Competing for Most Backward Premier?
Kenney is perhaps embarking on a competition with Ontario’s Doug Ford to see who can be the most backward Premier in the country. Ford has an early lead, thanks to such actions as cancelling funding for tree-planting programs and cutting funding for the water management programs of conservation authorities – even as Ontario, Quebec, and parts of the Maritimes endure the second round of heavy flooding in three years. If fires and floods don’t deter these Conservative Premiers, it is unlikely that plagues and pestilence will do the trick either. Ford is already ahead of the game on that score, having cut funding for public health units – whose primary role is programs to prevent illness.
Why the Blanket Rejection of Other Points of View?
I am struck by the fact that new governments seem to feel that their primary task, once elected, is to undue all of the work of the previous government if it was headed by another political party. Ford has embarked on this task, much the way an earlier Conservative Premier, Mike Harris, rolled back the initiatives of the preceding administration, much as Kenney is now doing in Alberta.
It was not always this way, in case you have forgotten. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away (or so it now seems as I recall this incident), I was sitting in the gallery of the House of Commons. It was close to 50 years ago and Conservative leader Robert Stanfield, often described as the best Prime Minister we never had, was responding to a piece of legislation introduced by the Liberal Government. His message was that the bill had merit and so his party would support it on second reading and then work to improve it at committee stage. How eminently sensible and how totally foreign to the way things occur today.
What happened to our political system? Why do political parties automatically attack all initiatives not their own? Why is there no willingness to acknowledge the validity of alternative points of view, to work together to achieve results that serve the public good? Granted, it is undoubtedly easier to attack “the other” than to look for common ground and work toward it. It is simpler to denigrate than to integrate, to play up the extremes that divide rather than search for the commonalities that could unite. No doubt the toxic nature of much social media discourse helps to feed this movement to extremes, helped along the way by Russian bots and other malevolent forces attempting to manipulate views. But I’d like to think that we are better than this, that we can rebel against the purveyors of discord and division. If enough Canadians reject the behaviour of today’s political parties, perhaps we can force them back into the more moderate stance that they once exhibited (at least now and then).