Monday, May 16, 2005

So, how's the blogging going?

Babble on.

My wee Scottish mother-in-law is in town this week. Tonight at dinner, she valiantly tried to engage this tired and frustrated blogger in conversation - not an easy task after my tiring day at work, and a long commute home.

Wee Mum: So, Damian, how's your blogging going?

Babbler: Enh. *shrugging* Not great.

Wee Mum: Nobody's reading?

Babbler: Nah, I'm just not really inspired to write much.

Wee Mum: *surprised* I would have thought with all that's going on in Ottawa that you would have had a lot to talk about.

Babbler: Not really. Everyone's making too much of it all, one way or another.

Wee Mum: What do you mean?

Babbler: *pauses, puts fork down* There are a bunch of people who are going completely nuts over the Liberals clinging to power right now. I mean, they've lost the confidence of the House, right?

Wee Mum: *shakes head, puzzled*

Babbler: The big vote everyone's talking about, the one the Liberals lost? It was a vote to recommend to a committee that the committee recommend the government resign. Not super-clear, as non-confidence votes go. People who know about this sort of stuff are split: some think it was a confidence vote, some don't. But then the opposition shut down the House early a couple of days in a row. Generally speaking, when the opposition controls the business of the House, it's a sign the government has lost control - lost confidence. You with me?

Wee Mum: *nods*

Babbler: *ignoring dinner in favour of the wine at this point* So if it seems the government has lost the confidence of the House, they should do one of two things: tell the Governor General it's time for an election; or if they think the opposition has just been playing games, schedule an explicit confidence motion immediately. Governments who actually control the House will handle it this way, because when they win the confidence vote, they make the opposition look like they were trying to pull a fast one. Goes over like a brick with the voters.
*pausing for a quick bite*
But the Liberals haven't done either one. It's close enough in the House, and more importantly, in the polls, that they don't want an election yet. So they've left Adrienne Clarkson alone so far. But it's iffy enough that they're having trouble bringing themselves to call a clear vote. So they've put it off as long as possible. Some folks say longer than that, and they're royally pissed off about it.

Wee Mum: That's what all the talk in the papers and on the news is about.

Babbler: Yeah.

Wee Mum: So why aren't you writing about it?

Babbler: *considering, fork down again* I guess I'm kind of split. I think the Liberals are being duplicitous here - surprise, surprise. The votes so far may not have technically been confidence votes, but anyone who's been watching this knows Martin doesn't have the confidence of the House. In a Westminster parliamentary system, tradition plays a big part - there's all sorts of gray areas because a lot of the rules aren't written down, they're just kind of followed by feel. A specific confidence motion is just a way of measuring that feel. But in this case, the government is really pushing the limits, both in terms of time, and in terms of what they will recognize as a confidence vote, and what they won't. And with the gray areas in our system, they can do that.
*pausing for a gulp of wine*
I think the idiots should have resigned last week when they lost the first vote. The wording may not have been the best, but a committee vote was all the opposition was left with, since the Liberals decided to push back opposition days. The intent was clear - anyone watching the news or reading a paper would have known that. Martin should have either resigned or scheduled an explicit confidence motion immediately. The fact that he didn't shows just what a weasel he really is. There's zero respect for parliamentary tradition - for anything other than staying in power right now. I hope nobody forgets all the tricks Martin pulled to postpone the inevitable as long as he possibly could. I hope they remember it when the candidates start knocking on doors and talking about the 'democratic deficit'. This guy has given up any credibility he might have had.

Wee Mum: So why aren't you writing about all of this?

Babbler: Well, I started to tell you right off the top: it's become too polarized. The people who support Martin - or more accurately, oppose the Conservatives; nobody supports Martin - the people who support this guy are willing to completely overlook the precedent this sets in a system founded on precedent. The Dippers...

Wee Mum: ...the what?

Babbler: ...Dippers, uh, the NDP supporters who watched Layton push their agenda into the budget are being shortsighted about this. They figure as long as they get what they want, it's all politics. I think they're making a big mistake. They're never going to hold a majority in parliament, so they're always going to be relying on procedure, not power, to get anything done. But they're turning a blind eye to Martin's abuse of procedure here.

Wee Mum: *shaking head* What do you mean?

Babbler: I mean, if you live and die as a party on the traditions of the House - allocating questions at Question Period, getting seats on committees, and all that - shouldn't that be more important to you than one budget that won't pass anyhow? This is going to haunt them, and they can't see it. Some government years from now is going pull a fast one and cite Martin's precedent here - and the NDP's support of it - and the Dippers are going to go completely ape. And I'm going to shake my head and remind them of this stupid situation, and so will half the press.
But I'm getting off topic. You asked why I'm not writing about this: frankly, I'm getting sick of the rhetoric from my own side of the argument.

Wee Mum: What are they saying?

Babbler: They're talking about protests on Parliament Hill with dyed fingers and orange scarves. I'm as sick of the Liberals as they are, but they're just going too far. I mean, can you really compare what we're going through with the Iraqi voters who stood in line for hours, braving suicide bombers and snipers, after years of brutal rule under Hussein where thugs would come after their relatives in the middle of the night and feed them into wood chippers - can we really compare ourselves to them? It's idiotic. And completely - completely disrespectful. Same thing with the orange scarves. Nobody's shipping foreign troops into our country to stuff ballot boxes and intimidate voters. We don't have sign interpreters on TV clandestinely refusing to push the official government lie. Nobody's risking their life to tell the truth about the situation in parliament. To pretend our situation is analagous to theirs is absolutely ridiculous.

Wee Mum: So you just don't want to seem like you're supporting either side? Is that it?

Babbler: Yeah. It's more serious than the lefties want to admit - we're trashing some of the parliamentary tradition that makes our democracy work here. But it's not dye-your-finger-and-camp-out-on-the-Hill-in-a-tent-city serious.
*fork down again, pushing plate away disgusted*
People need to sort themselves out. I mean, really and truly: Get. A. Frickin'. Grip.

Wee Mum: So why don't you just write that?

Babbler: *pause* You're right. You're absolutely right...

Scottish mother-in-laws should be standard-issue...

Babble off.

Update: The underhanded dealings with Stronach have changed the calculus somewhat. I still think engaging in hyperbolic comparisons with Iraqi or Ukranian voters does our cause no good, because it makes ordinary non-political-junkie folks tune us out as frothing, raving moonbats. But the abuse of our democracy is much more serious at this point.

Jay Random has a good post up about the whole darn thing right now, 'bimbo' shot notwithstanding.


At 9:17 a.m., Blogger The Tiger said...

Ok Damian, point taken. But what's the proper reaction then?

At 5:29 p.m., Blogger MB said...

Damian, I have to disagree. Although it is not like braving snipers and bombs, this is a serious threat to our democracy. This is how the decent down the slipperly slope starts. Hitler was elected once.

Each of these little ploys by Martin makes us a little bit less democratic, when we should be moving in the other direction. Since no one is allowed to carry guns, these procedures/traditions are our best protection against dictatorship. The Liberals may have done only small damage, but it a small crack in the dam that eventually brings it all crashing down.

At 5:56 p.m., Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

MB, I wrote this before Martin pulled his stunt with Stronach. I feel it's much more serious now, but I still think the purple fingers and orange scarves idea is disrespecful to those facing true danger in their pursuit of democracy.

Is the way Martin is pushing the boundaries of our democracy deeply troubling? Yes, absolutely. But engaging in hyperbole (and I cringed when you invoked Hitler) just tunes the non-political-junkie population out.

We need to forcefully explain why this is important, not stand there shouting "Power to the people" or some such thing.


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