Matters of state vs. matters of politics
The recent controversies over Bloc Quebecois spending -- allegations that the BQ used public funds to pay for partisan causes -- prove that karma may exist in Canadian politics.
The Bloc, let's remember, was the first to be outraged over the old Liberal program of advertising and sponsorship after the 1995 referendum. The scandal, as the Bloc initially saw it, was that public money was being spent to prop up what they regarded as a partisan cause. What the Chretien government saw as "defending federalism" was translated by the Bloc as "defending Liberalism."
Outside Quebec, it's sometimes difficult for us to see federalism as a partisan issue. We in the English-language media were allowed to call the old debates "national-unity" struggles, for instance, because for our readers, there is only one nation -- Canada. Our colleagues from the Quebec media, on the other hand, had to be a bit more nuanced, so as not to be seen favouring one side over the other. (At a recent conference I attended, by the way, a BBC executive said that they'd be looking hard at CBC's example for guidance on how to cover the coming Scottish referendum. There will be a bit of a difference between how Scottish and British listeners are following events.)
This little distinction came to mind today when I was reading Kady O'Malley's recent blog post, featuring a missive from the PMO with the headline: "Foreign Radicals Threaten Further Delays."
It was another screed against environmental groups who oppose the pipeline. I immediately wondered: Is this my government at work, or the Conservative party? The line can be a fuzzy one in Canada, and we Canadians, trusting souls that we are, usually rely on governments themselves to draw the distinction between enemies of the state and enemies of the party in power.
Maybe most Canadians don't care about the distinction -- politics, government, all the same thing, to the victor go the spoils, etc. But actually, it's a distinction that we all should keep monitoring. Why? Well, because we don't want anyone using the state's power to go after political enemies. That's what they do in banana republics. How would you like to find your tax returns repeatedly audited, for instance, because you happen to have made donations to the "wrong" political parties?
Anyway, this brings me back to the original point. I'm wondering if today's environmentalism is yesterday's sovereignty-movement, in the eyes of the government. It now being deemed as un-Canadian to oppose the pipelines, does that justify the state stepping in to fight this point of view? Or should that PMO release more properly have come from the Conservative party?