Every Four Years Whether You Need It Or Not

What is it with conservatives these days and their loathing of democracy? I know theirs is an uneasy history with the concept but they seemed to have come to terms with it through the last half of the 20th-century or so. But recently…

Republicans in the United States are intent on suppressing the vote in order to try and steal a state or two and secure their nominee the White House. Our Conservatives prorogued themselves out of a couple of minority jams, unable as they were to cope with the parliamentary insistence that you have a majority of the seats before attempting an unimpeded run of the table. Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals in Ontario (conservative in all but their red ties) liked what they saw in that manoeuvre and shut down Queen’s Park in order to conduct a leadership convention, free from the unruliness of two opposition parties that actually hold down a majority in our provincial parliament.

And here in Toronto, Team Ford has gone to war with some of the city’s Accountability Officers who have had the temerity to question the mayor and his brother’s actions. Apparently there can be too much oversight from watchdogs like the Ombudsman and Integrity Commissioner even for an administration that pledged more openness and transparency than any previous administration in history. Of the world. Ever.

What conservatives seem to believe is that, once elected, they are free to do whatever it is they see fit to do until the next election. That’s what they refer to as a ‘mandate’. If you don’t like what they’ve done, then vote them off the island the next opportunity you get. Until that time, sit down and shut up.

Democracy in four year installments. Citizen engagement and accountability to the taxpayers begins and ends with casting a ballot. Any questioning of motives or actions is nothing more than cheap partisan politics, driven only by a refusal to accept the previous election results. Whining not winning.

Thus rigorously supervised, what’s the need for all these political babysitters? A part time democracy only needs part time overseers surely.  “In Mississauga they have one person,” Mayor Ford claimed last week,” a lawyer on retainer, who does all their jobs.” What’s that they say? As goes Mississauga, so goes Toronto. (Although, unsurprisingly, the mayor might not have had all his ducks in a row on that. “[Deputy Mayor] Holyday said Ford may have misconstrued information that he gave him, about a lawyer on retainer as Mississauga’s integrity commissioner. The lawyer has no ombudsman or lobbyist registrar duties.”)

You know what happens when we have too much oversight? Bounds are overstepped. Our elected officials start having their non-public lives over-scrutinized. Like when they host their own Sunday radio talk show.

But the Fords did what talk show hosts usually do: they mouthed off, they were derisive, they personalized their attack. Should a public servant be empowered to condemn elected officials for the manner in which they exercise their free speech?

Errrrrrrr, what the fuck, Globe and Mail?!

What we really should be concerned about is a couple politicians having unfettered media access to foist their highly slanted views on the public, unchecked and uncontested.  “Hi, I’m Rob Ford, that traffic report would have been a lot better without streetcars.” That you let pass and choose instead to lambast the city’s Integrity Commissioner impinging on the free speech of our mayor and his councillor brother to play AM shock jocks?

The thing is, Globe and Mail, the Fords aren’t just talk show hosts although their administration is largely conducted as if they were.  Just because it’s Sunday doesn’t mean their listeners think of them as Humble and Fred and not the mayor of Toronto as his right-hand man. When they — how’d you put it again? — “…ridiculed [Medical Officer of Health] Dr. McKeown’s nearly $300,000 salary as ‘an embarrassment’…” and asked “Why does he still have a job?”, they did so as mayor and councillor not just talk show hosts. To suggest that the Integrity Commissioner had no place to write them up for such ‘a shameful performance’ is astoundingly narrow-minded about the office’s role in the functioning of an open and transparent government.

Still, it isn’t necessary to have an integrity commissioner say as much. It is best left to voters to determine whether the Mayor is exercising his free speech responsibly. Members of council may rebuke the mayor if they wish. And he’s accountable to voters once every four years for his behaviour.

Oh, I’m sorry. You also have an astoundingly narrow-minded opinion of how democracy should work too.  I guess I expected a slightly higher standard from the editors of the Globe and Mail.

confoundedly submitted by Cityslikr