Friday, January 15, 2010

Just watch him?

Gerald Caplan has another must read column this week: "The real Stephen Harper?" He's been one of the most insightful for the past few months on the national political scene and today's on Harper is a good one too. An excerpt which captures the present shifting moment:
This week's polls suggest that his arbitrary, arguably unconstitutional suspension of Parliament – a drastic ploy in order to bury the issue of torturing Afghan prisoners – has cost him dearly among Canadians. He of course gave himself the Christmas gift of insisting that his fellow citizens didn't give a rat's fanny about either. He's been wrong so many times I can't even count the Globe and Mail editorials fiercely criticizing him. But he bounces back, time after time, and fools us all. How many more times can he get a way with it? Look at his reaction to Haiti. Just watch him.
Yes, we'll be watching that. There's a budding conventional wisdom growing out there that the response to Haiti may offset the prorogation fallout. It's being discussed, may as well address it. Here is what has struck me this week.

The real, tragic moment of the Haiti crisis has arguably highlighted to an even greater extent the frivolous, even luxurious self-interest that Canada has seen exercised here in the shutdown of Parliament for political reasons. The mirror of Haiti makes the prorogation decision seem all the more striking and wrong, even embarrassing. Our government can't grapple with a parliamentary order to produce documents, work it out with the opposition with appropriate national security protections? For shame.

With the momentous issues Canada should be dealing with, having our Parliament sit as a forum in which to pursue them - climate change, all of the Afghanistan file, now Haiti - is becoming all the more glaring an absence. So it might be that bathing the Parliament buildings in the Haitian colours is actually quite fitting, a juxtaposition of the serious and the frivolous.

Whether we have a government that has demonstrated it is up to the task of dealing with the serious, that's the big question. For some of us, it's a resolved one. For lots of Canadians, it may be turning. We'll be watching and speaking, that's for sure.