In a bang-on essay in yesterday's Globe and Mail, Lawrence Martin gets to the heart of the problems that have dogged Stéphane Dion over the past year.
Dion -- Martin argues -- has been a victim of "
a system that can make a mockery of any thoughtful, idealistic man."
And the media, by making much of Harper's "Machiavellian genius" for "blitzing [Dion] with attack ads before he even got out of the gate" has spent far too much time analyzing personalities rather than policies, something that has allowed journalists to play judge and jury, with no journalism school critics (the traditional check when the media gets carried away) keeping them in check. ("Where are the journalism school critiques?" he asks.)
"It's about proportionality [in reporting on policy vs. personality]. The media have to get the weighting right. They set the standards, and the standards -- the lack of honour in the system - won't change unless they change."
To Martin's comments, I would add these questions of my own, questions that are fueled by a year of frustration that comes from having observed the Prime Minister and members of his government behave with disrespect -- and even disdain -- toward members of other parties.
Most Canadians would agree that the standard of conduct -- as well as the morale -- in the House of Commons slipped to historic lows during the past year. Was this all for the sake of the political gain of the current government? If so, should the Speaker of the House not be held accountable for not holding Members of Parliament to certain standards of accountability and behavior?
Canadians often claim that they want a leader of vision -- someone who will bring real ideas to the table. And yet when someone with these very characteristics enters the political scene, the bystanders (the Canadian public) don't seem to be prepared to look beyond the actions of the individual who is being bullied (Dion). They are so distracted by the behavior of the individual who is doing the bullying (Harper). Does this mean that Canadians are, in fact, more impressed by bullying and bravado than by someone with a quieter, more gentile style?
If so, party politics aside, what does this say about our ideas of respect and decency in 2007? Has a great sound-byte come to mean more than substance and policy?
What price will we pay as Canadians if Dion's career has been irreparably damaged by the feeding frenzy that has taken place both inside and outside of the House of Commons? How many thoughtful Canadians have forever sworn off any run at politics at the federal, provincial, or municipal levels, after seeing how Dion has been savaged by none other than the Prime Minister? And how many others have lost all remaining respect for politics and politicians?
At a time when bullying is running rampant in our society, children are committing suicide in response to cyberbullying attacks, workplace bullying is becoming commonplace, and bullying is now treated as entertainment in everything from sports to movies, I find it unacceptable that a man of principle who is heading up ta major political party has had to endure a year of this kind of disrespectful treatment. Once again, I find myself feeling embarrassed by the actions of my government and my Prime Minister.
I want Stephane Dion to know that there are a lot of us who have a great deal of respect for him and who have watched him respond with grace and dignity to a year of unrelenting and unprovoked attacks. If this was any other workplace, this problem would have long since been dealt with. The employee in question who is responsible for the harassment would have been dismissed and/or sent for therapy and all the employees who kept urging the bully on would have been told to get back to work.
I can only hope that Canadians have had their fill of the bully-style entertainment on Parliament Hill.
I know I have.