Skip to content

A spring lament for our country’s soul

Next month I’m going to drink beer, ride my bike, watch my daughter play baseball, read books, take a beginners course in gardening from my wife if she buys me knee pads, (it’s never too late), sail, and consider adopting a religion.

Next month I’m going to drink beer, ride my bike, watch my daughter play baseball, read books, take a beginners course in gardening from my wife if she buys me knee pads, (it’s never too late), sail, and consider adopting a religion. This may strike you as somewhat  of an ambitious summer programming, but it really isn’t. What it is, is a desperate attempt to avert my gaze from this rapidly shrinking nation.

Look, I know, there is always a lot of nonsense, greed, stupidity, competitiveness, incompetence, naiveté and avarice in how we live our lives and as a newspaper man, I wouldn’t have it any other way. What could be more boring than perfection? It is drama that is the spice of life. But there are limits. If you are going to bear witness to this stuff there needs to be some saving grace, somewhere, and it is hard to find.

Our national parliament has been overrun by Lilliputians. These are people of modest vision, less purpose and bad manners. The Tories have a new handbook for the chairs of our parliamentary committees. It includes procedures to stack meetings with friendly witnesses, helpful hints on how to work with witnesses so they get the right answers and instructions on how to facilitate  filibusters to destroy a meeting going in a direction you don’t like. Finally, it also includes how to close everything down by walking out in a fake rage, having carefully avoided appointing a deputy chairman, which ensures the committee is finished.

I’m not kidding. This is true.

Then there is our recently resigned RCMP Commissioner  Giuliano Zaccardelli  and one of his Deputy Commissioners Barbara George, who stand accused of covering up an investigation into  RCMP pension and insurance fraud.

Who can forget the brief unity of our MP’s who stopped screaming at one another long enough to drag Shane Doan, the captain of Canada’s World Cup Hockey team, through the mud on a preposterous witch hunt about something he didn’t say in the heat of a hockey game two years ago.

Jeff Monaghan received his 15 minutes of fame from these idiots by being handcuffed and carted away by the aforementioned RCMP for apparently leaking  the Environment Minister’s (environmental) plan a day before it was to become public. He was fired for good measure a day before his contract was up and his charges are pending. He should be charged with drawing undue attention to nothing.

If you’d like something closer to home you could read about David Radler, the former owner of all the dailies in Northern Ontario (not that you ever met him) in a Chicago court desperately trying to convict his partner of 40 years of fraud, so as to reduce his sentence. Much of his testimony had to do with what kind of a liar he was. Yes, he used to own a newspaper near you. The trial continues.

In Newfoundland, 300 cancer patients did not get proper treatment because of incorrect test results. The local health authority had additional tests done by Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, and then realizing the enormity of the mistakes, decided to stay quiet presumably over fear of lawsuits and embarrassment. This mentality seems to permeate the fabric of the nation from the Catholic church and its response to cases of abuse, to forestry companies that dump mercury into river systems. Perhaps the newest revelations from the Air India inquiry are most instructive.

The testimony is shocking. Ontario’s Lieutenant-Governor, 22-years later, says he saw intelligence predicting the bombing on the next weekly flight from Canada. An ex-Quebec police dog handler says he was called too late to make a search. A former security guard says he heard an Air India executive give the go-ahead for the flight because to wait would be too expensive.

The facts will now come out. The worst of it, however, is that there are many, many, many people in positions of power in the federal political and civil bureaucracy who knew damn well there was rot and incompetence and they chose to stonewall and hide the truth.

This is no accident. This is not one political party. (Lest we forget the incomparable Jean Chrétien). This is a culture.

Many of our most important institutions are hobbled by substandard leadership and a lack of integrity and courage. Where do we start?

Michael Atkins
Laurentian Media Group