A Government Eating Its Young
The following is a piece I penned for the Huffington Post, laying out the sad story of how one government MP, for a brief moment, attempted to hold politics to a new standard and ultimately was felled by the old political structure itself.
Seriously, what else did we expect? Like some kind of flash of alternate reality, newly-minted Conservative MP David Wilks stood up for a brief moment to the oppressive politics of the day and informed his constituents he would vote against Bill C-38 — Stephen Harper’s omnibus bill that will wipe out decades of progress and some important Canadian history along with it.
But David Wilks is merely a caricature of everything that is wrong with federal politics at present. His attempt to live out Mr. Smith Goes To Washington in real life only launched political cynicism to new heights in Canada as a result of his reversal. Brave, wonderfully naïve, even humble, he eventually ended his remarkable escapade with eleven watery words: “I look forward to supporting the bill and seeing it passed.”
Welcome to Canadian politics 101 — “Never oppose the chief.” For a former RCMP officer and mayor who had served with distinction this must have been one of the most humiliating moments of Wilks’ life, and he had only just begun.
Wilks was correct concerning this bill, on so many fronts. It was like Harry Potter’s transparent cloak attempting to hide reforms that were never part of the last election and which refused to permit opposition parties to undertake due diligence on its rather draconian measures.
Stephen Harper and his cabinet know a thing or two about Canadian voters, and that is that they sleep through elections. Bill C-38, an omnibus bill of rather major proportions, would sail through Parliament simply because the majority government wished it so. The PM had stated not all that long ago that he would alter the face of Canada — Bill C-38 was his change-agent of choice.
So it was kind of refreshing to see a young, green member of Parliament actually stand up against his party’s own bill, stating in the process that he was only voicing what his constituents had told him. It’s been a long time since we’ve witnessed something like this from the Conservatives, and we stopped to watch. But Wilks was a mere comet in the heavens about to burn himself out, not by his own energetic efforts but by caving in to the most oppressive political force in Canada: the Prime Minister’s Office.
Let’s be clear: he didn’t have a chance. It’s hard to imagine the massive pressure that ensued from the party leadership once his intentions were made known. The Prime Minister wouldn’t need to involve himself in the clampdown, instead leaving it to his professionals to do it. It’s easy to imagine the rationale. “If you want to get anywhere in this party — your committee of choice, perhaps even a ministry eventually — then cease and desist immediately.” In many ways Wilks is not to be blamed. It would have ruined his political career for good. In fact the party would have pulled his nomination and he would never have run for the Conservatives again.
The story of Wilks is already being forgotten by a sleepy citizenry — just as the PM might have suspected. In affirming that this is all that Canadians expect from politics, the Harper government merely moves on in its deconstruction of Canada — hiding behind an omnibus bill and the shooting of one of its own. But for one brief moment a slanting ray of light broke through the clouds. Sadly, in the end, it was Icarus flying too close to the sun and tumbling down in a fiery conclusion.
Vaclav Havel knew a thing or two about morality in politics:
“Genuine politics — even politics worthy of the name — the only politics I am willing to devote myself to — is simply a matter of serving those around us: serving the community and serving those who will come after us. Its deepest roots are moral because it is a responsibility expressed through action, to and for the whole.”
David Wilks tried to be true to that principle for the sake of his constituents, but in his withdrawal he proved once again that in modern Canada the PM, not the citizen voter, is the ultimate arbitrator of all things Canadian.
It is this kind of arrogance that will eventually turn the country against this kind of politics. The shooting of your own naïve young star is particularly abhorrent to a nation used to being treated better by its overseers. If you eat your young, what will you do with the rest of the country? Thanks to Bill C-38, we’re about to find out.