June 01, 2005

The corruption of power, Canadian style

Most people at some point have heard the famous statement from Lord Acton, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely"; and this statement is no less true today than it was over a century ago when he wrote it down. The best examples are seen all over the world, from communist regimes, to military totalitarian and even in the greatest western democratic states. Even the great white north is re-examining it's own leadership and how it has been corrupted by power, or at least the desire for power. See, while countries like the U.S. actually watch their leader abuse his power, our leadership, who don't technically hold power at the moment, are seduced by the mere idea that they may get it. This is a problem with at least two federal leaders, Martin and Harper. Martin's path to the dark side began probably around the time Chretien took power. It is no small secret that for years Martin desired Chretien's job. It is even less of a secret that he intentionally began to divide the party between his supporters and Chretien's. People in the Liberal party were easily seduced by Martin's strong economic record as Finance Minister and his well laid out plans for the future of the party and our country. At a leadership conference in Ottawa,he and his supporters spoke of renewal. Renewal was going to take the Liberals into a whole new arena of policy and popularity - at least that's what we were told. After hearing him speak on several occasions I grew wary of his message. This is not because I didn't think the ideas were solid but because Martin began to sound like a robot; his speeches seemed to be more about buzz-words and platitudes than genuine ideas. This is what confirmed in my mind that Martin had spent way too long seeking power over the Liberal party and aiming for the PMO that his vision became clouded by his desire for power rather than being corrupted by actual power. To top it all off, when he finally did get power he practically banished anyone in the party that stood against him in any capacity, including many excellent politicians.

This is essentially where Harper is now. He has been trying and been left wanting for power for way too long. He is a man that will say anything and do anything to try and obtain the PMO. He helped orchestrate the demise of the Progressive-Conservative Party only to obtain their name and their support. He refuses to release an official platform of the party for fear of exposing many of the short-sighted views of his party, especially in terms of social policy. He publicly supports moderate policies, many that are based on Liberal and NDP positions, but behind closed doors marginalizes the moderates within his party. He is a man that has begun to show contempt and anger about his position in Canadian politics, even to the point that he is willing to snap at children during public photo-ops. At this point, we can no longer believe that Harper has the publics' interest in mind. He may believe he does, but much like Martin, he has been longing for power so long that that desire is all he now knows, whether he knows it or not.

Don't take this as a rant about Harper and Martin, but rather a problem that seems to be everywhere in Canadian politics, and probably in many places. Jacques Parizeau had the same problem and definitely made himself known after he lost the referendum. Dalton McGuinty has also shown he spent too long seeking power and losing sight of his vision. I would even go as far as saying that Howard Hampton is probably on the cusp of this problem. It is an unfortunate but inevitable problem that seems to swallow many good and strong politicians in Canada. Ultimately, it is the public that loses out because often the views and visions of these politicians could do a lot of good for the public and help progress Canada into the future. However, when this problem sets in these visions take a back seat to ideas on how to maintain the obtained power.

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Quotes from people smarter than me...

"If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich" ~ JFK

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. " ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. " ~ Benjamin Franklin

"First it is necessary to stand on your own two feet. But the minute a man finds himself in that position, the next thing he should do is reach out his arms. " ~ Kristin Hunter

"When you're a mayor and you have a problem you blame the provincial government. If you are provincial government and you have a problem you blame the federal government. We don't blame the Queen any more, so once in a while we might blame the Americans." ~ Jean Chretien

"Which is ideology? Which not? You shall know them by their assertion of truth, their contempt for considered reflection, and their fear of debate." ~ John Ralston Saul

"It is undoubtedly easier to believe in absolutes, follow blindly, mouth received wisdom. But that is self-betrayal." ~ John Ralston Saul

"Everybody dies, Tracey. Someone's carrying a bullet for you right now, doesn't even know it. The trick is to die of old age before it finds you." ~ Cpt. Malcolm Reynolds (Firefly, Episode 12)