Thursday, January 05, 2006

Canada's "Accountability Moment"

Here's the thing.

On any ordinary day, the Liberal Party of Canada likely wins a plurality of support among the citizens of the country, especially in times of economic prosperity. Just as there is much to critize and bemoan about the conduct of our Natural Governing Party, Ahab should state at least once during the campaign that there is much to commend about the previous 12 years of rule. I sympathize, more so than my scorn and sarcasm probably indicates, with the devoted partisans who struggle forward on behalf of the Big Red Machine, in weather both foul and fair.

So how to explain the urge, the overwhelming desire to see Paul Martin defeated that engulfs me every night while watching the news? I have danced around and over that question in innumerable posts, of course, so here's the latest attempt. It stems from memory of a post of Andrew Sullivan's at this time last year, speaking of Bush's recent victory. Here it is in its entirety:

"AN ACCOUNTABILITY MOMENT": This quote might help clear up some misunderstandings about president Bush. It certainly helped me see the world as he sees it. For Bush, accountability in government is a total, once-every-four-years thing. Individual mis-steps or mistakes are not subject to accountability - whether in war-planning or fiscal matters or anything else. When someone fucks up, the most important thing is to extend loyalty, not reprimand. There's only one moment of accountability for a president and that's the election, which encompasses everything the president and anyone in his administration have done. So re-election logically means that the public waives its right to hold any individual in government accountable for anything for the next four years:

Well, we had an accountability moment, and that's called the 2004 election. And the American people listened to different assessments made about what was taking place in Iraq, and they looked at the two candidates, and chose me, for which I'm grateful.

So our job as people not in the administration is now to sit back and hope for the best. We had our chance. We lost. As Mel Brooks almost observed, it's good to be the president.

Canada's Accountability Moment for these Liberals arrives on January 23rd. This election is not as simple as simply weighing the parties and policies and picking the least worst, not this time. Not when that party has recently treated ensuing mandates as smug vindication of everything they have done in office, and everything they plan to do. Not when, come the elections, they dismiss all challengers summarily as "unfit" for office, and believe only their fly-by-night plans will work for Canada.

The Liberals of recent years have ultimately failed to demonstrate an ability to renew themselves, to step back and take the difficult long view on where the country needs to head and how our resources can be marshalled to get there. In short, to prioritize and lead.

I have little confidence that this will happen until they take a hit. Until they are called to some type of account. Until they are made to realize and accept that other people in this country are quite capable of governing. Until they accept the true diversity of so-called "Canadian values". Until they can demonstrate that it is sometimes better to stand for a tangible belief, even if it means alienating some people or (gasp) losing in the short term, as opposed to desperate pandering to one and all.

This vote is more than simply a token "time for change". This time, it's about reminding a party more caught up in its own internal haggering than the business of the nation that not every decision they make is the perfect one, not every competent Member of Parliament is one of their own.

In a perfect world, election day is not the only moment for accountability, but often it's all our system provides. Canadian voters should make this government aware again that the populace is not simply content to sit back, hope for the best, and trust in rhetoric of an increasingly aimless, stumbling leadership anymore. The Liberals need reminding that we now have the power, means, and ability to hold them to account for the first time in awhile.

If that means giving the new, eager crowd a chance, so be it. There are bigger days ahead. It is time the Natural Governing Party gives itself a much-needed shake and start thinking strategically on how to prepare for them.

UPDATE [minutes later]: uber-Conservative supporter Liam O'Brien is on a similar wavelength, offering a strong endorsement of the NDP as a second choice to his favored party:
Just as those moderate non-die-hard Tories who often voted Tory had to withdraw their support in 1993, so should you non-die-hard moderate folks who normally vote Liberal withdraw your support from this government...

There's a job that we need to get done. It can only happen if people vote Conservative or NDP.

Hilarously, the confused, rambling, and sarcastic response of the first commentor to his post serves only to re-emphasize the point.


Blogger The Tiger said...

Slightly easier to do it in a multi-party system than in a two-party system, though we saw it done in the States in 1992 -- George H.W. Bush lost votes both left and right over his handling of the economy.

As for the NDP, I say, they may stick their hands in your wallet, but they'll be honest about it.

Funnily enough, I think that a Chretien-type would still be garnering Liberal majorities, even with the corruption scandals. The more serious problem with Martin is his inability to make timely decisions. Taking down the debt I now see as J.C.'s accomplishment, with a heavy assist from economic conditions. Chretien had discipline; P.M. does not.

1:18 AM  
Blogger Liam O'Brien said...

Taking down the deficit I see as a tag team of the provinces doing it (Chretien and Martin cut Health and Education transfers first and foremost while they let central govt waste ballon) and their decision to abandon ever major plank of their 1993 Liberal platform (ie scrap GST, scrap NAFTA, etc . . .). It remains to be seen if any party will seriously tackle the debt instead of doing this rather limp holding pattern. I'm not impressed with the Tories on that one. They needed more on national debt reduction. . .

You're right about Martin on timely decisions. A very localized example was his waffling on offshore clawback/accord issue in NS and NL. another is his flip flop on UNESCO seat for Quebec. There are others. Chretien would have simply said "no" on both files and put spinners to work selling it, writing off the people he figured he couldn't get. Martin fundamentally seems to feel "no" on those, says it first, then waffles to "mostly yes," and then when elected revers back to "no." Timely flipping . . .

9:15 AM  

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