of a disruption of the social order than polygamy.
    I don't know. I'd be embarassed if the courts upheld the right to polgamy, but if women's liberty was protected and promoted in these communities, polygamy might not be a problem. Of course upholding rights in such a closed community is a problem in itself, but you could say that about lots of minority communities (especially the ones with their own schools) on all sorts of issues. It's a toughie.

  6. Stefanie says:

    Thanks for this post and the ensuing discussion. The only thing that has made it into the news here is that you are having an election. You'd think that we'd hear more about what's going on with our neighbors, but in the news here it is more important to know about a car crash in Wisconsin than what's going on in Canadadian politics. i hope your election goes better than US elections of the past several years!

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