Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Has consultation become a foreign word in Stephen Harper's Ottawa?

Here’s how the online edition of the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines consultation:

Main Entry: con•sul•ta•tion
Function: noun
Date: 15th century
1: council, conference; specifically : a deliberation between physicians on a case or its treatment
2: the act of consulting or conferring

Most of us learned the word back in grade school but vocabulary must be one of those use it or lose it type things, because the Ottawa press corps seems to have forgotten what it means:

Caucus pressure drives Dion to make green-plan concessions

September 3, 2008

WINNIPEG -- Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion is changing his controversial carbon tax plan on the eve of an expected election campaign amid pressure from his caucus members.

The policy will now incorporate breaks for farmers, truckers and fishermen in the form of subsidies to help buy equipment to reduce use of diesel fuel.

Mr. Dion will announce the changes in his plan regarding the farming sector today in Winnipeg, where he is attending his national caucus summer retreat. The subsidies to the other sectors will be announced later, sources said.

The Conservatives are trying to frame this as some kind of embarrassing climb-down for Stephane Dion, like he’s being forced into making concessions by Green Shift opponents. And a gullible media is playing along.

It's nonsense.

Maybe it really does seem like that to journalists have political observers who have had their minds warped by Stephen Harper’s control-freak Ottawa, a town where Harper and Doug Finley decide what selected demographic population segments want to hear, talking-points are dispatched to those MPs allowed to appear in public and anyone that meanders off-script gets whacked. That may be the new Ottawa normal, but it wasn’t always so.

It may seem weird and strange when contrasted with The Harper Way, but what’s happening with The Green Shift is exactly how policy is supposed to be developed. Policy is put out there, MPs talk to their constituents and gather feedback, bring those concerns back to the party, and the policy is tweaked as appropriate.

Not only is that how policy is supposed to be developed, not only is it an important facet of the functioning of a truly democratic party, but it also just plain makes for better policy. As a Canadian from a ruralish area, even if I do now reside in Hogtown, I was concerned that the Green Shift might not have done enough to address the realities of life of non-urban Canadians, so I’m pleased there will be some tweaks.

And this process serves to underline the diversity of the Liberal caucus. We’ve got people that can speak to the concerns of farmers, to the concerns of rural and Northern residents, to the concerns of urbanites. Getting all their input, and adjusting the Green Shift plan to recognize their constituencies’ legitimate concerns, make this a better policy. And no matter how Stephen Harper may define it, in my view listening, consultation and dialogue is how I would to define leadership.

When contrasted with the authoritarian command and control of Harper, I’ll choose Dion’s open and consultative style any day of the week. When presented with the contrast and the choice, I think Canadians will too.

UPDATE: Jason has some thoughts and so does BCL. And Danielle too.

Recommend this Post on Progressive Bloggers


Anonymous said...

Yes, but with a compliant media, the general public won't get that compare and contrast.

The Liberals need to stop waiting for the media to "get it" and start concentrate on giving them the message loud, clear, and consistently.

Until they do, they're going to continue to let the media plug whatever tale they want to lay out. And it won't matter how many liberal bloggers make the argument. It has to be the party.

Barcs said...

still can't see the "conservative media bias"....

All I see is the media trying to make a story exciting.

How good does it sound: "Things went according to plan this week, nothing new except we are making a few tweaks we planed on earlier."

Yeah right in a paper with a readership of only the staff they might have no circulation even then.

The media plays conflict. It sells. And you can hardly see a "respected" newspaper putting photos of naked men and women on the front to sell. So without sex there is only the conflict angle to work with.

And again if you want to argue "the media" bias. Check out the stories in the Star and the post and tell me how their editorial decisions are the same.

Barcs said...

here's a good example:

"no candidates in 2 major ridings" (refering ot the tories)


oh wait... there is 50 tory ridings with no named candidate yet. not to mention: 80 liberal, a handful of bloc, 120 NDP and 170 green (as at aug 9).

But OMG 2 major ridings!!!!!

News doesn't seem to be sell (or be sold) unless you can blow itout of proportion..hmmmm?

Jeff said...

barcs, I've never argued that the media is only biased against the Liberals. In fact, I've argued rather the opposite. They give everyone a hard time of out lazyness and a quest for sensationalism. My Conservative friends generally have pointing-out any slights to their party well in hand, so I mainly concern myself to those times the Liberals are poorly treated.

Barcs said...

"They give everyone a hard time of out lazyness and a quest for sensationalism."

well said.