Waiting for Waterloo

Brian
Brian Jones
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Looking on the positive side, it is no longer possible for international observers to believe the stereotype of Canada being boring, staid and placid, after so much evidence to the contrary recently in Toronto, what with all the window-smashing and police state shenanigans.

Also widely overlooked amid the ongoing controversy over the $1-billion bill for hosting the G20 summit is the fact the exorbitant cost will actually turn out to be a bargain if it means Canadians will never again have to hear the serious intonation that Prime Minister Stephen Harper is "brilliant."

Looking on the positive side, it is no longer possible for international observers to believe the stereotype of Canada being boring, staid and placid, after so much evidence to the contrary recently in Toronto, what with all the window-smashing and police state shenanigans.

Also widely overlooked amid the ongoing controversy over the $1-billion bill for hosting the G20 summit is the fact the exorbitant cost will actually turn out to be a bargain if it means Canadians will never again have to hear the serious intonation that Prime Minister Stephen Harper is "brilliant."

Evidence for such alleged brilliance has been noticeably in short supply during SH's reign. The G20 meeting just might be the event that prevents the tag of "brilliance" being applied to the PM without a round of derisive guffaws from the citizenry.

Of course, pretending to be smarter and/or more competent than you really are is a common trait of democratic leadership.

For instance, the G20 meeting featured the leaders of the richest and most powerful nations in the known universe, and the best idea they could come up with at their billion-dollar gathering was an agreement to ... spend less money. Less brilliant minds reel.

Destined for downfall

One of the inherent weaknesses of democracy - and, paradoxically, one of its great strengths at the same time - is that successful politicians will inevitably behave like Napoleon riding toward Waterloo.

Convinced of their own power, greatness and invincibility, they cannot even imagine defeat, let alone make plans to stave it off. That Duke of Wellington fellow, well, he is a piddling irritant, like those pesky, complaining citizens who apparently can't recognize great leadership when it thrusts itself before them.

It is evident at all levels, from presidential palaces to town halls.

Take the gang on New Gower Street (some might add, "Please.") The city booms, yet city hall cites budgetary restraints. Citizens look for leadership to wisely oversee development, so the place doesn't simply turn into another ugly oil boomtown. (See: Fort McMurray.) Suddenly, city council reveals, via a 10-1 vote, that it is in favour of spending $19 million of taxpayers' money on George Street, the famous/infamous downtown bar strip.

It is part of a pattern or, if you prefer, a continuum: $19 million for a streetful of bars, $1 billion for an overblown gabfest. It is what leaders do. They blithely blow public money, and expect congratulations and esteem in return.

A cynic might be tempted to retort, "At least no child went to bed hungry in a leaky bedroom."

On top, for now

The Waterloo complex is so pervasive that it extends even to leaders' supporters and followers.

Consider the case of one Danny Williams, Esq., supreme leader of all the Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, and sentimental favourite of about 80 per cent of them.

He and his Tories will forever be with us, it seems. Bringing down the mighty Williams and his Progressive Conservatives is a task akin to cutting a towering birch using only a dull steak knife. (Bear with me. It's firewood-splitting season.)

But some years hence, 100 per cent of Newfoundlanders (and Labradorians) will look back and try to pinpoint the moment that signalled the decline and fall of Williams and his PCs. Some might say it was the botched expropriation of the AbitibiBowater mill in Grand Falls-Windsor. Others might say it was the failure to beat Quebec in the battle over Lower Churchill power.

One thing is already evident. The previous Liberal government, by the end of its 14-year reign, was insufferably arrogant, condescending and authoritarian. Williams and his PCs, in only seven years, have become equally arrogant, condescending and authoritarian.

Invincible? Believe it at your peril.

Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached by e-mail at bjones@thetelegram.com.

Organizations: Progressive Conservatives, The Telegram

Geographic location: Canada, Toronto, Waterloo New Gower Street Fort McMurray George Street Grand Falls-Windsor Quebec

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