“In politics, madame, you need two things: friends, but above all an enemy.” — Brian Mulroney
Brian Mulroney’s quote reflects the shroud of cynicism that clings to the political profession like cobwebs in an attic.
Darin King. — Telegram file photo
In this province, there’s plenty of interest in politics — anyone who follows Twitter can attest to that — and it often generates intelligent and thoughtful debate. Unfortunately, and all too often, that thoughtful debate is not issuing from the mouths of our elected officials.
Ask anyone with a genuine interest in working towards the public good why they wouldn’t consider running for elected office and you’d probably get a few answers: the expense, the time commitment, the public scrutiny.
Well, for sure one of those answers would be that they find the combative and often conniving nature of politics off-putting. There’s too much derision and not enough debate. Insults and catcalls take the place of reasoned argument. Heckling and evasiveness stand in for direct and honest answers.
Sometimes, government members seem to forget that opposition MHAs were also duly elected and have constituents to represent.
Rather than work co-operatively, too often MHAs from opposite sides of the House resort to cheap shots and one-upmanship.
It’s depressing to watch and oh-so predictable, no matter which party holds the reins.
Right now, it’s the Progressive Conservative party clinging to the remnants of power. And it seems the more tenuous their grip, the more mean-spirited they become.
And they don’t always let a little thing like the truth get in the way in their attempts to thwart the opposition.
Case in point: the cat had Justice Minister Darin King’s tongue in the House of Assembly Wednesday when it came to questions about how the government arrived at its decision last year to axe the Family Violence Intervention Court — a type of court with a proven record in many parts of the world when it comes to stopping domestic violence before it escalates into murder.
Joan Shea, minister responsible for the status of women, was willing to speak in his stead though, when NDP MHA Gerry Rogers asked whether King had bothered to consult with the Women’s Policy Office before making his decision.
“Any time there’s a decision that may or may not even affect women, we ask their opinion on that particular policy or policy move of government to ensure that we don’t miss that piece of work,” Shea said.
Since cutting the Family Violence Intervention Court was all about saving money, and not a matter of policy, there was no need for consultation, she said.
“The decision to eliminate it or not continue it was a budgetary decision, Mr. Speaker, not because this government disagrees with the concept of a Family Violence Intervention Court. … At no point did this government say that we disagreed with that particular policy, Mr. Speaker.”
Rogers was clearly still hoping for an answer from King: “I ask the minister, did he consult with the Provincial Advisory Council on the Status of Women?”
Shea’s response was snide, implying that Rogers was being obtuse.
“Unless the member doesn’t understand what I’m saying, the Family Violence Intervention Court was a budgetary decision as opposed to a reversal of policy for this particular government,” she said.
But that’s not true.
After the court was dismantled in March 2013, King — who was able to speak at that time — did not say the court was a wise idea that the province simply could not afford, but rather that it was ineffectual.
Here’s his quote from The Telegram on March 30, 2013: “There comes a point in time, from government’s perspective, when you have to decide whether that’s an effective way to deliver services and supports to those who are impacted by family violence, and we don’t believe it is.”
Sure sounds like a policy decision to me. It isn’t working, so axe it.
His explanation ran counter to that of members of the justice system, who believed the court was having a beneficial effect and even saving lives.
As one Crown prosecutor noted after quitting her job in disgust at the court being cut, “That going away, that is just such a devastating blow. There are women killed or seriously hurt by violent partners in this province. We were making really good progress with that court. We were doing really important work there.”
But rather than acknowledge at the time that the Family Violence Intervention Court was a good idea and that it was regrettably a necessary casualty of fiscal restraint, King tried to obfuscate his way through a media scrum and justify his decision.
He could have agreed with the Crown prosecutor, made her feel her work had value, and vowed to try to bring the court back.
Now that the Tories’ popularity has waned, they’re trying to rewrite their own history.
And that’s the funny thing about politics — politicians have short memories, while the rest of us can see past last week.
Pam Frampton is a columnist and The Telegram’s associate managing editor. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: pam_frampton