Endorsements: The Globe and Mail and Andrew Coyne

I confess to being gobsmacked by an editorial in the Globe and Mail today endorsing the Conservatives, not because of the endorsement per se but because of the reasoning behind it:

“Mr. Harper could achieve a great deal more if he would relax his grip on Parliament, its independent officers and the flow of information, and instead bring his disciplined approach to bear on the great challenges at hand. That is the great strike against the Conservatives: a disrespect for Parliament, the abuse of prorogation, the repeated attempts (including during this campaign) to stanch debate and free expression. It is a disappointing failing in a leader who previously emerged from a populist movement that fought so valiantly for democratic reforms.

“[But] those who disdain the Harper approach should consider his overall record, which is good….

“The campaign of 2011 – so vicious and often vapid – should not be remembered fondly. But that will soon be behind us. If the result is a confident new Parliament, it could help propel Canada into a fresh period of innovation, government reform and global ambition. Stephen Harper and the Conservatives are best positioned to guide Canada there. “

‘If the result is a confident new Parliament…’?

And just how would that come about? How could Parliament possibly be ‘new’ or ‘confident’ if the Conservatives, who have marginalized and abused it to the point where it is barely recognizable, remain in control of it?

I far prefer Andrew Coyne’s endorsement of the Liberals today. Again, not because of the end result — I didn’t expect him to announce who he would be voting for, frankly — but because he at least thought through the implications of rewarding that misbehaviour. Coyne writes:

“I will continue to make the case that we have a duty to perform as voters. Any election is in part a trial of the incumbents. Do we, the jury, find them guilty or not guilty, in this case of offences against democracy? And if we find them guilty, there has to be a penalty.

“But what about the economy? In punishing the government, do we risk punishing the country? No. Economies have enormous recuperative powers: as Adam Smith said, “there is a great deal of ruin in a nation.” We can afford a period of Liberal silliness. What we cannot afford is the continuing slide of Parliament, and parliamentary democracy, into disrepair. Conventions once discarded, habits of self-government once lost, are much harder to regain.

“If we return the Conservatives with a majority, if we let all that has gone on these past five years pass, then not only the Tories, but every party will draw the appropriate conclusions. But if we send them a different message, then maybe the work of bringing government to democratic heel, begun in the tumult of the last Parliament, can continue.”

As I write this, I am listening to a Stephen Harper commercial on television in which he talks about Canada as a country in which democratic principles are upheld.  He specifically refers to freedom of expression as one of them.

And all I can think of is that this is a man who spouts those words but whose idea of leadership was to approve 6,000 other ads that attacked Michael Ignatieff’s loyalty and bona fides long before an election had even been called. The same viciousness was demonstrated in the Tory attacks on Linda Keen, Richard Colvin, Sean Bruyea, and all the others I’ve blogged about before.

Several pundits, including Andrew Coyne, insist that Harper is Teflon, and that Canadians don’t care about this stuff. Coyne, for example, writes: “Although the Liberals have tried to make accountability an issue in this election, they have signally failed.”

But I think they’re totally wrong. I think Michael Ignatieff did make accountability an issue and that the attacks on our democratic system by the Tories did resonate with Canadians, particularly after Sheila Fraser’s report on the G8/G20 spending was leaked. I think that this is why we’re seeing the astonishing rise in NDP fortunes.

Because Canadians saw those issues and they didn’t like them, but when it came to who to trust to deal with them, they didn’t trust Michael Ignatieff because they’d been inundated with Tory attack ads telling them not to.

That left them only Jack Layton to turn to as the standard bearer, and only because the Tories considered Layton irrelevant and failed to attack him in the same focussed way. Even now, their attack ads on Layton are little more than a reworking of the old Ignatieff attack ads –they almost look Photo-shopped — based, no doubt, on the belief that the NDP will simply split the vote and give them their majority.

Maybe so. But as at the time of writing, there have been over 4,200 responses to the Globe and Mail’s endorsement of the Conservatives.  I haven’t read all of them but I’ve read enough to know that the overwhelming majority of those Canadians who have taken the time to post a comment wholly disagree with it.  I have a feeling that an overwhelming majority of Canadians will disagree with it on May 2nd , as well.

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3 Responses to Endorsements: The Globe and Mail and Andrew Coyne

  1. As usual, well said, thoughtful and inspiring hope.


  2. Haig Moreton says:

    Although I understand the well thought out logic of Andrew Coyne’s opposition to the Conservatives on the basis of parliamentary integrity, I respectfully disagree on the following points.

    1. The point is made that the Conservatives were undemocratic with their attack ads about Michael Ignatieff before any election was called. But did anyone criticize those attack ads based on inaccuracies – I don’t think so? What about the continuous campaign over the past 5 years accusing Stephen Harper as being a dictator-in-waiting who if given a majority will repeal gay marriage and repeal a woman’s right to choose an abortion – which have been catgegorically denied by Mr. Harper. Has anyone been more villified than Stephen Harper, based on innuendo and falsehoods – I don’t think so? All that this kind of rhetoric proves, is that politics is a dirty business and the voter had better be well informed and careful about their voting choices.

    2. Parliament voted against the Conservative Government in a measure of non-confidence finding them in contempt of Parliament after the recommendations of a Parliamentary Committee and a ruling by the Speaker of the House, the first time ever done in history. The point is made that to vote for the Conservative Government would be to endorse an erosion in Parliamentary democratic values. It should be remembered that the Conservatives have been in minority government for a record number of years, which increases the likelihood of polarized opposition working in concert in committees to unseat the minority government from power. The motion finding the government in contempt was voted by opposition parties who were in the majority by definition and who were in effect judge, jury and executioner with even the Speaker being a previous member of an opposition party. In my opinion, this vote of contempt was an example of very partisan politics orchestrated for political advantage by the opposition parties. Again it can be concluded that politics is a dirty business and the voter should beware.

    3. In my opinion, voters should choose who they think can best run the government, period. It seems to me that our democratic values are well protected and enshrined in our Constitution and we have open and free elections at least every 5 years. This precept should trump any issues around the first two points.

    4. My vote will be for a Conservative government to ensure more jobs, a continuing economic recovery, deficit reduction and focused social programs as well as reduced federal government to the advantage of provincial governments which will help national unity both in Québec and in the West. Hopefully it will be a majority government to avoid the dysfunctional Parliament we have had in the minority case, with all of its partisan gridlock and sandbox politics.

    Haig Moreton
    Boucherville QC


    • Peggy Blair says:

      Always happy to entertain another point of view on this blog, Haig. Thanks for a well-thought and carefully considered response. The important thing, as always, is that we all exercise our franchise, and vote.


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