The Politics Of Pandering

February 14, 2011

Half measures. Political legacies, both good and bad, are not made from half measures.

Don’t mistake half measures for compromise or consensus. Half measures represent uncertainty and timidity. They do not generate loyalty or commitment but ultimately build mounds of contempt. Half measures spawn a whole lot of meh.

The Dalton McGuinty Liberal government lives and breaths half measures. It sketches big thoughts and ideas in sand and stands back, content as its opponents wash over it, leaving mere traces of the original from which they’ll try to re-design a coherent whole. Half measures represent a half-hearted attempt at leadership and good governance. We believe in this unless people don’t think it’s a good idea.

The latest McGuinty about-face and cave-in came last Friday when it quietly announced shelving off-shore wind generation plans, burying it deep in the joyous tumult that greeted the news of Hosni Mubarak’s resignation. For Further Scientific Study was the reason given, whole-heartedly embracing the skepticism of anti-wind turbinites especially those in politically contentious ridings in this, an election year. Thus, did the government sever an arm from its renewable energy plans and open wide the door to its critics who either think this just proves what they’ve been saying along that the need to find alternative sources of energy is just a bunch of hokum and green energy is actually “green” energy or that the government shouldn’t be in the business of funding new research and technology development ever. Or both.

It’s not as if there isn’t any information out there that couldn’t counter the claims made by the largely NIMBY crowd who view the very sight of the wind turbines as a personal affront to their well-being. Even a cursory web search took me to sites like this and this and this that dispute many of the claims being made by those seeking to kill wind energy in this province. Are they any more valid than the arguments being made by the anti-forces? I don’t know. But they seem strong enough to enable the government to make a principled stand in favour of a continued pursuit of energy through wind generation.

Sadly, principled stands seem to be an anathema to Liberals these days. Not just with the McGuinty government but with their federal brethren in Ottawa. Former Liberal mucky-muck George Smitherman couldn’t make one during his run for the mayoralty of Toronto last year and paid the price with a sound defeat at the polls. Resoluteness, even in the pursuit of destructive ideals, will attract a more passionate following than wishy-washy indecisiveness.

That is not to say what the province needs is another heaping dose of Common Sense. All of McGuinty’s equivocation multiplied cannot match the damage wrought on this province by the cancerous anti-government policies of his immediate Conservative predecessors.  It’s just that, governing on the basis of being slightly less like them is ultimately uninspiring and ineffectual in rebuilding after the swath of disaster created by Hurricane Harris.

Yes, the Liberals have invested more in education although not nearly enough to bring us back up to speed. Ontario is still dead last in per capita funding for post-secondary school education. How’s that going to help push us forward in the knowledge economy? The Big Move was a step in the right direction toward finally bringing about a blueprint for a GTA-wide transit network but it remains woefully under-funded and susceptible to politicking. Witness the government’s willingness to consider the inane attack on Transit City – arguably the beating heart at the centre of The Big Move – by an ideological driven, transit ignoramus all because it’s an election year and some 416 ridings could be up for grabs.

And now an environmental reversal “after years of touting itself as the greenest government in North America” in the face of discouraging poll results 8 months before an election. Plug in your own cliché here as I write You Got To Stand For Something Or You’ll Fall For Anything. It is a move that allows the opposition to frame the debate in a fashion that best fits them. Instead of standing its ground and calling out the Conservatives as knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathers with their heads in the sand on environmental issues (take a moment to savour that image) who are jeopardizing future generations to a life of dirty, fossil fuel dependency, the Liberals look weak, opportunistic and dishonest.

Not really the image you want to run with in the anti-political environment that seems to be present in the electorate right now. Although, it may be difficult for the provincial Liberals to let go of it since they’ve been elected to two straight majority governments on just such a platform. It’s tough to argue with success.

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