Instead of focusing on the paltry doings of a few unimportant rookie senators, the prime minister should be getting our house in order.
Some days we just need a good hard kick in the butt, a difficult thing to recognize when you are on a roll, but that’s usually when we all need it most. After a run of good fortune, our feet have left the ground, we’re flying high and we often miss tending to the essentials right under our noses.
Recently, that’s about where the prime minister has been. These last few years, he has achieved a modicum of success around the world and his eyes are fixed on the horizon. He hasn’t been paying attention to what’s going on at home, leaving the management details to his very driven staff.
Some notable achievements
We came out of the recession with our finances in good order, while many other countries are still struggling. We have taken on important initiatives such as modernizing the archaic and enterprise-stifling marketing controls with the dismantling of the Wheat Board monopoly. We have just initialed a precedent-setting free trade agreement with the world’s largest market (the European Union GDP is currently slightly ahead of the United States GDP). Things are looking pretty good for Canadians.
But here’s the bad news: While all this has been going on, we have also treated our veterans like used commodities, drumming them out of the services and cheating them of deserved pensions because they have been injured in the line of duty and are no longer fit for active service. How disgraceful. How shameful. How humiliating for Canadians.
Here’s the next shame. The citizens of Lake St. Martin in Manitoba, just one of six affected bands, have been without a home for the past 2½ years because their reserve was flooded, partly because of a desire to save the homes of local farmers. That was bad enough but these people were forced to abandon their possessions and homes (some of which were intact), which have since been ransacked and looted and will now be bulldozed. Meanwhile, their prior “generous” living allowance of $23.40 a day has been cut to a mere $4 a day (plus rent or hotel charges) and there is no resolution in sight. How disgraceful. How shameful. I feel the heat rising up my neck as I think of this.
These are the sorts of things that take leadership to resolve. I find it hard to believe that Steven Harper sanctions the cheating of veterans or the diversion of flood victim funds. But it may be that because he is such a master of control his ministers feel incompetent to deal with these abuses without his direct intervention. After all, the bureaucracy is a many-layered and pretty powerful institution.
As an example of this, for some unfathomed reason, the government (meaning the Manitoba region of the Indian Affairs Department) made a decision to funnel flood relief money in Manitoba through the Indian FireFighters. Millions have been frittered away and when the mismanagement of these funds was brought to light, the public was quickly reassured that the funding model would be changed, that the Red Cross would take over the file. Unfortunately, this has never transpired; the Red Cross apparently did a review, but the funds are still flowing into an abyss while 2,000 homeless people and their children are still living in hotels and other makeshift quarters.
In the case of the veterans, while Minister Peter McKay, a warm-hearted and reasonable man, took it upon himself to solve one vet’s issues, the bureaucracy, no doubt resentful of his interference, made sure that his intervention only extended to that one individual.
Focused on the trivial
These are just two very serious issues that need addressing, but the media and the entire attention of the federal government is focused on the paltry doings of a couple of newly minted senators for misinterpreting the limits of their spending allowance. How picayune! It reminds me of a certain famous Roman, who also happened to be a senator, fiddling while Rome burned.
The prime minister would be far better occupied in delving into the murky dealings of Indian Affairs in Manitoba. He should pay real attention to the cavalier and uncaring way Veterans Affairs is dealing with our youngest vets.
It’s time the prime minister refocused his eyes on what’s happening here at home.