Sunday, June 05, 2005

“The Mount Everest of arrogance”

With even the Toronto Star now seeming to take notice of the Liberal Party’s ethical lapses, we may indeed be nearing the tipping point at which Canadians finally reject Paul Martin’s Liberal government, en masse.

Two recent columns, by Star columnists Jim Travers and Chantal Hébert, have come down particularly harshly on Paul Martin.

Jim Travers argues that the Liberals have become arrogant and their culture of corruption stems from being in power for too long.

Paul Martin insists his new Liberals are attacking the problem at its roots by ending sponsorships, ordering the inquiry and pursuing criminals into court. Bunk.

Culture and structure are this problem's twin pillars and Liberal hegemony suggests neither one will crack soon.

For that to happen, a party that prides itself on being the Western world's most successful must first concede that the country is strong enough to survive a few years under other guidance and then ensure the civil service answers to Canadians, not its political masters.

Instead, Martin's clique is weakening the federation by widening regional divisions even as it prepares to fight another election, arguing that there is something worse than corrupt government: Conservatives. Meanwhile, the next election will come and go before anyone fixes what's so obviously wrong.

He concludes:

Hard as it is for Liberals to accept, sponsorship corruption, ethical failings and the crass determination to hold power by any means all find their genesis in the arrogance of a party that believes that it not only has the answers, it is the answer.

When a notion that false and arrogant becomes entrenched in a partisan psyche, any offence, all rules broken, every dollar stolen are excusable as the cost of pursuing the greater good. In that black-is-white universe, a government whose simplistic policies and thieving practices restoked separatism's fires positions itself as all that stands between unity and chaos.

That's the Mount Everest of arrogance and the deadliest of political sins.

Similarly, Chantal Hébert questions Paul Martin’s lack of moral fibre and whether his government would have acted any differently than Chrétien if faced with another national unity crisis.

The fact is, over the past few months the Prime Minister has compounded the damage wreaked on the credibility of Canada's political class by his predecessor.

Bridges between the government and the opposition were ordered burned as part of a parliamentary procedural war. Merit was shown to come a poor second to naked partisan interest in the allocation of government responsibilities. Deniability was given precedence over accountability.

The democratic deficit Martin so likes to wax lyrical about has been compounded into an ethical one. And past sins of omission and/or commission have been overshadowed by current, in-your-face transgressions.

If the Prime Minister is willing to fudge so many lines as part of a mere parliamentary showdown, what of a full-fledged unity crisis?

Some of Martin's cabinet loyalists are now quietly questioning whether their loyalty to him is in conflict with their duty to the country — and so probably should the rest of us.

The cracks in Martin’s leadership are widening. He may have won the last battle, but more and more it is looking like he is losing the war.

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