Wednesday September 03, 2014

Politicians forget where they come from


The old adage about never forgetting where you come from should apply to politicians as much as it does to us.

Certainly, it’s an old adage long appreciated by rural Saskatchewan people who take great pride in where they are from. It is an important notion — one that also extends to what’s important to where we live.

For that reason, we should not take for granted the importance of the new Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) that Prime Minister Stephen Harper just signed with the European Union.

That said, there are any number of reasons why everyone should be more than a little displeased with Harper, his Conservative government and the Senate fiasco that has been very much of his creation.

This issue here isn’t like the demise of the Canadian Wheat Board — or, to a lesser extent, the demise of federal community pastures or the Indian Head Agroforestry Centre — where how you view this dispute may legitimately have something to do with your philosophical/economic view of the world. The Senate issue and Harper’s handling thereof should be an affront to people of all political stripes ... including the staunchest Conservatives.

It was, after all, Harper who appointed one-time popular journalists Pamela Wallin and Mike Duffy to the Senate — largely for reasons that now had to do with their abilities to raise money for the federal Conservative party.

It was Harper and his government who initially suggested their wrongful expense claims of both were really not out of the ordinary. And it was Harper and the Prime Minister’s Office who disavowed themselves from these problems, strongly suggesting that both Wallin and Duffy were strictly acting on their own.

Now, it is Harper who must account for accusations from Duffy that the Prime Minister had complete knowledge of the situation and even directly demanded that the P.E.I. Senator pay back the misappropriated $90,000. (Of course, we now know that the money was actually paid back by Harper’s former chief-of-staff, Nigel Wright).

This is no trifling matter. If Duffy’s allegations that the PMO is now denying are true, Harper is guilty of lying to Parliament and lying to the country.

This is a Prime Minister elected on integrity — one who vowed to clean house in Ottawa in the wake of the Liberals’ sleazy sponsorship scandal. Conservatives are losing sight of where they came.

And for Harper to now attempt to shirk his responsibilities by trying to hide the Senate scandal behind the recent CETA deal is appalling.

But by that same token, maybe the rest of us need some perspective in understanding that the world cannot simply evolve around the Senate scandal. There are other things coming out of Ottawa and one of them — the free trade deal with the European Union — is very important to Canada, Western Canada and rural Saskatchewan.

We are a trading nation. We need to have opportunities to move our beef, pork, wheat, canola, pulse crops, oil and uranium to as many markets in the world as we can.

Trade is a good thing for Canadians. Whatever supposed shortcomings there might be in the CETA deal, we gain more by having a trade than not having one.

For that reason, we also cannot forget where we come from and underplay the importance of what governments do to provide us with more markets.

In fact, one might think those on the left would be delighted by the simple fact that a trade deal Europe means less dependency on trade with the U.S.

Sure, it’s sometimes easy to lose sight of when Ottawa seems submerged in scandal.

But perhaps we all need to remember where we come from.

Murray Mandryk has been covering provincial politics for over 22 years.



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