The silence of the political lambs
It has been a good few weeks for eggshells. Not a one has been broken by the federal Conservatives when it comes to the Toronto Mayor Rob Ford fiasco.
So gentle have they been on the foul mouthed, crack smoking, drunk-driving mayor, that you might think they simply missed the entire story.
After all, how could a government that bursts a blood vessel when anyone discusses marijuana laws remain virtually silent on a senior politician’s admission of smoking crack?
How could a government considering tough new mandatory minimum sentences for anyone convicted of causing death while driving drunk remain silent on a major public figure who now openly admits he has been drunk behind the wheel?
How could the Conservatives maintain radio silence on one of their own who, according to court documents, has hung out with gang members and drug dealers?
The answer, of course, is just that: Rob Ford is one of their own. Hailed for years as a Conservative hero by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Ford was, until this scandal broke, considered the key to greater federal Conservative success in Toronto.
Ford, remarkably, still has significant support in the city. And Harper needs every one of those votes if he is to maintain or grow his tenuous bridgehead in the Greater Toronto Area. Even the mildest criticism from Harper could offend Ford Nation, which, it seems, is perceived as a significant risk.
Even Harper’s justice minister, the very person tasked with the law-and-order agenda, can’t muster more than a weak shake of his head when it comes to Ford.
On The West Block this week, MacKay could barely find a few words when asked if he was furious with Ford. The greatest outrage he could manage was a mumbled statement that this sort of thing doesn’t set high standards for the country. MacKay couldn’t, or wouldn’t, even say whether he thought an admitted crack user was fit for high public office.
The eggshells made it through another day.
The fury of the country’s chief law officer instead was reserved for Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, who had the temerity to answer a direct question from a student in Brandon, Man. about his policy of legalizing marijuana. “I think is appalling, inappropriate,” thundered the justice minister.
How could Trudeau have said that in front of children for God’s sake? Never mind that Conservative MP Scott Reid said almost exactly the same thing in front of school children. No, the threat to peace, order and good government comes from the Liberal leader, not from Conservatives Scott Reid or Rob Ford.
The cynic will dismiss all this as just another example of politics as usual. But there is nothing usual about any of this. It’s all off the charts.
In the end, this is a crisis that only Rob Ford can defuse. Everyone else is a mere spectator.
But that’s not to say spectators don’t have responsibilities. The political class could find its voice and say confidently that there is a line in public life that should never be crossed, and that there are real consequences if it is.
That line should not be drawn merely if someone is charged and convicted of a crime. Doing so would only insult the generations of Canadians who have tried to elevate public life.
Finding the moral courage to say that has eluded most politicians. Partisanship has trumped principle, at least for now, and politics has given itself a self inflicted wound.
© 2013 Shaw Media