Recent political events across Canada at both the federal and provincial levels have brought the issue of ideological politics, or in most cases the lack thereof, to the forefront of just how Canadians are being led.
The Senate expense scandal has shook a seemingly stable Conservative majority government to its core, and the Prime Minister’s poor handling of the situation has made matters much worse. Provincially, issues such as B.C.’s Liberal Premier Christy Clark’s disaster-filled tenure, Alberta’s PC Premier Alison Redford’s budget mismanagement, and Ontario’s former Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty’s eHealth, Ornge, Gas Plant and labour scandals have Canadians from coast-to-coast asking exactly who is leading us and upon which principles are they doing so.
Canadian politics have become almost sad, in that we have leaders elected who stand for nothing and make policy decisions based on what the latest polls tell them is fashionable or expedient. Electoralist politics of the worst kind are guiding Canada’s political landscape and what is perhaps even most disturbing is that Canadians are not standing up to rein in such porous behaviour. Where is the outrage? Where are the calls for elections or votes of non-confidence? Where are the protests that millions of taxpayers’ dollars are being wasted as governments try to protect themselves?
The answer is fairly simple – Canadians are not electing leaders based on a sense of inspiration or a sincere desire to follow, but rather, are often left to choose the lesser of the evils.
It is nothing new that political parties use polling data to guide policy, but what is abundantly clear from recent history is that those parties do not stand for very much or present a fulsome vision of how the country or their respective provinces should be led. Political scientists teach what ideological tenets inform the initial formations of our current political party system and the way a Conservative, Liberal, New Democrat or other ought to think. The problem is, in the real world, they rarely make policy according to the historical ideological basis for their party’s existence.
Federally, the Conservative government has shades of the right, but has grown the size of government, has constantly intervened in the economy, and spends far too much money – all of which are no no’s according to a basic Conservative ideology. The federal NDP seem to stand for not being Conservative or Liberal but certainly do not resemble the traditional NDP ideological stances of the past. The newly-branded Justin Trudeau Liberals have presented no concrete policy ideas whatsoever, and Trudeau’s leadership seems to be based more on a famous last name and boyish good looks than the prospect of strong leadership. Other examples at the sub-federal level tell a similar story, with Redford’s PC’s behaving more like Liberals and Ontario’s Liberals behaving more like an NDP government.
Throughout the Canadian political spectrum, there is a crisis of leadership and the proof for this is best found through the sheer number of scandals plaguing the country’s political leaders right now. Whether you identify yourself as a Liberal, Conservative, or a member of the Rhino Party, you do so because a party is expected to stand for a specific set of values that guide how they lead and make policy. In the absence of great leadership, Canadians have been settling and it is time to stand up and say enough. Scandals, boondoggles, and cover ups should not be tolerated and as Canadians we need to ask ourselves why they are and just what we are going to do about it.
To date, believing in nothing seems to be costing more than actually believing in something.
Robert W. Murray is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science in the Department of Political Science at the University of Alberta.