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Monday, September 19, 2005

Manipulation of the Public is a Politicians Main Job

Manipulation of the public, rather than running the nation, has been the main job of politicians in Canada throughout history.

An example of this fact is the defeat of the Meech Lake Accord a number of years ago. If you ask people across this country today, most will tell you that Meech was defeated by Newfoundland Premier Clyde Wells. Not true.

Meech Lake wasn’t defeated by Clyde Wells, the Provincial Legislature or the people of Newfoundland, as many believe. The fact is, Wells had planned to hold a vote in the Legislature which would almost assuredly have defeated it, but that vote was never held.

Elijah Harper, an NDP backbencher in the Winnipeg legislature, caused the deal to fail in that province and as a result Wells saw no reason to hold the vote in Newfoundland. This reality didn’t matter to the Mulroney government however. They blamed the Newfoundland Premier and the people of the province anyway, simply because, as one columnist recently put it, "it was more politically acceptable to lash out at Newfoundland than to do so to an aboriginal politician".

Regardless of the truth, Mulroney’s manipulation of the facts ensured that nearly everyone in Canada today believes Newfoundland and Clyde Wells defeated the Meech Lake Accord.

This was a clear cut case of political manipulation of the facts in order to manufacture a more palatable version of history.

Another, perhaps more heinous and corrupt manipulation of the public happened in Newfoundland during the vote on confederation with Canada. More heinous because this manipulation didn’t happen after the fact, but during the campaign, and as a result changed the outcome of that vote.

During the campaign leading up to the referendum on confederation Joey Smallwood, in essence, bought the votes needed to push confederation through. He did this by promising the public that by joining Canada, everyone with children would receive the “baby bonus”, a government subsidy in the form of a cheque which would arrive each month thanks to the federal government.

Remember that at the time many people in outport communities were the poorest of the poor and were barely surviving off the land and sea. Many had never seen actual cash and those who did, worked long and hard for the few pennies they could find. For the poorest of the poor, the promise of free cash was almost impossible to resist.

A bribe by any other name is still a bribe and it is a testament to the people of the time that even with this sort of manipulation taking place, the final vote on confederation was as close as it was, with the outcome being 78,323 to 71,334.

History is full of such manipulations by political leaders in this Country. Not the least of which is one that takes place each and every day right under the noses of the electorate.

Everyone is led to believe that they elect a federal member to represent them, their riding and their province in Ottawa. Not so. Yes, that is the intent of the voter and it is what politicians would have people believe, but that doesn’t make it so. The truth is, when elected, these men and women do not represent voter’s interests in Ottawa, instead they represent Ottawa’s interests to the voters.

Many of them miss votes in the house on a regular basis, don’t stand up in support of the moral and social conscience of their constituents and refuse to lock horns with members of their party on issues impacting their riding or province. They feed from the public trough, follow the herd and then have the audacity to visit their home provinces and manipulate the unwashed masses by explaining why the decision they allowed to happen is in the best interests of the public.

Although he is by no means alone, no better example of this exists than the misrepresentation shown by John Efford during his time in Ottawa.

Even though many of his constituents rely on the fishery for a living, Mr. Efford had the audacity to tell the people of the province that having cod added to the endangered species list was the smart thing to do. Never mind that this would cause the complete closure of that fishery and perhaps impact other fisheries in Atlantic waters from that day forward.

As an encore to this debacle, Mr. Efford backed his party over his province during Atlantic Accord negotiations. Telling the province to accept the deal offered by the federal government because it was the best they would get. Thankfully nobody believed that manipulation and a better deal was reached.

From convincing the public that even with multi-billion dollar surpluses the federal government can’t afford to cut taxes or spend more on social programs, to officially stating that Canada is not involved in Iraq and will not involve itself in missile defense when all the while working on special ops in the former and providing radar support for the latter, public manipulation is a full time job. It’s a wonder our political leaders have time to fully imbed one lie in the public consciousness before moving on to the next.

You have to love the Canadian democratic system. It’s a model for the world.

At least that’s what politicians would have us believe.


WJM said...

You have to love the Canadian democratic system. It’s a model for the world. At least that’s what politicians would have us believe.

I'd be curious to know: which countries have better systems? And how are they better?

Gordon said...

Well, there are many countries that have an elected head of state and an elected upper house. Canada has neither, and as a result, IMHO, it is all the poorer for it.

NL-ExPatriate said...

Just for starters.

Not to mention our patizan political parties are more concerned about their own parties than they are about the people they represent and who pay their wages and proide them with funds to protect their own legacy. (keep Quebec apart of Canada)

Solution here vote independant! Quebec saw the light its about time the rest of us Doggy Do Do (Quebec tail that wags the Dog Ontario) provinces do the same.