Saturday, April 15, 2006

Walk The Line

You can't really fault a government for seeing the importance of appearances. "Staying on message" is a key tactic to show the population that the government is focused, consistent and has a clear vision. However, in a free society, any measures that confine expression and overtly attempt to eliminate any contrary opinion should be seen as a threat to our core principles. The Harper government seems obsessed with managing the discourse, to such an extent that its tactics don't have any resemblence to true democracy. The latest:
Ministers in the new Conservative government have been warned they could be banned from travelling, publicly humiliated or even fired for verbal gaffes.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is determined not to have his agenda derailed and his ministers have been made aware they will face punishment for loose-lipped indiscretions.

Harper's chief of staff, Ian Brodie, has given colleagues in ministers' offices stark warnings about sanctions for cabinet members who either embarrass or contradict the government in public, sources say.

The worst of those penalties — being dumped from cabinet, shuffled to another portfolio, or barred from official trips — have not been imposed yet.

Harper's inner circle seems obsessed with message control, to the point of disturbing paranoia. Are these minister's people with opinions, or simple propaganda faciliators? Implementing a formal sanctions regime for anyone who dare's to speak out of turn hardly speaks to Harper's claim of welcoming "open votes" and greater power for lowly MP's. If the minister's are forced to do the PMO goosestep, how does our democracy become more egalitarian?

All this obsession with message begs the question, what are you so afraid of? Afterall, it was this media that gave the Conservative's a relative free ride this past election. Much of the press in the election aftermath has been at the very least balanced, if not mostly positive. Where is the boogeyman that haunts Harper's mind? Or does Harper's agenda reveal a basic disinterest in true accountability and openness. Clearly, we have a disconnect between the rhetoric and the practice. I look forward to the day when Peter McKay can't attend a G8 summit because his flying privileges were suspended. Again, all parties attempt to manage, what is particularly concerning with this government is a question of degree.

No comments: