Morrisburg ON – For the election of 2006 the Reform-Conservatives campaigned loudly on a promise of Accountability and Transparency. And ever since their election to office in January 2006, they have delivered on their promise in spades. They have been absolutely and at all times accountable to themselves. As for the majority of Canadians who did not vote for them, when did the Reform-Conservatives ever promise to be accountable to all Canadians?
As to transparency, the Reform-Conservatives have been, in a recent phrase of their Minister of Foreign Affairs, “extremely transparent.” That is to say, transparently secretive, transparently uncaring of parliamentary democracy (two unnecessary prorogations, withholding Afghan detainee documents, etc.), transparently uncaring of majority opinion and the judgments of experts (long-form census, police input on long-gun registry, the environment and climate change, etc.), transparently bullying and smearing witnesses who present fact-based testimony at odds with reform-conservative ideology (Linda Keen, Richard Colvin, Munir Sheikh, et al), transparently intimidating all opposition however honestly based and expressed—not to mention summarily relieving outstanding public servants of their key posts for not toeing the party line
(Paul Kennedy, Peter Tinsley, Col. Pat Stogran, RCMP Chief Superintendent Marty Cheliak).
The net outcome is equally transparent. With this Reform-Conservative government, Canada’s Parliament is effectively trivialized to the point of near paralysis. Insofar as the government of the day sets the tone for the rest of the country, Canadians are being treated to a culture of abuse, evasion, and deceit. Canada, in a word, is toxic. People around the world are scratching their heads and asking, What’s happening to Canada—the Canada we have known and respected?
What to do? Since census discussions are in vogue, here is a modest suggestion: have a credible non-partisan organization, say Democracy Watch, come up with a simple method for taking the ethical pulse of people in elected office as well as those seeking it. Call it “A Democratic Census for Elected Representatives and Persons Seeking Elected Office—Mandatory Short Form” with questions along the following lines (Answer Yes or No):
- Do you think it is right to make a pledge and subsequently break it, if it serves your interest?
- Have you ever been charged or convicted for any of the following: (a) a felony (b) impaired driving (c) accepting a bribe (d) exaggerating, falsifying, or otherwise taking undue advantage of a job-related expense account?
- Do you believe it is acceptable to deceive another person/others, if it serves your interest?
- Do you believe it is acceptable to suppress or withhold information, alter facts or otherwise manipulate the truth, if it serves your interest?
- Do you believe it is acceptable to lose your temper, when you do not get your way?
- Do you believe there is a place for bullying and fear mongering in public service?
- Do you believe it is acceptable to smear, attack or otherwise undermine the credibility of anyone, especially a public servant, who may in good faith hold views that differ from your own?
- Do you believe in decency and fairness in all matters, especially in relation to gender, ethnicity, religion, and political persuasion?
- Are you aware of any patterns of anti-social behaviour you may have? If you are not sure, please refer to www.bullyonline.org
- Do you pledge at all times to respect and uphold the Charter of Rights and Freedoms?
Democracy Watch—or whoever might undertake to quarterback such a census—would then be expected to register the results, together with names, as a matter of public record.
Of course, even if it could be implemented, neither this nor any other measure is going to change things overnight. Trapped in their own anger, the ruling Reform-Conservatives appear to be deaf to the voices of fairness and reason. And Canadians are transfixed, as though under a spell.
The real object of the above exercise is to place everyone seeking elected office at the next election behind the same starting line. That is, on notice of the behaviour, responsibilities, and obligations expected of all servants of the public interest, from the prime minister down.
Intrusive? Surely not when our democracy and the well-being of a nation are at stake.
PJ Robertson PhD, CLU, is a chartered life underwriter, former professor of language and literature, and author of two books on criticism and a hundred plus articles and reviews. This opinion piece first was published appeared in the August 23rd issue of The Hill Times.
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