Saturday, December 06, 2008

The Politics of Panic

Dion, Broadbent try to obscure their deal with separatist Bloc Quebecois

With polls showing that Canadians are less than comfortable with the proposed Liberal/NDP/Bloc Quebecois coalition government, there should certainly be a deflation of enthusiasm regarding the proposal.

A key snag in the entire affair is the involvement of the Bloc in the deal. The Conservatives have pressed on this detail relentlessly, and it's a detail that clearly has resonated with Canadians.

Stephane Dion and Ed Broadbent seem to have anticipated this, and attempted to write criticism of those details off as "lies".

Speaking with CBC this week, Broadbent insisted that Harper is not up to the standard of previous Conservative leaders. "I've never seen the leader of a Conservative party, certainly not Bob Stanfield, certainly not Joe Clark, lie — I choose the word deliberately — the way Mr. Harper has," Broadbent fumed.

Broadbent accused Harper of lying when he criticized the opposition for signing the deal in absence of a Canadian flag. While this was an awfully silly detail to try and criticize in the first place, it's almost certain that Harper wasn't present for the signing of the deal. Considering the number of photographs taken at the event with no flag visible, the evidence of malevolence on Harper's behalf is rather scant.

Harper made himself look ridiculous by jumping to a poor conclusion. But there's a difference between lying and simply being wrong.

Broadbent also insists that any criticism that treats the Bloc as part of the coalition is a lie, despite the fact that the BQ formally pledged their support to the coalition in the same agreement that formalized the coalition. Whether officially or not, the Bloc Quebecois very much is party to this coalition.

But as self-serving and dishonest as Broadbent's accusations are, Stephane Dion actually managed to one-up him during Question period. Wailing at the top of his lungs, Dion lamented that, "he say that we Liberals have sold out Canada to the separatists and that the separatists have sold their souls to the Liberals. He needs to choose between these two lies. I'm getting about fed up with his lies!"

This, however, is all a matter of perspective: to those who understand the extent of the demands that the Bloc Quebecois will be in a position to make of Dion's proposed coalition, these "lies" (as Dion insists they are) resemble the truth very closely.

Mostly because it is the truth.

It's reflective of the tenuous position that Dion finds himself in -- the former separatist fighter now cozying up to separatists in exchange for political power -- that Dion would resort to trying to re-cast the truth as lies.

This tactic -- one that Dion also resorted to during the recent federal election -- is one used by many politicians being confronted by inconvenient truths. Instead of confronting the truth head-on, they instead denounce those speaking these truths as liars, and hope that it sticks.

It's the politics of panic -- a political tactic that Stephane Dion and Ed Broadbent have both embraced.

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