The past week has been a feast, if one prefers to feast on putrefaction in its many forms. We are faced with a veritable cornucopia these days of scandale du jour, where no ancient videotape from a party, no innuendo on the order of the pseudo-Marxian “have you stopped beating your wife — answer yes or no” can be passed up. I almost expect to actually see the Opposition in their seats in the House of Commons, shoes off, ready to bang them on the desks to the tune of one or another of the Liberal Party’s chefs dans l’attente chanting “We will bury you”, in direct appreciation of Ники́та Серге́евич Хрущёв, a historically accurate symbol of an institution in terminal decline, full of sound and fury, and signifying nothing more or less than the emptiness at their own core.
I do note “Leaders in waiting” rather than “Leader”, of course, for it is a common conceit amongst certain circles in the MSM and in and around the Liberal Party that we have not yet seen le vrai Dion emerge. Let us be — what the braying Honourable Members are not — charitable and fair. If he is yet to emerge and be made welcome by Canadians, then surely he is a Leader in waiting, hien? (As for those who surround him, at his seat opposite the Prime Minister, that they remain, in the minds of many, “the next Leader in Waiting” need not be further dissected. It is so, and all know it.)
Unlike other things we do not know about this band of snarling scandal-mongers, worthy of the penny yellow press of over a century ago operating on the premise, attributed to Hearst, of “providing the war”. For this has been the Commons and the state of public political discourse in this fair land from the time leaves began to fall from the trees last fall to today, when we begin at last to hope that winter’s grip is loosened enough for it to begone for another year. They care not, actually, for any of the so-called scandals, be it Schreiber, Lukiwski, Cadman or any of the other trial balloons floated across the aisle on a wave of outrage feigned solely for the eye of the cameras.
For the lesson of 2005 has yet to be learned by these stalwart mouths that roar, these Little Fenwickians, “Little” as they do not have any cause célèbre as grave as the destruction of an ages-old marque, but merely sit, resentful that they are not in power.
2005, of course, was the year that the Liberal Party discovered that the poisoned chalice left it by its ousted leader, former Prime Minister Chrétien, in the form of the sponsorship programme kickbacks and payments were not going to slip quietly into the good night, thence, as with the thing the cat threw up, to be buried, but instead would remain as public evidence of the utter contempt shown for the Canadian people by their more-often-than-not Governing Party. What Jane Stewart in HRDC, Chrétien’s own hand in the remodelling of resort facilities in Shawinigan, the never-ending expenditures of the long gun registry, the ever-growing backlogs in Immigration, the decay of the Canadian Armed Forces, the sheer and utter waste of the Innovation Agenda, and so on, couldn’t do, sponsorship did. It was the scandal that stuck in the public imagination.
Vote buying, influence peddling and funds illegally moved into the hands of a political party from Government coffers — brown manila envelopes stuffed with cash over expensive meals may not quite have the apparent cachet of luxury attaché cases filled with money, but handing money to the party as opposed to for services to be rendered is clear enough for all that — these are things we as citizens understood, and found the purveyors of such behaviour wanting.
Alas, the lesson in the Liberal Party was that scandal can bring down a government, and the Canadian people will reward such behaviour by transferring their vote and allegiance to those who do the deed. Pity that wasn’t the lesson of the Sponsorship issue and subsequent Gomery Report — that lesson was “don’t steal from the taxpayer”. Still, dumbfounded at having had their luck at escaping political justice run out, the party’s MPs sit on the Opposition benches, not to work, but to muckrake.
It is not my place to suggest, even for a minute, that they are working purely from smoke, mirrors and a sense of fantasy. We have seen Karlheinz Schreiber testify, ever attempting to weasel his way along for just one more day. We wonder at former Prime Minister Mulroney’s poor judgement in taking up with the man, and even more at his own lacunae, starting with apparently doing no work for his fees and taking years to report them for tax purposes. We have seen the author of Like A Rock: The Chuck Cadman Story, Tom Zytaruk, bob and weave his way between the Scylla of publicity to promote sales and the Charybdis of softening his initial claims, until little is left but the clouding of a honoured dead MP’s memory.
This is, after all, a set of leather-lunged screamers who are dissatisfied with a to-the-point apology made directly and in detail demonstrating full understanding of what was wrong, not trying to evade by saying “times were different then”, and made to many different audiences. It simply would not do to accept, after all — for then there would be no possibility of a story. That the Prime Minister has stood by Lukiwski after his public abasement shows the measure of the Prime Minister, a measure not seen in this past year across the aisle.
Politics, as it has been noted many times, is a blood sport, and a certain amount of attempted blood-letting by the Opposition upon the Government is to be expected. For this Opposition, however, it is all that is of interest. They have very little else — other than the sound of one hand clapping as their names are called during a Division — to stand on or for, after all.
Not only is their reliance on destructive behaviour a result of their certainty in the lesson of 2005 — the lesson they got wrong — but it is craven twice-over, once for it being the tactics of a bully, and once for the Liberals’ refusal to actually stand for something.
What, pray tell, is the Liberal Agenda? There is no real policy — oh, a few scraps of mindless generalities here and there, but no real policy effort as yet seen in public. Some would, of course, say that it would be “foolish to reveal it too soon”. Perhaps, as a campaign tactic, that might be so. But if they have a policy, and are not revealing it, then couldn’t one say the Liberals are the one with the “hidden agenda”? After all, when he was the Leader of the Opposition, Stephen Harper (who was repeatedly then and to this day accused of “having a hidden agenda”) brought forward policy planks. In effect, even before the Martin Government finally toppled into its long-prepared grave — it had, by that point, been over half a year since Martin’s national television appearance pleading to stay on in the job he felt he was entitled to — Canadians had been repeatedly told what turning to the Conservatives would mean.
Cowards in the bullying tactics, certain that eventually something will stick — if this is leadership, then the Liberals have none. Dion, Ignatieff, Rae (and more, one presumes): these are mere placeholders. A politician who won’t risk saying what he or she stands for and would do in office is, simply, a loser.
Mud, it appears, may not stick on its targets. It does seems to affix itself fully to those who throw it.