Government continues to listen to most Canadians with a tin ear

This week the Alberta electorate broke with 43 years of tradition and elected an NDP government.  How that happened should have federal Conservatives considering their fate for the election in October.  The pundits vary on the exact reasons for the dramatic shift in the Albertan political landscape, but among the most accepted theories are that voters grew tired of a manipulative government  that presented cynical choices and relied on fear-mongering as their primary response to criticism.  In addition to that, the Alberta Conservatives had managed to squander the heritage fund that came from oil-extraction royalties and refused to even consider adjusting the corporate tax rate after raising taxes almost everywhere else and dealing out an austerity budget in the process. 

While the federal Conservative could have read something into the defeat of their provincial cousins, their actions in parliament this week indicates they have not. 

To begin, I will use the Private Member’s Bill (PMB) that Claude Gravelle from Nickel Belt proposed as an illustration of the Conservative’s consistent partisan response to anything the opposition proposes - even when it’s the right thing to do.   The legislation would have created a national dementia strategy to ensure that the multiple efforts to deal with dementia across the country are coordinated and cohesive.  It wasn’t about spending money, but about ensuring the federal contribution on these initiatives was positive and in keeping with those of other jurisdictions.   As someone with a relative (in this case my sister) who is suffering through dementia, I found the tactic cynical and mean-hearted.

The Conservatives did the same for a New Democrat PMB that would ensure the laws of Canada are in harmony with the UN's Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. During the long session of votes that night, they also passed the contentious security Bill C-51 that trades citizen’s rights for security measures said to be aimed at terrorists.  The truth is that the new security measures can be applied to all manner of honest, law-abiding Canadians for actions as simple as protesting and may not survive a Charter of Rights and Freedoms challenge in the courts.

What stood out as entirely cynical and a little too short-sighted was the defeat of an NDP amendment to the government’s new firearm bill.  The amendment attempted to level the playing field for rural residents who have to comply with new regulations that make classroom participation in firearms safety training mandatory for anyone who wants to possess and acquire a firearm. Witnesses at committee testified that those options are not always available for Canadians in rural locations.  We proposed making participation online an option to get around the problem and the Conservatives voted it down.  The amendment made nothing but sense and would have helped a lot of law-abiding gun owners who will now be forced to travel to receive training and testing.  It was defeated as a partisan reaction, pure and simple.

At the end of the parliamentary week we saw that a 43 year dynasty was cut down because the ruling party refused to listen to the people it served.  Will the federal election do the same for the Conservatives who only take their own council and refuse all other opinions?  A strong majority of Canadians now oppose the antiterrorism measures the government just voted in, so if there is to be a conversion moment, we didn’t see it this week.