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Opinion  

Ottawa emitting odious aromas

Ottawa's odious aromas

At one point the words “our neoliberal fallacy propelled by its own nihilistic inertia into the abyss” graced this page in early drafts. My work wife, a perfect caricature of a modern Grit who voted for Trudeau twice, said that simply wouldn’t help me get my point across on “Me to We.” I strongly disagree - therapeutic techniques pale in comparison to Old Testament verbiage, from colour to results. But I’m always up for a challenge. Here then is my attempt to tone it all down.

The WE scandal enveloping Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, his family, and his cabinet is not the worst ethics violation or egregious political play ever witnessed. John A. Macdonald’s Pacific scandal and Mackenzie King’s customs scandal were both far clearer breaches of the law in both spirit and word; MK did a better job of obscuring it by picking a fight with Governor General Byng, while Old Tomorrow had written a telegram demanding funds immediately for reelection.

But the word “odious” is so apropo for the current disgrace in Ottawa precisely because the intimacy between the parties involved does not pass the smell test. When the First Minister of a 35 million strong nation has family who are regularly sought out and paid by an organization that won an uncompetitive contract, a raised eyebrow or two is certainly in order. When it seems that to these accused this is simply business as usual, tis time to gather tar and goose down.

To be clear, WE has its tentacles in everything and that is partly our fault. There was a time when merit counted and one could come up through the ranks - constituent assistants went on to become legislative assistants, eventually becoming the senior apparatchiks of parties as well as the elected officials of their hometowns. Now we have an internship-consultancy-lobbyist post-industrial complex that allows people to bypass anytime they might converse with voters.

This is a bipartisan issue, external as well as internal. The amount of Tory insiders that I met who had absolute contempt for the base was second only to the Grits and Dippers who are paid to hate us. Someday, when I am made emperor of the Conservative internship selection committee because all other options are clearly sub-optimal, I will explain to these earnest teens that we are not here to censor members and our mission is to work ourselves out of a career.

The point is imperialism has no place in government and the cousin of imperialism is aristocracy of the nouveau riche kind, where close cousins of a particular class hand each other afterwork and favours. All Trudeau and his family are guilty of in a sense is getting caught doing what everyone does - chasing contracts to help manufacture consent amongst a populace too over stimulated and exhausted to defend itself.

There are ways forward. In the age of COVID-19, the perfect opportunity to change has been offered to us. Simply put, people must stop providing children for third parties to exploit via indoctrination that does not emphasize sacrifice as its central ethic; from lining up with newborns for placements in French Immersion to teens asking for sponsorship at “Me to We” events, all of it contributes to a leadership class system that does not empathize with those it claims to rule.

Again, this is the toned down version, though the colour has bled through too many times already for my detractors I’m sure. But if I may be allowed to lean into it for a moment, left wing or right wing, we have forgotten that “the least of these” is whom we are supposed to help, not seek rent from. Without bothering to look it up, I’m fairly certain “WE” was about helping with all kinds of mental illness - if that mission surprises you, I’d argue that is their problem, not yours.

Calling for resignations from our Prime Minister or his cabinet is a futile but necessary act. Far better for all parties and people to return to instruments that instill virtue and sacrifice.



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