Tuesday, 19 November 2013

The Ford factor

I don't quite know how to write this entry with sensitivity and compassion it requires in the context in which I want to discourse on the subject. So, I'll just write as I go along.

The slow-motion train wreck that is Rob Ford of Toronto may be something new to most of mainstream Canada but in power relations that define the very nature of aboriginal communities the Rob Ford saga is strangely something familiar if extreme and pathetic.

It is said that all power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Without painting anything in broad-strokes (heaven forbid that all is black and white and two dimensional) if the legal system allows it and one can get away with questionable technicalities of power relations it is a certainty that some abuse is bound to happen. That is not to say that there are no people who see the temptations and choose not to act thusly - in fact, abuse of this type only requires one willing to go over the line and it is often only one that acts thusly. Take Rob Ford (or someone in power who's willing to overlook the consequences in the interest of the few) and the legal and ethical quagmire that the Toronto city council now finds itself in.

My aippakuluk bought me a copy of Joe Clark's book, How We Lead: Canada in a century of Change (2013, Random House Canada). There used to be a notion of noblesse oblige (roughly speaking, the notion that those in power (or have the power to influence) have a certain obligation to act within ethical (if not legal) constraints to act honorably and responsibly in the exercise of that power). Clark talks about this notion quite a bit though (as yet) never having mention it explicitly.

It is my understanding that Clark does not hide his disdain for Harper's approach to governance. Methinks it is the very absence of noblesse oblige that irks many statesmen/women like Clark and many others in the laity like me (ie, those who keep track of politics). It is not just Harper but the whole infected right wing movement including Ford that spurns not only the foundational noblesse oblige but aggressively dismisses the notion of "conventional wisdom".

"Elites" and "liberal media" catch phrases form a huge piece of the right wing narrative; the only problem is (for those opposed to the right wing mentality) the inherent ambiguities and all-purpose uses of such terms, and, depending on the context, the Supreme Court of Canada; the whole Senate; the public watchdog/regulatory functions of public governments; informative and thoughtful media all fall into these labels. When a ruling government declares open season on all the long-standing institutions of a democratic society such as Canada the only way to maintain a semblance of rational discourse is what the French call faux amis "false friends" where seemingly equivalent concepts which seem to logically follow in a given slogan and/or talking points actually imply or mean something entirely different under scrutiny. Doublespeak.

For eg, the repeal of "Navigable Waters Protection Act" affects not only public health and safety but also affects waters that occur in disputed and settled territories in aboriginal land claims areas, and have bearing on species deemed of interest and/or at risk. Going by people in the know this particular repeal is heavily favoured towards the interests of the oil and resource extraction industries and makes it now possible to completely forego "meaningful" consultation with affected community and aboriginal groups if such consultation stands in the way of the amorphous national economic interests.

With the Rob Ford train wreck, the ostensibly "strong" law and order Harper gov't's lack of public statements has been weighed and measured and found sorely wanting - though the PMO and CPC has since put out a public statement that CPC is against drug-use while in public office and drinking and driving with some mention of Trudeau for good measure though no mention of Ford is to be found anywhere. In fact, the higher ranking cpcers have gone out of their way to make it absolutely clear that they won't pass judgement on Ford. Wow.

Jay

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