Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Immature Parties, continued

I have been ranting here and elsewhere about the crappy oversight that exists in Canada (but the US, with its farcical confirmation hearings, is making oversight a joke as well).  Well, this piece drove me up a twitter wall this morning. In the defence committee report on the F-35, the majority party removed heaps of interesting stuff to protect the government from embarrassment, and thus caused the government some embarrassment. When the Auditor General and the Parliamentary Budget Office say you messed up, and then the committee writes a report omitting such stuff, well, folks notice.  Indeed, folks leak.

The Conservatives are a majority party with no real threat in sight, yet they continue to deny, deny, deny that they did anything wrong ever.  So, they word-smith this report to make it appear as if any mistakes were solely done by folks at the Ministry of National Defence.  Given Harper's micro-management of stuff, this is pretty funny.

What drives me crazy is that committees in legislatures are supposed to do something other than be the lapdogs of the government.  The opposition must, of course, oppose in Westminster systems, but, again, the automatic gainsaying just leads to less credibility.  When the NDP actually had good reasons to criticize the F-35 and showed that its reps knew their stuff, well, their party's cred went up.  When the Liberal opposed a war that it had started (Kandahar), it made them look foolish. To criticize and to oppose are not identical.  A constructive opposition can figure out how to criticize a policy without having to mindlessly oppose to score points.  And a government and its party in the legislature needs to be able to respond to criticism intelligently rather than censoring documents and engaging in denials.  When you deny reality, you lose credibility. 

Am I naive to expect the parties to act maturely?  Only sort of. The parties have some incentives to attack the other party thoughtlessly, but they also have some reason to develop reputations for being transparent and constructive.  Voters might actually vote for the party they respect.  Sure, that seems naive, but we shall see.  Message control may or may not lead to the Conservatives as the natural governing party of Canada, but developing a reputation for denial, censoring reality and the like might not be that helpful in that ambition.

No comments: