Are there no adults in Ottawa these days?
The question is neither facetious nor entirely rhetorical. There are days when Parliament Hill resembles a giant daycare centre more than the seat of serious government.
Where to begin? Well, let’s start with the bizarre episode of Peter Goldring, the Conservative member for Edmonton East, who last week made his inane “contribution” to the controversy over alleged sexual misdeeds on the Hill by issuing a three-paragraph press release. In it, he referred to the two female MPs (unnamed) from the NDP who have accused two male MPs from the Liberal party (both named, shamed and suspended from caucus) of sexual abuse.
The two New Democrats, Goldring suggested, had acted with “shameful indiscretion and complicity,” and he announced he was taking measures to protect his 69-year-old body from unwanted advances from females of socialist or other persuasion. He said he wears “body-worn video recording equipment” (apparently a miniature camera and recorder hidden in a pen in his breast pocket). He advised MPs who “consort with others” to follow his example by wearing similar “risk protection” to “prevent besmirchment when encounters run awry.”
Besmirchment when encounters run awry? I have no idea what idiocy possessed Goldring. He is no newbie — he’s spent the past 17 years buried on the Tory backbench, where he seems destined to remain. Within hours, appalled that one of their sheep had escaped from the flock, the Prime Minister’s Office retracted Goldring’s comments and apologized on his behalf. (Perhaps there was actually an adult on duty in the PMO that day.)
Next, the somewhat related and equally bizarre case of Massimo Pacetti, the Liberal MP from Quebec who stands accused of sexual misconduct by one of the two NDP members who cannot be named. The story is familiar by now. The MP who cannot be named played on a sports team with Pacetti. Afterward, they went for drinks, then she accompanied him back to the hotel room where he stays while in Ottawa. He indicated he wanted to have sex, she says she didn’t really want to but handed him a condom anyway.
Afterward, she went to Liberal leader Justin Trudeau to complain about Pacetti’s vile conduct. Trudeau dropped the hammer on Pacetti while carefully not identifying the complainant or even her party.
These people are supposed to be adults. They are not fumbling adolescents. They are the people who make the laws that govern our lives and our country. Why can’t they act that way?
Final example. A week ago, the Harper government, which has been accused of lacking empathy for distressed former military personnel, moved to defuse a scathing report from the Auditor General. A battery of cabinet ministers announced they would spend $200 million in a six-year program improve mental health services for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other stress-related injuries. Just what the doctor ordered and what veterans groups had been hoping for.
But wait! When opposition MPs got to read the fine print, it turned out that the $200 million is to be paid out over 50 years, not six.
Veterans and opposition MPs were outraged. It wasn’t just the money that won’t be available for today’s veterans. It also the deception, the attempt to make a great deal out of precious little. The kids would call it putting lipstick on a pig. That’s something they might get away with in daycare. In the adult world, in government, it’s called lying.
Cambridge resident Geoffrey Stevens, an author and former Ottawa columnist and managing editor of the Globe and Mail, teaches political science at Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Guelph. His column appears each Monday in Waterloo Regional Record and Guelph Mercury. He welcomes comments at [email protected]