The Liberal Doth Protest Too Much, Methinks

June 10, 2009 by  

Two days ago, the Chronicle Herald published a story in which they describe a taped conversation between Natural Resources Minister Lisa Raitt and her then aide Jasmine MacDonnell.  The two women are heard discussing the issue of the radioactive isotope shortage that has resulted from the May 15th shutdown of a  52-year-old nuclear reactor (the reactor was shut down due to water leakage).  Raitt says to MacDonnell that it is “good” that Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq is avoiding media exposure over the isotope “crisis”, because it will allow Raitt to take all of the credit when the crisis is resolved.

It is hard to deny her conclusion.  We have not seen a lot of coverage involving Aglukkaq in the matter of the isotope shortage and, in the normal course, the ministerial politician appearing to do something will generally get the credit for problems resolved by the bureaucrats for whom she actually works.

Raitt proceeds to speak of the reactor/isotope issue as “…sexy…Radioactive leaks. Cancer.” Again, she is correct: the media are attracted to such issues, which is why we so recently have discovered that a Minister Lisa Raitt exists.

And so it is with much eye-rolling that I read about Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff’s exchange with Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Parliament yesterday:

Ignatieff said Raitt’s comments are evidence of an insensitive minister and the government’s “deep cynicism about the issues facing our country.”

When Harper accused him of political opportunism, Ignatieff said: “The cheapest politics there is, is to call a crisis a career opportunity.”

Please. Clearly, crises are career opportunities for politicians. Indeed, one cannot usually expect a sitting government to lose an election in the absence of a crisis, or recent crisis, of some sort. That is precisely why the daily political activity of opposition parties having nothing substantive to offer (i.e., of parties that routinely get elected) is comprised wholly of the exploitation (and exaggeration) of crises.

Ignatieff’s exploitation of Ms Raitt’s career crisis is no exception to this rule. He sees the exploitation of Ms Raitt’s frankness – an honest and correct statement that the reactor/isotopes issue would attract media attention, that he who takes credit for resolving a crisis gets the credit for its resolution, and that such credit is good, for her, as a person whose career it is to resolve crises – as an opportunity to build his own career.

However, his hypocrisy explains his outrage. Note that Ignatieff expressed outrage not that Raitt had made a crisis a career opportunity, but that she had the gall to “call” it a career opportunity. For Ignatieff, it is okay to gain – to advance ones own career – by exploiting (even fostering) another’s misfortune so long as you do not openly admit that you are doing it for personal gain. Anything else will do. The trick is to pretend that one is not participating in politics as a career at all. For example, one might choose to say that one left another country, and a great job at Harvard, not as a matter of personal gain but as a personal sacrifice for the benefit of Canada. Or duty…or whatever…so long as one does not admit that one has a desperate and obvious desire to see himself in a history book with his name preceded by the words “Prime Minister”.

And that, dear reader, is why we can never expect Mr. Ignatieff to apologize to Ms. Raitt for using her ass as a box in which to plant his pole as he attempts to vault himself into the highest and most powerful office in the land…as a personal sacrifice, mind you. For him to apologize would be for him to admit that his participation in politics is very much a matter of career. For him, by admission, effectively to “call” his exploitation of Ms Raitt’s crisis a “career opportunity” would be “the cheapest politics there is”. Well, isn’t that convenient?

How fortunate then, for him, that I have saved him the trouble.


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