Sunday, September 28, 2014

What Happened to Political Discourse in Canada?

As a rule, Politics and Religion are two things that we don’t talk about in polite company. Both excite passions and can easily get out of hand if we don’t respect our fellow debaters.

Generally I don’t talk politics (or religion) in person.  I don’t need the headaches, I don’t need the hassle.

There was a time that I would discuss politics on occasion.  I recall a time when I sat with a friend and we were on opposite sides of an issue.  We discussed the merits of our sides, pointed out the defects in the other’s argument and when we were done, neither of us had won.  We both learned a little bit though and saw that our stance on either side was not perfect.

In the end the issue was decided at the polls, Mulroney won a majority and the GST was born.  One thing I took away from that discussion was that the GST was not set high enough.  Had it been higher, Personal Income Tax could have been lowered and even eliminated for entry level incomes.

But that was then.

Today, I don’t even bother.  The respect is all but gone. 

That was most evident this week when Paul Calandra made a mockery of Question Period.  QP has a long history of non-answers and some politicians have made a pretty good living out of dancing around questions or deflecting them into the corner leaving the Opposition little room to mount an attack. 

The media is now reporting that both the non-answer and the apology were handed to Calandra prior to both events happening by the PMO.  In my opinion, if the staffers in the PMO want certain answers provided in the House, they should run for a seat and give those answers themselves.

Let’s put it this way, had Calandra said something along the lines of “I acknowledge the question of the Honourable Member” and then segued to something along the lines of “it mirrors the acts of terrorism that the people of Israel recently faced” and finally going to wondering “why the Members of the Opposition were not as concerned about the attacks on Israel as they are about the threat of ISIS” or something along those lines we probably wouldn’t have said much.  It still answers not a single thing and even finds a way to poke at Mulcair but still within the limits of debate in QP.  Most of us would have been annoyed at the non answer, but it tries to contain the question and deflect it. 

I don’t have the silver tongue required to pull this type of thing off, but I hope you get the idea.  It’s why some MPs are remembered as legends for their gift of non-answers and others are going to be remembered as “Jackasses” (Helloooo Skippy!)

It doesn’t stop there, some like to blame the Internet, but the problem is the people.

How many times have you seen (or heard) people saying “don’t read the comments” on stories that involve politics?  It certainly doesn’t take long for the thoughtful answers (and there are some) to be pushed down the page by trolls of all different flags slagging each other and the politics they represent with strawmen, ad hominems and all the other tools designed to take the argument away from the issue at hand and direct it into whatever the devil it becomes.

I’ve been guilty of some of these offences, and I try hard to not stoop to using them and I’ll tell you it’s an uphill climb.  Another that I try to avoid is the name calling.  It’s the same rule that you followed when you were a kid.  When you resort to name calling, you’ve pretty much lost the argument and that goes for calling the politicians and the parties by derogatory names.  It cuts both ways folks, you might have noticed that I rarely use “Conservative” but instead use “the Harper Party”.  This is out of deference to my friends (yes I have some) who are conservatives (yes to that too) but find themselves without a party.  The Blue Flag has gone way over to the right and now they’re standing in the void between that one and the Red and Orange ones to the other side.

Of course all this goes in the dumpster if you want to troll and I’m in a mood to engage or if you want to use half truths to support your argument.  A Yiddish proverb runs “A half truth is still a whole lie.”  Don’t use them OK?

Look, if you want to talk politics and debate policy, be my guest, I might even partake, but furl you flag when you come in the door.  When we argue over what the best thing to do should be, the only flag we should really be worried about is the one with the two red stripes and a big red maple leaf in the middle.

Now if we could only get the folks in Ottawa to buy into this.


1 comment:

  1. Cheers! I'll cheer. I even have political dialogues with Erin O'Toole, except he hasn't many if any positions left to argue. It has become a civil discourse since he has long since given up on talking points and patronizing me.