As we have been battling Covid-19 we’ve seen many things happen that Canadians can be proud of. As someone who worked and volunteered in politics for over a decade, one of the things that I’ve witnessed that made me particularly proud to see as a Canadian has been our political leaders mostly putting partisan politics aside in this moment, focusing on the needs of the public that elected them. It’s been a rare show of solidarity and dare I say, maturity on the part of most of our political leaders.
There have been some slips & blips during this time, but for the most part they’ve managed to keep it together and continued to be focused on the global pandemic before us. But in the last little while that has started to fray, leading some to wonder how long this period of cooperation and respect could last. Well in the past 24 hours, it looks like we might be seeing the end of it, with two examples of ugly commentary that did nothing to help the crisis and were all about playing to the politics of their bases. The first came yesterday, with a series of comments by two party leaders that were just not helpful in this moment:
Where to start with this? It’s not like neither Ms. May nor Mr. Blanchett said anything we haven’t heard them say before, but those comments felt quite different this time. That’s especially true for Ms. May’s comments, coming from someone who consistently hectors other MPs and Leaders for supposedly not being respectful and alike. Going into a national press conference and crowing that “Oil is dead” and that that sector should get no help was an ugly piece of tone-deaf triumphalism on her part. It was also cold and uncaring for those who are suffering in that sector and completely drown out her cries that she believes in a just transition.
This of course also ignores the fact that most oil and gas companies are some of the biggest investors in green energy in the entire country. Her comments managed to make an ugly rhetorical booked to go with those equally ugly comments from Alberta Premier Jason Kenney over a week ago on a Green New Deal. And what exactly did she accomplish with it? It was a total sop to her party base and the kinds of words that you expect to hear from any leader who has no interest or aspiration to actual government Canada as a whole country. Any leader who hopes to do that knows you can’t govern Canada by damning certain regions and their economies with your words. It takes some balance, something that Ms. May obviously has no interest in.
The same goes for Mr. Blanchett in this case, as a sovereigntist leader who has no interest in making Canada work. In making his comments, he just threw a barrel of high-grade gasoline onto the fire that is burning through the oil and gas sector right now. In doing so, he’s inflaming intense feelings at probably the worst time and in the process, managed to undermine all the good work he had done so far during this crisis. And again, for what? To try to turn the voters in a province that you never need to win votes from into a boogeyman to feather your own political bed. That’s just as ugly and far from helpful in this moment. When those comments came you knew that you were going to get a big reaction from some of those on the other side, especially those who have been less level-headed through out this crisis. And it didn’t take long into today’s virtual Parliament session for it all to blow up:
If you want to mark the moment that things “returned to normal” in Parliament, you can mark it right there. Conservative MP Rosemarie Falk’s comments were so far over the top, so insulting and so inflammatory that they were unparliamentary in my view. Of course, this comes from the same MP who after voting against UNDRIP legislation and Indigenous Rights high-fived one of her colleagues in celebration, which tells you a lot of what you need to know. While that question might be a prime example of “two wrongs don’t make a right”, you had to know something like that would happen in reply under normal circumstances. The question was if it would be under these circumstances, and the answer turned into “Yes”.
Not only did Mrs. Falk level some highly insulting comments towards her colleagues, including trying to insinuate Ms. May was trying to “destroy the country” with her views. That is far beyond the pale and are words she should be ashamed of, but I doubt that she is. While I completely disagree with the point of view that Ms. May expressed yesterday and the way she did it, having an opposite opinion on that topic doesn’t make you less Canadian or wanting to destroy the country. The same is true that just because you’re 150% “ride or die” with oil & gas doesn’t make you an uber-Patriot.
This kind of rhetoric does nothing to help anyone at the best of times, let alone in the hardest ones like these. And these are some of the hardest times we’ve face in the longest time. This is a time when we need open minds and to bring solutions to the table. We expect our parliamentarians to be at the front of the line in doing that, and in this case, all of those voices you heard failed miserably on all counts. May & Blanchett’s “Evil Homer” dance on the alleged grave of the oil & gas sector did nothing to help bring us closer to a greener energy sector. Neither did that disrespectful rant from Mrs. Falk & the heckling of her colleagues of Ms. May over Zoom do anything to help those workers in the oil & gas sector who were struggling. The did nothing to help anything, nothing.
What they did to is play to the worst instincts of both of their bases and obviously made themselves feel really good about themselves. In playing for the rhetorical clip that made the feel great inside, they made themselves look like immature wannabe politicians who are not in it for the betterment of the country. In this moment when people are expecting them to rise above it all, they managed to sink deeper into the partisan muck than usual, as if they were making up for lost time. In short, they returned to pre-Covid Parliament, which was one of the few things that people weren’t longing for a return of. I pray that I’m wrong about this & that these MPs feel chasten about their behaviour and reel it back in. I truly hope that’s the case, but I have my doubts. Today felt like a true return of that old normal, which is something that isn’t good for our politics going forward.