Times in Trail: Canadians keep taking hits from ‘majorities’ gone wild

"Nobody ever votes for cuts to education or increased police power over its citizens."

It’s an age-old problem that never seems to get solved. And it’s on full display in Ottawa and B.C. this week.

As the trial of Senator Mike Duffy kicked off amid a media frenzy on Tuesday, Canadians from coast to coast are hearing all the details of how a government official can manipulate the system to pad their wallets.

The trial will no doubt offer a tennis match of counter-claims.

The defence will serve up the idea that Duffy was just following the rules has written out for senators. The Crown will say he abused the system.

Sadly the drama makes for great ratings on the evening news but hardly anything else. I envision the entire sordid affair to end with no charges, some kind a repayment and a promise from our government to  “do it better next time.”

While the Prime Minister is to blame for putting the fox in the hen house for partisan purposes, I can’t swallow the fact that Duffy can claim the rules were so unclear that he thought he could get away with claiming, according to the first day of court, trips to buy a dog or visit his grandkids.

No matter how unclear the rules are, surely anyone with a sense of decency would realize claiming a trip to visit family doesn’t fall under the duties of a senator.

Meanwhile, the government rolls merrily along hoping to change the channel and boasting it has the backing of “most” Canadians.

I cringe every time a government says it has a “mandate from the public,” to implement drastic changes. Nobody ever votes for cuts to education or increased police power over its citizens.

A majority isn’t a carte blanche to impose anything and everything on the public.

I say that in light of the latest cuts the B.C. government has dropped on school districts.

There are few things in our society as important as education. It ranks up there with health care, social well-being and the environment.

Take care of one and it can go a long way to solving other problems. Good health care would reduce wait times and shortages. Good social well-being can alleviate a bevy of issues from poverty to crime. Taking care of the environment ripples through tourism to the economy to quality of life.

But for some reason our government somehow ignores this simple premise.

Why on earth would you continue to cut education funding when you claim there is a skilled labour shortage and thousands of jobs coming when the LNG plans come to fruition?

Why, after forcing school districts to trim an already tight budget, would the government say it would be easy to find another $29 million?

Unfortunately there is little we can do until election day.

The Liberal government, like the federal Conservatives, can say they have a mandate and majority to make decisions because they got the most votes plain and simple.

The sad part is if a clearer picture was painted prior to an election, people might have had second thoughts.

To the B.C. Liberal voters, did you actually support a plan that puts our public schools in such disarray?

As for the federal Conservative voters, did you actually approve of a government linked to robocalls, cheating senators, allowing more power to spy on citizens, a Fair Elections Act that disenfranchises many voters?

I wrote a column following the 2011 federal election that called the results of the Tory victory a “win-win.”

My thinking at that time was that we finally had a majority government that could actually get things done rather than the bickering we had been accustomed to in the previous minority governments.

I also thought the influx of new members from the NDP election success would breathe new life into the House of Commons.

Unfortunately I was wrong on both counts.

The Tories have bullied their way through with omnibus bills and cutting off debate.

The new members didn’t change the tone of disrespect and rhetoric in Parliament.

It’s frustrating to say the least since our only chance for change is to wait until election day.

But politicians have become better than magicians at deceiving the audience with slights of hand.

Attack ads, gimmick announcements and planned photo ops all paint a picture of them wanting to work for us as hard as they can.

Then the gavel comes down in the courtroom or you child is crowded into a small classroom and all we can do is wait for the next election.

Guy Bertrand is the managing editor of the Trail Times

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