It’s possible that Canadians will, out of impatience, dismay, or a sense of resignation, let the government reset the agenda this fall without a more thorough exposition of this sorry mess. But, for the sake of the integrity of our political system, they shouldn’t.
To the victor go the spoils. The ends justify the means. History is written by the victors. He who has the gold (or majority government) makes the rules.
That, in a nutshell, is politics, with one addition - whatever you can get away with works.
It's this last that is causing so many political operators problems these days, because the benchmark for what you can get away with has shifted rather dramatically. As with most changes in information tech, practice tends to lag behind capacity on the adaptation curve. A seasoned generation of backroom operators are using new tools in old ways; convinced they're the smartest people in the room, it doesn't occur to them that maybe other folk have adapted more quickly.
It isn't an insiders game any more, with voters on the sidelines - thanks to Twitter and the like, we're all on the field now.
What happens when these folk get caught with their hands in the cookie jar, or caught in a lie, or caught with their pants down? They're turning to the old tools of circle the wagons, bait-and-switch and digging up dirt on opponents. The problem is, it's not so easy any more - it's not just the political chattering classes and the media pundits who need to be distracted - it's a growing number of Twitter users, Facebook posters and photo takers and civic engagement/watcher groups ranging from Anonymous to the Samara Institute.
It's no longer enough to hope that a story won't have legs or that you can spin yourself out of any hole you dig - there are simply too many ways for bad behaviour to be caught and those behaviours connected into patterns. Maybe you can punt the consequences to a successor or maybe the blame will be born by your whole class, but that's hardly sustainable planning, is it?
You can't get away with murder in Canadian politics and, thankfully, our Political Parties limit their offensive tactics to character assassination. Consider this yet another shift - the water hole of unethical tactics you can get away with is shrinking at an ever increasing rate.
There's an easy way to stay ahead of the curve, of course - that's to assume that everything you do can and will be revealed and act accordingly. The word for that is transparency. Yes, real transparency means more work on the front-end and yes, it assumes other players are equally going to play by the rules but it also mitigates your chance of digging your hole deep enough it becomes your grave. Besides, as we've seen - people at all levels are on the lookout for wrongdoing to criticize. If you keep your nose clean and remain open about it, that laser-like scrutiny will focus where the dark spots truly lie.
It's amazing what a little golden sunlight can do...
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