Editorial Comment

DEAR STEVE

 

 
You know, I kind of liked you. You seemed earnest and idealistic. You had strong ideas on government accountability and open-ness. You were also a good Alberta boy. I remember when you said in Report Newsmagazine, in 2000, “I, too, am one of these angry westerners ... We may love Canada but Canada does not love us ... Let's make (Alberta) strong enough that the rest of the country is afraid to threaten us.”
I really believed you would go to bat for us.
You were a different guy, then, though. As passionate as you were about transparency being vital for a government to operate properly in a democracy, you were equally, strident about how taxpayer dollars should be treated with respect. These cornerstone beliefs seem to have gotten eroded away over the years in your quest for power, haven’t they? What happened, Steve?
Where was your transparency during the F-35 debacle? You and your minions were more secretive than terrorist cell. Where was the respect for my tax dollars when you committed all that money to a single-sourced competitive-free purchasing project? I thought you were dead set against those back in the day.
You were against cronyism, too. As the Leader of the Official Opposition, you constantly assailed the ruling Liberals for their unscrupulous stacking of the Senate and various boards and agencies with party flunkies.  Now, however, you are being painted with the same brush. You installed a revolving door in the Senate for your own political buddy’s; allowing them to sneak back into the same Red Chamber they had given up, to run for your party in the last election. We also have the cronyism of allowing Tony Clement to use G-20 security funding for beautification projects in his constituency. Is that respect, Steve?
Then there was your insistence on ignoring those little “irritants” that kept cropping up, hoping they would just go away. Supporting your buddies when they use Department of National Defense equipment for their own private uses or calling anyone opposed to internet censorship “on the side of child pornographers” or quaffing $16.00 orange juice on our dime.
That’s your buddies, though. Of the hard-working MP’s we sent to you under the Conservative banner, you have a far different approach.  As far back as 1998 you identified one of the major problems with our parliamentary system. Remember what you said?
“MPs are bit players in a top-down parliamentary system and role players on their own top-down partisan team.”
Then, in another statement, you asserted, “Let's face it, the average backbench MP is little more than a bench warmer for his/her political party.”
We understood you were going to change all that, Steve. You were going to make our MP’s opinions matter. What we have, instead, is possibly the most top down, controlled caucus in the history of Canadian politics. MP’s who don’t stay on message are dealt with quickly and severely. And heaven help  federal bureaucrats in charge o important department should they happen to disagree with you, Steve. You dump them faster than folks are dumping Facebook shares.
Even your staunch anti-nanny state leanings have taken a hit. As well meaning as the tax credit for youth sports and art are, we all know those kids would have been playing hockey or playing piano with or without the tax credit. It was a cheap cash give-away during an election. It was the kind of pandering and vote-buying you used to loath and detest. Whatever works, eh Steve? The end justifies the means? A small price to pay, you might say; just a little chip off the old ideological foundation, if it achieves power. How many of those little rock chips did it take, Steve? Do you even recognize the base anymore?
I am concerned about us, Steve. I am concerned about our relationship. The erosion of your principles in pursuit of power has made you seem bossy and arrogant. The disdain you hold for the opposition, your own back bench and Canadian voters in general is apparent. You are showing signs of hubris.
The real problem is that you’re still the best catch in town. There’s a new guy, though; that Tom fellow, and though you seem to think he’s only pesky at this point, watch out. His type might have trouble gaining traction out here in Oil Country, but to those outside our provincial borders, greedily resentful of our wealth, his words resonate. He is even promising the same things you used to promise. Things like accountability and transparency. Look how Tom made your government appear when bludgeoning through your omnibus crime bill. Some of the bills didn’t even pertain to your crime agenda. What happened to you believing in fair and open debate?
Be careful, Steve, your policies will not defeat you but how you’re handling your majority might.
I would just like to end, Steve, with a reminder of the man you used to be.  This is what you said on May 10th, 1996, "I can state categorically that I would not be a candidate in any future leadership contest ... The decision to run again would have meant that I was making politics my career ... I've been at this particular game for over a decade and on a personal level I feel it's time to get some broader experience outside Parliament. Parliament is already dysfunctional ... The last thing that Parliament needs is to be filled with people who have never done anything but partisan politics." 
What happened to that guy, Steve?
 



 
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