Sunday, April 09, 2006

On Mud-Slinging and Smear vs. Fact

As usual, reading the blogs one night before turning in, I found an interesting argument going on in the comments section of Jason Cherniak's post "Want to Buy Some Swamp Land?"

I had time to throw in a comment, but not so much to reply to a response that was posted.

In all fairness, I wanted to give it a read and consider it more closely, and fairly.

Now, I count myself as a partisan hack, but one who still would rather weigh the facts, and values truth more than my partisan colours. It's more important to me to have chosen the correct side, than supporting a side. If my team should make a bad call, or policy, or attack, then I'm going to call a spade a spade.

One of the more frustrating aspects of the last election was the repeated slinging of the label of "corruption" at the Liberal government under Paul Martin. It seemed that calling an inquiry into the sponsorship scandal meant nothing to the opposition. It didn't matter that Martin was exonerated of wrongdoing in the final version of the report; still, the label of corruption was applied.

When I asked for proof for a statement that "Paul Martin is certainly no stranger to the ethical and moral gutter.", the point I was making was that the justification for that kind of smear has to be based in some kind of fact, otherwise it's dubious at best, libelous at worst.

The reply that I wanted to respond to was really part of another thread, but the poster, Brandon, also felt it constituted proof of his earlier statement.

Ok, let's have a look: my comments in bold italics

Looking at the context of that flinging mud comment, it's far worse than I thought.

They declared that the constitution was at risk when the Liberals demanded a real non-confidence vote.

Well, I guess the point here is that Martin was insisting that any non-confidence vote should constitute what is considered a non-confidence vote based on the rules of order that govern parliamentary procedure. Not exactly the stuff of the "ethical and moral gutter."

Wow. Where do I even begin with this one.

Let's look back at that shameful little chapter of our nation's history.

Here's how I remember it, in chronological order:

-The Breault testimony bombshell hits, Martin's numbers go into freefall.

-Harper muses about the possibility of bringing down the government, the Liberals respond by canceling opposition days and filibustering their own budget.

-Martin goes on TV to beg for his job, Layton hits he might save him for a price.

Again, nothing so far is really "unethical." Let's agree on one thing: Governments will always try to maintain their status quo; this goes for any party in power. Considering that the plan had been for the government to call an election after the release of the Gomery reports, trying to maintain their position does not constitute an immoral act. We all know the Conservatives wanted to be seen as bringing down the Liberals, and they wanted to do it on their timetable (before the final Gomery report could be released, and it's recommendations adopted).

-Martin ditches tax cuts that his own Finance Minister only days before said were all about "jobs, jobs, jobs," in order to get the NDP to prop up his government.

Hmmm, compromise with the NDP to pass their budget... yeah, pretty slimy. Seriously, the on-going perspective we are getting from Brandon's memory is that Martin and the Liberals shouldn't have been trying to maintain their government, at any costs.

-Inky Mark comes out and says that the Liberals are trying to bribe him into crossing the floor. In denying the accusation, Reg Alcock makes a racist remark about Mark not being in the right "gene pool." I haven't read the hansard on this one, but if it's close to being that bad, then I would probably agree it was out of order; however, we're supposed to be talking about PM here. The point about Inky Mark being offered a cabinet post or ambassadorship is still uncertain, and is technically hearsay until there is some proof. I would agree that based on the events that would transpire next, one could guess there might be some truth to this assertion, but without proof, it's also possible that this could have been an attempt to discredit the Martin Government (ie, what's to stop a third party from placing an anonymous call to an MP to make some veiled offers that will later be blamed on Martin? Sorry, I'll take off the tinfoil hat now).

-The Tories decide they will bring down the government. The Liberals accuse Harper plotting with the Bloc to destroy the country. I think the Tories decided this a bit earlier. As for the Conservative-Bloc conspiracy, I never much cared for that line myself; poor politics, yes... slimy, immoral, unethical... I've seen and heard worse.

-Martin announces that he will be sending Canadians into the Darfur region of the Sudan where a genocide was raging, a desperate attempt to secure the vote of David Kilgour. That's quite the assertion. Even if it were true, is it unethical? If we agree that governments will, and should be expected to try and maintain their position, then wasn't this a good move? Especially considering Harper's own estimation of the value of our participation in Darfur?

-With no other means of expressing it's lack of confidence in the government, the opposition passes a motion instructing a committee of the House to call upon the government to resign.

Martin refuses to acknowledge the vote.

-Another vote is held, which Martin again loses. He still refuses to call an election.

See comments on parliamentary procedure above.

-The opposition, having few other options left, uses its votes to shut down the House for successive days.
Still, Martin refuses to budge.

-Martins minister's go on an announcement, making spending announcements with money they arguably no longer had the constitutionl authority to spend.

Nonsense. Arguably, being the government, they had all the constitutional authority in Canada.

-Martin calls a vote on the budget for the following the Thursday, knowing that a Conservative MP fighting cancer was going to be having surgery on Wednesday.

Only after Ed Broadbent step in does Martin agree to a pairing arrangement.

The Liberals had offered to pair Natural Resources Minister John Efford, who was sick with diabetes.

-Belinda Stronach attends a Conservative election strategy meeting, all the while negotiating for a cabinet post with the Liberals behind the scenes.

-Martin and Stronach finalize the deal. She joins his cabinet the following morning. She is named Minister of Democratic Renewal, the very epitome of irony.

I remember watching bits of the Conservative leadership convention, and thinking that Belinda Stronach's platform was more in line with the Liberal party than the Conservative party. In that sense, I wasn't surprised when the move happened. Was it unethical on Martin's part to arrange this? Considering her family wealth, the argument of any sort of monetary benefit doesn't hold water... so you can only argue that the cabinet position might not have been proper, and on that I think I'd agree. Still, in the realm of the "unethical moral-gutter," I would say this doesn't really compare. At worst, another political action to maintain power.

-Grewal unveils the tapes. It is apparent that the Liberals were also trying to bribe himand his wife to change their votes. They even offered to call off a police investigation if he voted the right way. Their behavior literally borders on criminal. I'm not so sure about Brandon's take on this. Considering that Grewal was wired, you would think he would have had better proof. Instead, the RCMP doesn't implicate anyone. We'll never know if it wasn't an attempt to set up a trap for the Liberals, to punish them for the Belinda Stronach coup.

-Cadman votes with the government. Martin gets a six month reprieve.

The conduct of Martin's government in the spring of 2005 was among the most disgusting chapters in our nation's history.

To even try to defend it by accusing the other side of "mud slinging" is reprehensible.

(Shhhh... nobody tell Brandon about the Beothuk indian genocide, or the internment of Japanese Canadians during WWII) Seriously though, no real proof has really been given for the kind of assertion that "Paul Martin is certainly no stranger to the ethical and moral gutter." That's all I asked for; back up your statement with some fact instead of smear.

Ok, glad I got that out of my system.

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