It's an abstract post today, so brace yourselves.
In watching Power & Politics on the CBC this afternoon, I was given what they call 'The Firing Line', only because of technical difficulties only former Cabinet Minister Monte Solberg, talking with the host about the Conservatives spending $26 million dollars on advertising for the 'Economic Action Plan', which comes to a close at the end of this month.
The host asked former Minister Solberg a simple question: Are ad buys like this responsible governance, or are they just a waste of taxpayer dollars?
Rather than answer the question with a yes or no, Mr. Solberg (like a lot of politicians, of all political stripes) dodged and evaded the question, and instead used a point we've heard millions of times from the Harper Government:
"Well, there's no doubt that the former LIBERAL government did this when they were in power; yet no one said it was wrong when they did it."
Effectively, Solberg fell back onto the defence we've heard from the Conservatives over all their recent blunders:
1.) The Liberals did it when they were in power (Used for: The ad buys, the branding of Government of Canada to Harper Government, excluded any significant mention of gay rights in immigrant handbooks)
2.) Okay, we dropped the ball, but at least we didn't take $300+ million from the taxpayer for the Sponsorship Scandal (Used for: The ad buys, and every 15 minutes in random conversation in case Canadians have moved on from the event which broke in 2004)
3.) This is something that all the other parties have done. (Used for: The in-and-out cash scheme during the 2006 election.)
So, looking at the excuses the Harper Government have put forward, no one can reasonably say that they have taken ownership of their mistakes. Rather, nine times out of ten, their answer to questions tends to be either: The Liberals did it...Or why are you worried about this when the Liberals did this!
That is not leadership, and it is not taking responsibility for your actions. That's like a child admitting that he broke his mother's favourite vase, but in the same breath reminds her how the elder son crashed the car eight years ago. A bit of a flawed analogy, perhaps, but it does work on a mental image level.
A part of being in government means owning your mistakes. Political parties seem to have it in their heads that being in government means you have to appear to be infallible, when that is simply not the case.
Canadians want a government they can trust. That they don't have to watch with one eye open while they sleep, and the actions taken by the Harper Government have only gone as far as to show that Canadians do not have that in their current government.
It's time for the Harper Government to take ownership of their problems, and admit that they've done wrong and that they've screwed up. And that means Cabinet Ministers and the Prime Minister taking their lashings for it, instead of passing the responsibility onto the nearest staffer.
I re-read a Time Magazine article from 2006, when it talked about Harper forming government and the things he would need to focus on. Transparency and accountability were one of the things mentioned, and the article goes on to say that: "The real test will be how Harper reacts when his own government is caught in some kind of controversy or one of his ministers is found with their hand in the cookie jar..." (rough quote, taken from memory, from a 2006 Time Magazine article.)
Well, given the way Harper has reacted (and the way his cabinet has reacted as well), the results aren't good.
The Conservatives can slam the Liberals all they want, but the fact of the matter is that the events of the past do not give the current government free license to act the same way, or in similar degrees but not as bad. The Harper Government may not have taken $300+ million for Liberal friendly ad agencies in Quebec...
But they did sole source $17+ billion (or is it $20 billion? Or $30 billion? Who knows...Thanks, Harper!) to American Conservative darling Lockheed-Martin for stealth fighter jets.
So, let's call it even, even though the Conservatives are now holding a large share of misplaced taxpayer money (and on more than just their fighter jets...) and throw them out the same way Canadians threw out the Liberals.
At this point, an election is clearly coming and we need to send a clear message as an electorate. We want leadership, not finger pointing. We want a government who is actually transparent and who correctly punishes those who make mistakes, instead of defending them to the death even when they are clearly in the wrong.
But most importantly, we need a government with a vision for Canada and clear policy goals and ideas; as opposed to a government who's major reason for voting for them is "Well, at least we're not the other guys."
On a side note, I'm sure we've all been watching the events unfolding in Japan. My thoughts go out to the people of Japan, and those affected by the tragedy there. I also encourage readers of the blog to find out ways that they can help contribute to helping those in need in Japan.