You miss some of the sycophantic over-the-top smugness if you don’t actually see the performance online. But here is the Hansard version of a question posed to the federal minister of finance, Jim Flaherty, in the House of Commons. The question was asked by a fellow Conservative MP — Durham, Ont.’s Erin O’Toole — as if that isn’t plainly obvious.
“Mr. Speaker, while the NDP calls for job-killing taxes on business, our government is getting results for the economy, creating over 900,000 net new jobs created since the worst of the recession, with 90 per cent of them full-time. Our economic action plan leaves more money in the hands of entrepreneurs to hire more Canadians and grow their businesses, not tax them out of business like the NDP.
“In recent weeks, many Canadian retailers have announced their intentions to expand, something that the NDP has not bothered to mention. Can the world’s best finance minister update the House on these good news announcements?”
The clearly prepared question is followed by a clearly prepared answer from Flaherty, extolling the growth in the nation’s Wal-Marts and their attendant wage-rich jobs.
But wait: don’t just feel insulted that government members enjoy wasting your time and money: watch just how smugly delighted the happy Tories are at http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=f8B_yFKfcBA.
If you’ve ever wondered what a culture of entitlement looked like, all you have to do is freeze the video for a second and count the number of politicians in the frame who clearly believe there’s no problem treating you like a fool and treating Parliament like a joke.
But while I’m talking about people who clearly think that the voters are fools, stop to consider the game the Tories tried to play in Saskatchewan.
In that province, there is a plan to restructure federal ridings.
Based on traditional voting patterns in the province, the changes would mean a better chance for opposition parties to capture federal seats.
People in the ridings suddenly started getting political robocalls from an unidentified political party — the calls were a “push poll,” something that purports to be a public opinion poll on an issue but actually represents issues in a particular way to try and shift opinion.
Turns out, the calls were coming from the Tories even though they denied the charge at first. Coming from far up in the Conservative party, apparently, right up to national political director Jenni Byrne. Even some Tories are saying she should take responsibility.
How were they caught out? When the media went to the expense of using voice analysts to match the voice on the calls to a well-known Tory pollster.
Then, the Conservatives started classing their denial as “internal miscommunication.”
“Oh? You caught us? Well, when we denied doing it, that was because we didn’t know we were doing it, so our strident denials were just an accident.”
Right. That’s like saying, “I said I didn’t steal your apple, because I didn’t know the apple I stole was your apple. Miscommunication. Ummm — would you like the core back?”
Who the heck would believe that kind of tripe?
Without the voice analysis, you can bet we’d still be getting a Conservative chorus of “No, it wasn’t us.”
Because the Tories didn’t ’fess up until the voice analysis evidence was slapped in front of them.
You shouldn’t have to resort to voice analysis to find out if your federal representatives are lying — or should we say “miscommunicating”?
You would think that, at this point, robocalls would be the last tool you’d trot out from the political toolbox, especially as Elections Canada continues its search for the people behind the last election’s robocalls fraud that sent non-Tory voters to non-existent polling stations.
But no: for the Tories, it’s apparently robo-business as usual.
Asked about the shoddy little performance during question period, Prime Minister Stephen Harper could only come up with “The party has already explained what happened with these calls. The party obeyed the rules set out in the act. Our public position on the commissions is very clear. Obviously, parliamentarians and the party try to influence the placement of the new electoral boundaries. These efforts will continue, as encouraged by the law.”
It was an answer as staged as Flaherty’s had been, just one day earlier, and every bit as mealy-mouthed.
Is there a message in all this?
Of course there is.
The message, dear voters, is that someone believes you are idiot sheep with memories so short you can only remember yesterday’s meal of grass, and who wouldn’t recognize that you were being played if your life depended on it.
Political parties act like this until they are punished for their behaviour.
Eventually, they become willing to blatantly and shamelessly waste our time and insult our intelligence.
I think we’re there.
Russell Wangersky is The Telegram’s
editorial page editor. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.