The realities of politics

Andrew Coyne, in a column in Macleans magazine, bemoans the fact that politicians say one thing and end up doing something entirely different.I

In Mr. Coyne’s rant he is speaking specifically about Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his conservative government.

But what is amusing is Coyne’s admission that he has always believed that, deep down, politicians try to do the right thing and just recently has realized that it’s really all politics.


And he has been writing about politics and issues for years.

Now I don’t make any claims to the background that Andrew Coyne has on the political scene. But over the years I have had the opportunity to deal with politicians and bureaucrats on various issues and came to realize fairly early on that once a politician gets elected, his/her immediate goal from that point on is to simply get re-elected.

The corollary to that is that it is important to do nothing controversial and always try to annoy the least number of people.

And Coyne is right: this is what has happened, not to just our current Conservative government, but to conservative administrations in the U.S. as well.

Once they attain power they proceed to compromise their principles in order to stay in power. In Stephen Harper’s case he needs to appeal to a wider base in order to move from being a minority government to a majority government. And the principles that he came to the party with get set aside.

I’m simply amazed that Coyne is amazed.

However it is not just conservatives who suffer from electoral compromise and who sell out their principles.

A current example is Peter Stoffer, the MP from Sackville-Eastern Shore (NS), who for years loudly and publicly proclaimed his opposition to the federal long gun registry and gave his promise in parliament to vote for any bill that was brought forward to eliminate the registry.

But when Bill C-391, which would done just that, was tabled, Stoffer changed his mind and voted to kill the bill, thus ensuring that the registry would remain intact.

Another case of a politician who either had no principles to begin with or when push came to shove lost the principles he had.

Mr. Coyne may have missed that.

I’m also surprised that Coyne seems to think that this is only a conservative problem.

Of course that may be the case because conservatives are supposed to have principles and therefore are more at risk of losing them. Whereas federal Liberals have never been considered to have principles and thus cannot be castigated for losing them.

One of the more egregious examples of this may be the 1974 federal election where the Conservatives, under the leadership of Robert Stanfield, promised to bring in price and wage controls if elected. The federal Liberals, led by Pierre Trudeau fought the election on opposing that policy and won. Then immediately after winning the election implemented a wage and price controls policy on their own. That smelled somewhat more of opportunism rather than principle.

And of course we are just talking about the politicians. We haven’t even considered the workings¬† of senior bureaucrats.

If one was to spend some research time on this topic I think it would very shortly become boring (or depressing), because I believe that what you would find was that expedience and opportunism wins over principles almost every time.

I apologize for my cynicism to those actually principled politicians who are out there. There are some (at least in my experience) that I could name. Unfortunately they often become pariahs in their own parties.

It is all politics.


Tags: , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: