Monday, June 11, 2012

Political Corruption Exists in Canada Too

Terence McKenna did a feature piece on The National last night on Québec's corruption scandal, on the links between organized crime and politics on the provincial and municipal levels. At the end of the piece, the former Montréal police chief featured in the piece warned other Canadians to look out, that corruption could be happening in their province too.

That wasn't my first thought.

My first thought was if Québec provincial politicians were that corrupt, what about Federal?

Will the public enquiry into corruption look only into provincial politicians or will they look at any politician corrupted by organized crime once the politician has ascended into power, at whatever level?

Someone once said to me that Americans assume that government is corrupt (and perhaps that assumption assures that it is). But Canadians recognize the need for "good government" -- we wrote it down even! -- and thus need to be vigilant for signs of corruption and not let it slide under the rubric of "oh, that's just the way government is." It's costly to the integrity of society and costly to our coffers to do so. Also, when we think of corruption, we don't always think of organized crime owning politicians but of large corporations being able to influence government policy to the extent that policy is no longer created for the common good, even though it may not be legally or overtly corruption per se. Or as we saw in the UK, and Dan Rather spoke about on CBC's The Current today, media conglomerates and politicians of all stripes collude to influence government or influence what news the public will see. And so what also comes to mind for me is the influence of multinationals on government, like the insurance industry on provincial legislation. Back when I worked for the Ministry of Health, the bureaucrats knew to keep a sharp eye on insurance companies. I was told that if you give them an inch, they'll take a mile, that if you allow them a peek into private information, they'll demand the entire enchilada. Somewhere along the way, the civil service seems to have forgotten that adage. Either that, or politicians are listening to and accepting wholesale what insurance companies are selling. The protection of privacy has morphed into enshrining their right, for one, to stalk, I mean, videotape claimants while claimants do not hold similar rights to videotape insurance meetings on their cases or even of receiving copies of their internal memos on themselves. The disproportion has grown such that insurance companies have deftly cast caring rehabilitation therapists into gougers of poor insurance premium payers while no one pays attention to how much premium money insurance companies spend to fight even obviously legit claims or have lost on the stock market. And so each new change in legislation punishes claimants and raises premiums. Is that corruption or simply political stupidity? I usually argue the latter, but it serves the same purpose: to benefit one at the expense of another and of society as a whole.

The former police chief Jacques Duchesneau is right: we cannot afford to become complacent. We cannot afford to think: oh, that won't happen in my back yard. Because when we do, it does.

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