Thursday, December 04, 2008

Political Craziness in Canada

I don't think I've ever really weighed in on the political maneuverings in Canada on this blog and maybe I should wait this one out too. But with current global economic conditions, the political scene in the US and all of the justice issues that are swirling just below - or at - the surface of our daily lives - it sure makes you think about the BIG picture. It sure feels like life as we know it is going to change - but then, maybe not.

Apparently US shoppers (and Canadians crossing the "free trade" border) on "Black Friday" defied economic realities and actually spent MORE of their hard earned cash (or more likely their easily accessed credit!) on this one day shopping frenzy. Still, the markets are bouncing up and down - though more down than up - and the image that comes to my mind is a smartly dressed business executive dangling helplessly on the end of a bungee cord.

And in the midst of all this, our politicians in Ottawa are acting even more like poorly disciplined pre-schoolers - actually, I'd have to say I can't imagine ANY pre-schoolers acting as badly as our political leaders, but maybe that's just me. I do tend to have a low tolerance for name calling and bad manners and posturing, not to mention the folly of making governance a political game with the spoils going to the most cleverly manipulative and deceitful "leader". Do ANY of our political leaders care more about the stability and future of our country than they care about their own political careers?

It's been many years since I studied Karl Marx, but I've been thinking a bit lately of some of his analysis of capitalism. I often think that Marx has been demonized quite unfairly and some of his insights - incredibly astute insights - have been dismissed for fear that any association with Marx might somehow make us "communists". But that's a blog for another day. For now, I just want to say that Marx believed that every economic system contains within it the seeds of its own destruction. Hm. What's really incredible for me is that Marx was writing about capitalism years and years before those seeds would germinate. I wonder what he would say today about the current economic situation - dare I say, crisis? Forget the labels: capitalism, communism, socialism - and let's just think of the economics that are in front of us. Maybe the current crisis is the natural outcome of a world where the gap between the rich and the poor just keeps getting bigger. Maybe we have reached a "tipping point" when society cannot any longer maintain order in the face of profound injustice. Maybe we have reached the limits of an economic system's ability to adapt and avoid total chaos.

It seems to me that the future of our society - and in fact of the global community - depends on world leaders - politicians, economists, scientists, businessmen and women, faith leaders - the whole kit and kaboodle - to set aside self interest and greed and all kinds of imperialist agendas, to sort through the persistent questions of how we live together on this planet without destroying it or ourselves.

So this is why I'm more than a little concerned by the shenanigans in Ottawa. As I write this, I'm listening to CTV Newsnet and Prime Minister Harper is about to meet with the Governor General. I've listened to dozens of people speculate about what Governor General Jean can do and will do in the face of this political mess. My guess is that she agree to suspend Parliament until late January. Then, I think Harper will be forced to adopt a more conciliatory approach and will, in the process, give into some of the pressures from the opposition parties to spend more money to avert further immediate economic distress. In the meantime, the opposition leaders will mill about in increasing confusion as Canadians express their frustration with their efforts to pull off a political coup. The fact that the Liberal party is in the block, preparing for a leadership race this spring and that public opinion of Stephane Dion seems to be pretty low and falling - well - it's a bit of a stretch to think they can really convince anyone that they are "ready to govern". I suspect that no matter what happens in terms of the coalition, the relationship between Quebec and the rest of the country will be even more strained and may even move the separatist agenda further along. All in all, it looks like rough waters ahead for all of us.

And, come to think of it, that can't be good news for the global poor because we'll be so focused on our own miseries, it will be hard to remember that thjavascript:void(0)ere are millions of people who would like to have enough food to eat, safe water, basic medical care, access to primary education for their kids. The drama continues... as for me, I'll be watching and hoping that our political leaders will snap out of it and take their responsibilities seriously, whatever that means for their own political careers.


MWT said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MWT said...

I completely agree with your last statement Lois. It is sad to say, but the poor will be overlooked if the situation worsens, just as the death of three Canadian soliders was somwhat overshadowed by the "political craziness".

Mark said...

The poor are always getting left behind. Will the focus of government be any different than it was before? This mess of the last 5 years has been childish and brutal -- groups perpetually fighting for power with (what seems to be) little focus on the good of the country.

But it seems that this current version of the mess is a good thing. The Conservatives are now forced to work with the other parties. As long as the other parties reciprocate with cooperation, we may have an effective setup. Unfortunately, the nature of politics is to continually look ahead to next election and get in or stay in power.

I would love to see the elected officials finally work together for the good of the country and the good of the vulnerable, NOT for the sake of party allegiances and power. May our elected "ministers" truly be ministers, not in name only!

cbmlois said...

One thing about politics that we can count on is that it's really tough to predict. With the Liberal party scrambling to get an interim leader and Bob Rae's decision to step aside for Michael Ignatieff, who knows what will happen when Parliament resumes.

I'm thankful that both Harper and Ignatieff SEEM to be re-grouping within their parties and hopefully, as you say, the stage may be set for them to actually work together for the good of the country. But, that still begs the question of the poor, who - as you say - are always getting left behind.

It seems we need a major culture shift so that middle class Canadians will identify more with the poor than with the rich - and maybe the current global economic crisis and talk of a depression will begin to have that effect.

Perhaps it's just the company I keep, but it does seem to me that many people are starting to re- think their values - and hopefully we'll be able to begin to break our addictions to consumption and focus instead on relationships and real quality of life.

I know that all sounds pretty cliche-ish, but I think there's something really significant happening and I'm glad for it.