- US Vice-President Hillary Clinton
- Canadian Prime Minister Bob Rae
Just imagine the world we could create: fiscally, environmentally and socially responsible; fiscally, environmentally and socially progressive. Leaders who have a sincere desire to make the world a better place for all, and the vision and skill set to make great improvements.
Okay, it won't happen, at least not in the US. But playing with the idea brings to mind the oft-heard comment on the left that it doesn't matter who's in power (Liberal/Conservative, Democrat/Republican) because they're all the same.
That's so tragically untrue that it's criminally negligent. (I mean you, Ralph Nader.) Can anyone argue that the US is the same place with George Bush at its helm as it would have been with Al Gore? Does anyone remember all the great things that Jimmy Carter did? Imagine the world if he had been reelected (as he might have been if not for Iran) and if the entire Reagan era had never happened.
I believe that presidents and prime ministers should govern from the middle. Once elected, their constituents are not just the folks who voted for them - a leader must represent and do right by everyone. That means that the base doesn't get everything they want. Being a left-wing politician means you care about everyone's welfare, and you don't enact economic policies that benefit the employed by creating more unemployed. But governing from the middle and being fiscally responsible does not mean that a center-left government is anything like a right-wing government.
Another sentiment popular in both the US and Canada these days is that all parties are so corrupt that it doesn't matter who you vote for. I think we really need to give ourselves a shake and drop all this cynical crap. Most politicians are honest and our political system works. There has been corruption but it's not systemic. If you want to see what systemic corruption feels like, try living and working in Africa for a little while. When there is systemic corruption, you won't just read about it in the news; when it exists, you'll experience it first-hand.
In the case of Canada we had a financial scandal that toppled our government. It was a very serious scandal and we should do all we can to ensure nothing like it ever happens again. However, let's keep it in perspective. This scandal occurred in a desperate attempt to keep Quebec from separating from the rest of Canada. It seems likely that the financial scandal was not the whole story; there was probably also voter fraud in the 1995 sovereignty referendum. The people who did these things should be punished and steps should be taken to prevent them from happening again, but this kind of malfeasance is different from personal financial corruption.
I'm not claiming that we have never had any corrupt politicians who used their position to get rich. Before letting the Tories take the high ground on the corruption issue, everyone should read Stevie Cameron's 1995 classic On the Take: Crime, Corruption and Greed in the Mulroney Years, which details the hundreds of things the Mulroneys did to line their pockets while he was prime minister. One of her most serious allegations, the Karl Schreiber Airbus scandal, has since been confirmed by Schreiber, who admits to giving Mulroney hundreds of thousands of dollars. Keep in mind that the litigious Mr. Mulroney never tried to sue Cameron over any of her allegations.
I recently read an Ipsos Reid poll that said only 20% of Canadians support conservative values and policies. For everyone who does, I say vive la difference and go for it. But for those who have different values, it's tragic that our own cynicism and partisan blinkers should keep us from achieving our vision.