“A week is a long time in politics.”- Harold Wilson, former British PM
How true these words continue to be. As I scanned through the news and started to write a post on the subject yesterday, the “robocall” controversy was front and centre in the political news as the story of a call centre in Thunder Bay that apparently worked on behalf on the CPC to misdirect voters blended with the expanding story about automated calls from a voice broadcasting centre in Alberta with Conservative ties doing something similar.
All of this changed as Public Safety Minister Vic Toews (who has been surrounded by controversy in recent weeks over Bill C-30, as well as being the subject of the controversial “Vikileaks” Twitter account describing his personal life in detail) rose in the House on a point of privilege, as described here.
Liberal interim leader Bob Rae stood to apologize for Vikileaks and explain that (from the CBC article) “he was advised Sunday that a member of the Liberal party research bureau used a House of Commons computer to set up the account that was used to publish details” of Toews’ divorce.” The article goes on to say “Rae said he spoke with the staff member, Adam Carroll, Monday morning. He offered his resignation and it was accepted, Rae said.”
I’m left wondering what can be taken away from all this. My initial reaction was fairly cynical, as this issue casts renewed doubt (as always, with the first whiff of scandal, the dreaded words “Ad Scam” are being dredged up once again) into the conduct of the Liberal Party even as the Conservatives are being asked to answer for what is starting to appear to be a concerted effort conducted across the country to illegally suppress voting (something that frustrates me deeply to say the least, especially considering the fact that we’re struggling to engage citizens in the electoral process to begin with). As citizens continue to express, is there anywhere we can still turn?
This comes as I’m already heavily struggling with my politics. I joined the Liberal Party during the last election and sat with the London-Fanshawe Federal Liberal Association (LFFLA) for a few months last year. My difficulty is that I know (more or less) what I believe, and have tried my best to examine what the major political parties work to represent. I say work to because no one and no organization is perfect, perhaps especially true in politics. So I have struggled between “occupying” the system and working to be the change I want to see from within, and trying to find my own unassociated way to be involved. At least for now I have chosen the later, but hope to continue to be engaged and connect with my community and be some form of positive change. Part of my problem is the sort of “all or nothing” approach to association, in that, if you choose to join any sort of group organization etc. you become connected with all those under such an association. This is something that needs to be grappled with when entering politics, and in which I struggled.
However, my friend Chris Loblaw (@spankules) that I met at the LFFLA posted this yesterday and helped me consider where to stand. In it he state about the Vikileaks revelation and LPC interim leader Bob Rae’s apology:
It’s the cost of being included in any large membership group: you end up being judged by the lowest, most visible element, instead of those who actually represent your group. Today, the Canadian press and Twitter are ablaze with discussion on the revelation of the vikileaks source, and many are painting this as a slight to the reputation of every Liberal party member. But this staffer with bad judgement and a grudge did not, and does not speak for me as a Liberal. However, in his well-delivered and sincere apology, Bob Rae does speak for me as a member. Any organization of people will have within its members the wise and the foolish, the ethical and the sleazy, and sometimes even the good ones make bad choices. Good leaders recognize the misstep, correct it, and apologize for it happening. Bad leaders pretend that any wrongdoing is a mystery to them and they have no responsibility for their party member’s actions (though they are quick to take credit for every success).
I think this is a very sensible way to recognize how a group of any kind can and should behave. We need to define ourselves by the elements we want to embody. We must also be ready to speak out about corruption and distasteful behavior wherever it occurs, even if it is from someone within our group. How often this actually happens is questionable, but I’m glad to see the LPC do this today. Glen Pearson (@GlenPearson) said it so well in his Tweet after Bob Rae’s apology on behalf of the party and the subsequent turmoil: “Let’s just be honest. The attack on Minister Toews by a Liberal staffer on VickiLeaks was wrong – absolutely, no excuses.” If we’re to start rebuilding the shambles our politics (at all levels) are rapidly dissolving into, I think we’ll need more people like Glen. I hope to that I can, little by little, become one of those people.
*I may expand on this topic in my next post. I continue to struggle with partisanship in all its forms both within and without, and will keep working towards seeing the issue without the party. I am quick to leap on and carry arguments that say the robocall issue is completely different than Vikileaks, but want to make sure that the argument is valid.