Consider This
Politics, Life and Journalism in Northumberland County, Ontario

Squabble between politicians serves no purpose

First published:
Oct. 24, 2001

In what could be likened to schoolyard brawl, Northumberland MP Paul Macklin decided to pick a fight with Doug Galt, his provincial counterpart, over remarks made in the Ontario legislature.

Galt rose on Oct. 10 to take a shot at the federal Liberals. Using some high-flying rhetoric, Galt said people in Northumberland are “disappointed, shocked and embarrassed” with the way the federal government is handling things since the tragic bombings in New York and Washington on Sept. 11.

After taking a swipe at Justice Minister Anne McLellan, Galt called on the rest of the legislature to send a message to Ottawa to “stop the window dressing” and take some serious actions.

Pretty tame stuff considering Ontario Tories make a sport out of firing potshots at the federal government. Health Minister Tony Clement, Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty and the Premier are only a few member of the government who have taken a swipe. So what’s the big deal when Galt does the same?

Nonetheless Macklin blasts away at Galt saying he is undermining the sense of clam and security that surrounds Northumberland. Certainly he had been working hard. Only a day after Parliament Hill was partially evacuated following an anthrax scare, Macklin was talking tough, saying fear cannot rule our lives or else “terrorism has won”.

“I want to be a representative of objectivity for my constituents,” he said in an interview.

This must be Macklin’s attempt to mimic New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who brought terrified, grief-stricken New Yorkers a feeling of composure and peace of mind following Sept. 11. Macklin failed.

Nobody gives a fig for intellectual objectivity. This isn’t some Ayn Rand novel.

People are scared. We should be careful. Talk to the workers at the Campbellford post office who found a suspicious package. Nobody can blame them for being cautious. Until we all properly understand what threats are real and which ones are imagined, everyone must be scrupulous. And if that interpreted as being afraid, so be it.

But what is more demeaning to his constituents is Macklin’s own rhetoric. Like the three monkeys who do not want to see, hear or speak evil, Macklin is not interested in dissention. And for those of us who are already concerned about the war on terrorism, the threat of anthrax and the uncertain economy, we would like to not be afraid to lose our democratic right to stand in opposition.

It seems anyone who is critical of the government these days is publicly hung. We have watched this on both sides of the border as people like Bill Maher of the television show Politically Incorrect, writer Susan Sontag, satirist Andy Rooney on CBS 60 Minutes. All have spoken out either directly or in jest about the events and people following Sept. 11, only to be lynched.

In Canada, opposition leader Stockwell Day and his fellow Alliance members have lined up behind the Liberal government, along with the Bloc Quebecois. NDP leader Alexa McDonough has made a few feeble efforts to speak out against the war. But it has been Tory leader Joe Clark who has been an effective critic. And both he and McDonough have been lambasted by the Liberals for their efforts.

And now we have Galt.

At best, Macklin is acting as a political amateur. At worst, he is pathetic.

Instead of trying to smash a peanut with a sledgehammer, maybe Macklin might take a lesson from Northumberland Senator Jim Tunney. On the same day Macklin is blasting Galt, Tunney made a speech in the senate calling on the Canadian government to refocus its efforts.

“In Canada, is it not also the time when we should be moving to contribute to the needs of the unfortunate people of Afghanistan? We should be doing what Canada does best: providing assistance in civil matters, education, food production and advice on infrastructure rebuilding, ” he says. “Honourable senators, I have worked in agriculture in this part of the world. Small efforts can mean much in improving the lives of the rural people, who I know best, to whom food production is one of the most critical matters after housing. It will cost less to help rebuild Afghanistan than it has cost to demolish it.”

He went on to argue for rebuilding Afghanistan after the bombing ends. When he was done, no other senators respond or try to debate his statement. It is not a popular topic for debate in a time when the war on terrorism dominates. But then, that is leadership.

Take notes Macklin.

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