June 08, 2008

Putting Party and Ideology before Constituents: Durham Politicians at Their Worst

For the last two days, I have spent time amongst the protesting workers of CAW Local 222 at General Motors' office in Oshawa. I have been hearing heart-breaking tales, experiencing angry emotions, seeing confusion, disappointment and bewilderment on the faces of so many. These are people who have been let down, in the worst of ways, by the company they've worked so hard for and made this GM division one of the best in the world. All they want from GM is recognition for their work and respect - enough respect for GM to honour the agreement that was signed only three weeks ago and supposedly under good faith.

From the government, most of all their elected representatives, they want empathy and support. From local and non-local Liberals and NDP they have gotten just that with visits from Stephane Dion, Jack Layton, Dan McTeague (Pickering-Scarborough) and others. From their local MPs - Jim Flaherty, Bev Oda and Colin Carrie - they've gotten nothing except cynical and convoluted, indirect replies. These local MPs have essentially brushed these constituents off in this time of need. What these Conservative MPs have done is exposed the worst of politicians and given aid to the growth of public skepticism towards politicians and government.

At what point does a politician worry more about their career and standing within the party than they do their constituency and issues that are facing them? Obviously, this is a rhetorical question. These people rely on their elected officials to represent them, not look down on them and treat them like they are a nuisance, which is what Flaherty, Oda and Carrie have done, if they've acknowledged them at all. The problem here is likely, in part, to do with the Harper's demand that members remain silent and out of the public eye and enforcing this through threat of status and such. There is also the issue of the Conservative ideology that tends to favour concepts such as not getting involved with business and supposed market-issues, about keeping the government from being involved with people and so forth. Lastly, there may be some fear that the members of CAW are unhappy with the Conservatives' views or the belief that these workers tend to vote with NDP and Liberal. However, all of these 'reasons' are arbitrary and contrived in comparison to what has happened to these people and the illegal actions by GM, and to the responsibilities politicians are supposed to have to those they represent.

Bev Oda hasn't really said or done anything. Jim Flaherty has offered nothing except vague and empty responses that borders on patronizing and arrogance, while insulting and putting down Ontario. Colin Carrie made excuses and then told CAW he needed a formal invite to meet with them, which he still hasn't done despite several offers made. These MPs are representing the worst in politicians. They are more concerned with their status within the party, the opinion of their leader and their ideology. They should be more concerned about providing good, strong representation to their electorate, about giving support to those who need it and making sure the ridings they represent are healthy and not being left behind in illegal, irresponsible and unforgiving ways. Yet, they are doing everything they shouldn't.

Flaherty, Oda and Carrie are representing their ridings through ignorance and absenteeism. They are giving comfort and support to the cause of a Prime Minister that delights in the idea that Ontario is struggling and whose loyalties are with Alberta and the oil companies. At what point do these local MPs realize that if their ridings - and Ontario - falter enough so do they? Oshawa and Whitby have enough problems already with unemployment, substance abuse, which has a lot to do with people struggling with economic issues. From one year ago, the number of people receiving EI has increased by 56% within Oshawa, Whitby and Clarington. When are Flaherty, Oda and Carrie going to put their party and their leader aside and stand up for their own people, ridings and province? That's what they were elected to do and that is where their loyalties should lie! Forget ideology, forget the party and the leader, and forget yourselves. This should be about local representation, the public good and principle. Flaherty, Oda and Carrie exemplify exactly what is wrong with many politicians and what is wrong with the Conservative Party.

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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)