Thursday, August 28, 2008

When is a Crisis Not a Crisis?

For those of you with no interest in politics who may be wondering how my recent postings on Canadian politics are in any way related to education, allow me a moment to explain. As I implied much earlier in my postings on critical thinking, in my view the truly educated person is one who is able to assess with both knowledge and logic the information she or he is bombarded with. Sometimes that information consists solely of facts, as in a new report of an accident or a crime, but much of what we read and see in the media are expressions of opinion, some well-reasoned, some merely demagogic rants, and some only sadly misinformed.

While I am not in any way suggesting that we can simply turn aside our own values, experiences and prejudices when assessing opinions ( for example, the Conservative Government’s dictatorial and manipulative propensities deeply offend what I consider my more balanced perspective and philosophy), the application of reason and critical thinking skills at least prevent me from living in a world entirely closed off to new possibilities - in other words, I think I still have the ability to grow as a person.

I will be continuing with these political posts now and again, largely because I am so deeply offended by the complete contempt Mr. Harper and his crew are showing for the intelligence of the Canadian people in their use of lies, misdirection, and half-truths as they vainly seek to convince us of the need for an election. What follows is the editorial from today’s Globe and Mail that addresses some of these concerns:

Manufacturing a crisis
August 28, 2008

Shortly after he took office, Stephen Harper explained why he was comfortable establishing fixed election dates. "I've fought many elections and leadership races over the past couple of years and I'm quite happy to govern," the Prime Minister said in May, 2006. "Obviously, governments always prefer a majority, but I think we can make a minority work most of the time so I'm happy to keep on governing as long as we're getting some things done."

That Mr. Harper is now prepared to run roughshod over his own legislation by forcing an election campaign to begin as early as next week suggests he is now convinced it is not possible to get things done. He has all but said as much, telling reporters this week that "this Parliament is increasingly reaching an impasse on a range of issues." But Mr. Harper failed to mention a single major policy his government has been thwarted on - possibly because one does not exist.

It is difficult to imagine any minority government having an easier time pushing its legislation through. Not prepared to face voters, St├ęphane Dion's Liberals have allowed the Conservatives to have their way on virtually every issue - from accountability legislation to tax cuts to an extension of Canada's mission to Afghanistan. Even on immigration reforms that the Liberals claimed would throw the country "back to the Diefenbaker era," they meekly caved in rather than defeating the Tories in a confidence vote.

Absent his own policy priorities necessitating an immediate election, Mr. Harper now claims that Parliament cannot proceed because of a disagreement over an opposition party's platform. "The other party has tabled an economic agenda that remains diametrically opposed to everything this government stands for," he said Tuesday of the Liberals' proposed carbon tax. "I think you really have increasingly in Parliament two visions of where we should be leading the country, particularly during challenging economic times, and that's something I'm going to have to reflect on."

Mr. Harper made a good case for the Liberals to finally work with the other opposition parties to bring down his government. But if there is to be an election, it should result from the defeat of an important piece of government legislation in the House of Commons - not because Mr. Harper has manufactured a crisis.

A difference of opinion over a policy that is not on the legislative agenda is hardly a compelling reason for a government to refuse to continue governing. By the standards he set for himself in 2006, Mr. Harper has no justification for breaking his promise not to call elections on a whim.

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