Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Time to grow up

Although I'm not mentioned by name, I'm assuming that I'm one of the Federalist Bloggers Peter Whittle is talking about, as I did go up one side of George Baker and down the other last week. I have no regrets about that. At best I consider George Baker to be a glory seeking relic whose primary goal in making the statements he did last week was to draw some attention to himself because it's been far too long since anyone paid the slightest bit of attention to the senator. It wasn't to help any cause other than him own.

I also found this quote from Peter amusing...
P&P had its share of trollish attacks from the usual suspects for standing up for Mr. Baker's astute observations and comments about the state of federalism here in Newfoundland and Labrador. They resort to smear, misrepresenting positions and intimidation in their crusade against enlightenment and debate.

I don't comment much on Peter's blog, but I do read it from time to time and I know the people who post there. Peter also has some communications experience so he does know how to spin something to make it look as good as possible. So do I. Plus, I'm a former journalist so allow me to de-spin that statement and translate for you.
P&P had its share of annoying people who have had the unmitigated gall to come over here and punch holes in my arguments like a blowtorch through tissue paper. They often resort to logic, facts and relentless pursuit of the truth no matter how often I attempt to duck and weave to the point that I occasionally look like someone just tossed out of the Sundance at 3 in the morning. God damn them and they're pesky logic.

I genuinely feel a bit bad going after Peter like this. He's rarely had an unkind word to say to me, but honest to God, there's only so much martyrdom and self-delusion you can handle before it leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

But let's get to a point here. Yes, I guess I am a federalist. I like to think I'm a fairly realistic federalist. There's a quote from The West Wing I'm fond of which kind of works here - "You respect the office, even if you don't respect the man in the office." I think federalism is marvelous. Trying to get it to work right, however, is far trickier.

I don't like Stephen Harper. I think he's an unfortunately mediocre prime minister in a time when greatness is clearly needed. Equally unfortunate is that I'm not sure there is greatness waiting in the wings to replace him. I'm deeply frustrated with Premier Danny Williams who I think is tragically falling short of his potential. Understand, I thought at one point he could be the greatest premier this province has ever seen.

Now I fear when he leaves the discussion will of failed potential and lost opportunities. I thought it would be harder to find a more slippery premier than Brian Tobin, but Williams could give him masters classes. People look back at Tobin's time in office and tend to go "Jesus, did we ever have the wool pulled over our eyes". I wonder if that's how people are going to look back at Williams.

But far too often people seem to think you have to pick a side. A friend of mine from the United States, who is moving to St. John's, emailed me asked which one she should "cheer for" when the two of them were seriously fighting last year. I think my response was along the lines of "Neither. They're both assholes and a pox on both their houses for behaving like this."

I don't like regional parties and arguments. They're too small. Too...provincial. I don't want to listen to people howling all the time "What have you done for us lately?" I'm tired of listening to people whine about how others have screwed them over and denied them what they believe is their right.

God, it's so 20th century, hell, 19th century that I want to scream. I have a history degree. You're supposed to learn from this shit, adapt, adjust and do better. But far too many people, and Newfoundlanders are not alone in this, would prefer to use history as a shopping list of grievances and scores that have yet to be settled. Of slights that need to be fixed before anything else can be done, no matter how illogical that might be at times.

What do I want? I want provinces to take a serious crack at fixing their own problems. If there's something they're having trouble with, rather than howl about Ottawa and point fingers, I want them to solve their own problems. The easy and lazy way is to blame others far away. The harder, but better, solution is to get smart, get creative, work hard and solve things. Is this going to work 100 per cent of the time? No. I'm not that naive. But far too many times in Newfoundland and Labrador the first reaction isn't too try and fix things or ease the damage, it's to blame others. And I'm tired of it. Exhausted by it.

I want leaders to come together at a national level and work at what's best for the country as a whole...not to just make sure they get the most for their province or, in their most desperately shallow, their district or riding. I want people to work off the radical idea that if you come up with a solution that helps most Canadians, then it's one that will help Ontarians, Albertans, Newfoundlanders and Nunavummiut.

I want smart leaders with vision of the country, not just the small parts they happen to represent.

It's probably a touch simplistic. It's probably a fantasy. But damn it, I think it's what most people want - a stronger, better country for all Canadians. That's a vision worth fighting for.

(To be honest, even that feels too narrow. We should be working towards global issues, but one miracle at a time.)

So please forgive me if I have no patience or sympathy when I hear talk of nationalist rhetoric, regional blocs, decades and centuries old grievances and silly fights between political leaders. We all need to grow up a bit. Then maybe we can start electing some grown-ups in the process.

Last Five
1. Star Witness - Neko Case*
2. Hang down your head (live) - Tom Waits
3. Rip off - Ryan Adams
4. Waiting for nothing - Hot Hot Heat
5. Diamonds on the soles of her shoes - Paul Simon


Peter L. Whittle said...


I have to admit that I had not read any of your posts last week related to Baker.

Someone send me a link and suggested I check out your post.

I normally enjoy reading your blog and have never felt any reason to get personal with you. You certainly have not behaved in a trollish way in any comment on my blog.

Sorry if you felt I was lumping you in with the trolls! Twas not my intention.

I am sure we can agree to disagree with out the insults. I still think that Baker made some legitimate points. We can agree to disagree on that as well. We will also have to disagree on what passes for logic.

I never at anytime in my posts on baker advocated for separation, I just agree with his observations that the continuous battles between politicians of all political strips at the provincial and federal level are having an impact which needs to be addressed and not swept under the carpet.

I am certainly not a separatist. I just happen to think that the current model is broken and we need to fix it. The problem I have is that I do not believe that Danny Williams is solely responsible for all that is wrong with the relationship. I too am frustrated with Williams approach to a bunch of issues. I speak to them all the time. That does not mean that everything he does is wrong. I think if you read my blog on a regular basis you will see that.

The real issue is that there are a lot more like minded people kicking the crap out of each other for perceived slights rather than working together to foster real discussion and debate which all I was trying to do.

Simon said...

I owe you a beer. . or scotch or whatever you'd like.

Anonymous said...

Interesting post. I think that it is important to realize that there are people on both sides (ie Pro and Anti Danny forces)that are drinking their own brand of Kool-aid. I think the rest of us just want good government and some real change in Ottawa. This change can include real National Health Care standards so that health care in Nfld or PEI is the same as Sask or Alberta. It can include national regulation of the securities industries. And I am sure we can all come up with more auggestions.

There are many bloggers out there who serve a great purpose in providing dissent and critical analyis of public policy. However, having a balanced approach gives more credence to ones message. Four postings a day for 365 days a year bashing an admistrations policies or personalities eventually leaves to systematic desensitization of the audience and the important message may get lost.

WJM said...

I wonder if that's how people are going to look back at Williams.

Why put that verb in the future? They already are.

Well, some of them.

Anonymous said...

Amen Craig, Amen.

Thanks for articulating this so well. I have always been frustrated by how we Newfoundlanders claim this fierce independent streak while at the same time espousing more dependence and less personal responsibility.

Brian Maynard

Anonymous said...

Ed Hollett said it so it must be true.