Saturday, December 17, 2005


Babble on.

Anyone who's ever run competitive distance races knows how I'm feeling right now.

You start off strong, then you hit a wall, then you get your second wind. And you run and you run and you run. And then at some point if you run hard enough and long enough, your chest starts to burn. Your arms start to stray from their crisp patterns of motion by your side and wobble around a bit. Your stride stops being worthy of the name and disintigrates into a continuous cycle of headlong stumbles and last minute recoveries. And if you keep pushing it, eventually your legs just seem to lose their skeletal mass, and you collapse.

You know you should keep going, you want to keep going, but you simply can't.

From today's National Post comes word that civil servants in the Department of National Defence have been researching opposition (read Tory and prior to that Alliance) election defence proposals for their Liberal political masters in contravention of their own strict ethical guidelines. They used public servants to do their election research for them on the taxpayer's dime.

The evidence from Department of National Defence documents and internal correspondence illustrates a pattern of Liberal partisan support during the election campaigns of 2000 and 2004. National Defence deputy ministers and other officials tracked, evaluated and analyzed opposition platforms and passed the results of their findings in weekly policy reports to the Liberal Cabinet.

I know I should be outraged over this. I used to get incensed over this type of thing. Intellectually, I still abhor it. But I can't seem to summon the emotion right now.

I mean, how long can anyone sustain that level of indignation and disgust? With ethics and trust, not policy, mind you! Mine started with the cynical cancellation of the Sea King replacements in 1993 - a purely political gesture with no thought whatsoever to the human or operational consequences. It continued through the Red Book promise-breaking spree; through the Grand Mere fiasco; through the HRDC scandal; through the reprehensible actions of key Liberals appointed to the BDC, to Via Rail, to Canada Post, to the Ambassadorship of Denmark, and to the Royal Canadian Mint. It continued through the needless death of a sailor that can be traced back to an entirely partisan political calculation regarding the purchase of submarines. It continued through the contemptuous way in which parliamentary tradition was abused until a naive Conservative MP could be bribed into subverting our system of government to the benefit of the Liberal Party of Canada. As all this continued, oh, my blood boiled. And my outrage, my passion, my sense of fair play and honesty and justice ran and ran and ran.

But by the time we got to the latest revelations about Adscam, my lungs were already burning, and my stride was going wobbly.

I wasn't the only one - the entire Canadian electorate seemed to suffer this malaise, and much earlier than me. Andrew Coyne wrote passionately and eloquently about this problem back in April of 2001, and his words still ring true:

Democracy in Canada can survive the ethical failings of one man, or even one government. It cannot long survive -- not as something meaningful -- the sort of slow institutional suffocation to which it has been subjected of late. What went on in Shawinigan, what was allowed to go on throughout the department of Human Resources Development, is far more than a matter of poor judgment, or even partisan excess. It is the product -- I should say the inevitable product -- of a systematic breakdown in our democratic institutions, the point at which a number of well-known failings intersect: the decline of Parliament, as the watchdog on public spending; the consequent accretion of powers in the Prime Minister's Office; and of these, especially, his near universal powers of appointment. The scandal may have begun with the affairs I mentioned. But it continues, and deepens, with each day that these go unaddressed.
If, in the end, we decide that "it doesn't matter" -- not the conflict of interest, not the misuse of public funds, not the lies and the half-truths and the frank contempt for Parliament displayed every day in question period -- then we also conclude that none of the rest of it matters, either. It doesn't matter that so many public officials, high and low, are personally answerable to the Prime Minister, with neither their appointment nor their dismissal subject to public scrutiny. It doesn't matter that supposedly arm's-length Crown corporations have become the Prime Minister's political chequing account. It doesn't matter that Parliament is neutered, that the conflict of interest guidelines are a sham. And it doesn't matter that it doesn't matter: that we have come to expect so little from those in public life, even in the way of personal integrity.

But we should know we are also saying that democracy doesn't matter; that we are content to be ruled, rather than governed. Which being the case, we deserve everything we get.

Using civil servants at DND to do partisan research on behalf of the Liberal bosses doesn't surprise me after all this. But the truth is that I'm tired of being outraged. I'm so very tired. I'm exhausted, in fact.

My head tells my legs to keep running, but I know this feeling all too well. I just hope I can make it to the finish line.

Because if people like me who care deeply about the political process lose faith entirely, if even we can no longer hold up evidence of right and wrong in government and call the masses to stand up on their hind legs...well, there's not much left after that, is there?

Babble off.


At 3:36 p.m., Blogger Kim McKenzie said...

I hope that your legs keep going too. We can't let them win. I'm extemely angered by this latest misuse of tax money for the Liberal cause. I'm proabably angry enough for 8 or 10 people. Keep posting and I'll keep listening. Just remember that if you're getting tired of telling the truth, the liers have to be getting tired of your persistance.

At 4:49 p.m., Blogger The Tiger said...

I hit that state of outrage fatigue in late May.

Now, I just laugh.

At 10:17 p.m., Blogger Brandon said...

I just came up with this:

Feel free to use it.

At 1:55 a.m., Blogger deaner said...

Damian - I know how you feel. I am also worn out. I think of a conversation I have with a guy I do some work with: Harper "would have put us in Iraq" - so he will vote Liberal. I tell him that PMPM would have done the same - it doesn't matter, since "Chretien kept us out of Iraq" - and that's enough to vote Liberal. I tell him that Chretien only kept us "out of Iraq" by committing to Afghanistan - an order that caught the general staff by surprise, and that we were not preprared for - and which has in turn exposed Candain soldiers to additional risks. "That's okay," he says "anything is better than fighting in a quagmire, Bush's Vietnam..." I comment that perhaps da Liddle Guy wanted to stay out of Iraq because his daughter is married to the largest shareholder of the company with the most to gain in an Iraq controlled by Saddam - but "that's nothing compared to what Cheny made from Halliburton..."

They're going to win, and they are going to continue pissing my country down the drain. I can't (realistically) leave; my family is here, my business is here, my kids' friends are here. I fight for the kind of a country I can be proud of - but they are entrenched, they are sneaky, they are determined, and they are unscrupulous. They have no honour, and their only goal is power, for the sheer delight in excercising it. I despair that so many of my fellow citizens seem not to appreciate what they are doing to us...

At 11:54 a.m., Blogger BillBC said...

I must be older than you disillusionment with Canada began about thirty years ago, and now I'm almost numb...I can still summon up some rage at Liberals, but the war is over, and they've won...even if the Conservatives were to form a gov't, it wouldn't last, and the Libs will be back. They are the natural governing party, and once more this country proves the adage that people get the government they deserve. One of my greatest regrets in life is that I didn't emigrate to Australia when I was 20....sorry for such cynicism...I'd be happy to be proved wrong.

At 3:06 p.m., Blogger dog soldier said...

C'mon, where's the will to fight here! When these scum reassess you for last years taxes after publicly speaking out against these Libranos, eight months after the fact, that's when you have to wonder when the Boston Tea Party begins! This is a fight to the death - like "give me liberty or give me death". You want to live in a Gulag the rest of your life, like those poor suckers on the Katchetchewan First Nations? Well, that's your future in this country under the Libranos if you don't keep the faith! The Marines say "semper fi" and we should too! Never say die!

At 3:30 p.m., Blogger Brian Mertens (Free Advice) said...

Does anyone think public servants will stop doing research for the Liberals just because they're out of power?

The only difference is that they'll have to secretly pass their work via unmarked envelopes, rather handing it directly to their Minister.


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