Friday, December 11, 2015

Mindless Bickering Returns

The politicians are back on Parliament Hill apparently having learned little from October’s general election.

It seems to me that we voters told them clearly that we want an end to mindless partisan bickering. Stop saying and doing things designed only to get more votes. Stop the unintelligent cheap shots. Seek compromise and work constructively on behalf of the people. 

It was too much to hope for, judging by some of the news generated by the return of Parliament. Take for example the mindless criticism of the new prime minister over the fact that taxpayers are paying for two nannies to help with his three young children.

That began when the CBC reported that the Trudeaus have two nannies paid between $15 and $20 an hour for day work, and $11 to $13 an hour for night work. The report criticized Trudeau for this because he had said during the election campaign that wealthy families like his should not receive government handouts to help raise their kids. He said he and wife Sophie would donate their federal Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB) to charity.

It seemed odd that the report came from the CBC, which had worked so vigorously to defeat Stephen Harper and elect Trudeau. At any rate, other media and opposition politicians jumped in.

Some media labelled the so-called scandal Nannygate (will we ever stop tagging anything even slightly controversial as something ‘gate’). Some opposition politicians called the prime minister a hypocrite for saying the wealthy should not receive  the UCCB, then have taxpayers pay for his two nannies.

Let’s all take a deep breath and give our heads a shake. Being prime minister is a job, an incredibly busy job. The job comes with a salary and benefit package that includes staff such as drivers, housekeepers and other assistants, including nannies. All recent prime ministers with young children have had nannies as part of their salary and benefit package.

The child care benefit is not part of a salary package. It is for all Canadians who qualify. That’s why it is called the Universal Child Care Benefit. Lumping it in with a job benefit is disingenuous. 

Criticizing the prime minister for it is unwarranted and silly. It is the type of political manipulation that we told the politicians we want them to stop.
There will be many reasons and opportunities to criticize the new prime minister and his government as time goes on. We could start with the fact that Canada sent 383 people to the Paris summit on climate change, all expenses paid by the taxpayer. The U.S. sent 148, the UK 96 and Australia 46. 

Canada is back all right, but hopefully not back to bigger spending, bigger deficits and bigger tax increases.

Taxpayers voted for change, not only in government but in the attitudes of the politicians. They want a progressive opposition that holds the government accountable, and one that works constructively to create better programs and services for the people.

Mindless criticisms about nannies are misguided and not a hopeful sign for constructive change. Neither was the start of the throne speech debate in Parliament Monday.

Interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose initially took a constructive approach to the debate. She promised that the opposition would be the taxpayers’ watchdog, and praised Trudeau for revising his overzealous plan to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada by Dec. 31.

However, she slipped back into old-style cheap shot political rhetoric, saying that while world leaders were ramping up their efforts to defeat ISIS, Trudeau was posing for selfies at international conferences.

Treasury Board President Scott Brison returned the insult by saying that the defeated Conservative government was one of the biggest, most wasteful governments in Canadian history. Whether that is true, or false, or somewhere in between is hardly relevant now. 

To which Ambrose shot back: "It's been 25 minutes and the sunny ways are over." That was a reference to Trudeau’s Oct. 19 election victory speech in which he said sunny ways - positive politics – achieve good things.

So much for real change in political behaviour.


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