Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The #NOTW Scandal vs. Canada

Sometimes news stories wash over you, barely leaving a drop to feel on your skin. The News of the World Scandal, dubbed #NotW on Twitter, with its ever-widening waves hitting ever more people, is one such story for me. What has it to do with me, other than being a titillating read? A few things, in no specific order.

Shocker: the Prime Minister of Great Britain is returning home from South Africa early to face the political mob in the “mother” Parliament.

Don’t they look like a mob, something out of a 17th century caricature, all sitting cheek to cheek, many squished up against the walls standing?

Yet in contrast to Canada’s Parliament, their heckles are witty, not basely derogatory, the Prime Minister speaks with passion, upholds his stance, but not with a tone of contempt for lesser beings who cannot see it his way.

Unlike our PM, the British PM has no fear of conflict, of media (ahem) covering the Scandal, of showing up in the House of Commons and in front of the media scrum for a drubbing of questions. He doesn’t say, “you’ve had your five questions, question time is over”; he doesn’t pick his favourite reporters (though apparently he had more than individual faves, he had a whole newspaper chain) to ask the soft questions; he doesn’t appoint somebody when he’s in the country to cover for him in the House -- he faces the questioners squarely. He gets on with it.

Although he and other politicians were obviously intimidated by at least one newspaper owner and chain and chose to canoodle (maybe to further their own power too), rather than use modern communication tools and stand on their own power base.

The British House is still sitting.

Whoa.

Other than our Canadian PM's habit of proroguing for months at a time when things get too hot, our Canadian House went on an election, had a break, came back, stalled a bit over the filibuster, then dissolved ASAP, the MPs racing from Ottawa as fast as their pudgy legs allowed. Where is our PM, anyway? Busy bitching about and running away from our media, is where he usually is.

Would the Queen let the British PM prorogue, like our Governor General let our PM do when things got a bit contentious for him? The British PM seems to have the balls not to ask.

The Metropolitan police in London, UK look like they’re corrupt. This is so shocking, I’m not taking it in.

The death of Sean Hoare, the journalist who broke open the Scandal, is being investigated by the same police force that is implicated in the Scandal and whose top two brass just resigned. Seems a bit iffy to me. Over here, if the Toronto Police Service were implicated in a scandal like that, there would be cries for the Ontario Provincial Police to investigate any related deaths.

While the British media and slightly less so the US one are being forced to open themselves to scrutiny, Canadian media remains smug in their lack of taint. Some Canadian outlets even talk about the Scandal that won't die. Excuse me? Won't die? A Scandal like this should not die at all! It should spawn inquiries and new legislation to prevent media from corrupting politicians and police and police influencing politicians. And it should spawn investigations here too about the coziness of Canadian media with politicians, the laziness that results in spouting of press releases with no investigations, the lack of courage with a few standouts to look into police influence on our politics and politicians, among other things.

Across the pond, politicians and media are in cahoots, it seems. Such a contrast to our Canadian PM, who both hates and fears the media. Even the new right-wing bunch at Toronto Council do, recently restricting the number of cameras allowed in a contentious committee meeting.

And that core services review committee did yesterday what our Parliament did: quit work. First, members couldn’t be bothered to show up, then they tossed their whole responsibility up to the Mayor’s Executive Committee. Meanwhile, the British House of Commons, British MPs, British Parliamentary committees, meet, work, face the media, face each other, take responsibility for their jobs and for representing the public. Their government is a right-wing one too, so it can’t be their ideology. No, I think they get that the cut and thrust of politics is exactly that -- cut and thrust. No one is “out to get them” -- they have no time for such paranoid, delusional thinking because they know, with their oral skills and sharp-minded thinking, they can give as good as they get and they know it’s a game, not a personal thing. And most of all, they know it’s a job. You gotta work representing the people, not glad-handing in continual campaigning.

They have enough history and enough confidence in themselves and their Parliament not to have imported the paranoia and rigid ideology of American politics. Unfortunately, Canada’s right seems to be insecure enough to have done just that.

The Scandal has magnified just how dysfunctional Canada’s Parliament is. Our right-wing politicians contrast poorly to the right-wing British PM; their hatred of the media, their desire for revenge (on Liberals in the House of Commons and on left-wing Councillors in Toronto City Hall), their rigid ideology that brooks no evidence look petty and stupid next to how the British Parliamentarians are acting in the face of this Scandal.

We had corruption in our House. The electorate yawned and re-elected those implicated (happened in Toronto too). Our politicians were ineffective in getting those implicated to resign; they were more interested in grand-standing. Never has that been more evident than seeing how the British MPs go about dealing with it in their House.

The Scandal would probably do more to awaken Canadians to how Parliament is supposed to work than anything our media writes or our opposition politicians opine on. If only it wasn’t happening in the summer when Canadians are snoozing at the cottage or racing across our vast land in RVs.

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