The House condemns the government for its arrogance in refusing to compromise with the opposition parties over the timing of the next general election and for its ‘culture of entitlement,’ corruption, scandal and gross abuse of public funds for political purposes and, consequently, the government no longer has the confidence of the House.
The above words finally brought down the Liberal government in Canada on Monday evening, a stunning indictment by all three opposing political parties of Liberal involvement in the Sponsorship Programme scandal and its various attempts to dodge responsibility for corruption and abuse of power. While the no-confidence motion itself sounds surprisingly harsh – originally, the parties agreed on simpler language that just expressed a loss of confidence – the fall of the Liberal government comes as no surprise to anyone who has followed the developments in Canadian politics over the past month.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t include the American media, which has consistently ignored the scandal and the events north of its border. The morning papers all reported on the fall of the Canadian government, of course. They did manage to notice when the entire forest fell, but they missed each single tree as it occurred. And if the American media doesn’t hear a tree fall in the forest, it’s as if the forest itself doesn’t exist.
The New York Times, for instance, reported on the fall of the government but wound up giving as much coverage to Prime Minister Paul Martin’s hysterical slander charges against Conservative leader Stephen Harper (two paragraphs) as they did the entire Adscam scandal at the heart of the no-confidence motion. Speaking of forests and trees, the Times did manage to mention the softwood tariff dispute in its report, gave a paragraph to the Liberal platform without mentioning anything about the Conservative position, and assumed that the Liberals would win a minority government again. The Washington Post didn’t even bother to write its own copy on the collapse, posting a wire service story in its on-line version instead. Instead of in-depth reporting and analysis, we have received the most superficial of coverage possible without missing the story entirely.
And two days later … the story has completely disappeared from the American media. It’s as if the Toronto Star reported in August 1974, “Today the President of the United States resigned. He has been dogged by reports of complicity in a politically-motivated burglary two years ago at a Washington business park,” giving no coverage before or after to the worst political scandal of its largest trading partner.
Bloggers have long since outreported the American major media on the developments in Canadian politics. Captain’s Quarters may have helped get the ball rolling for American interest in Canadian politics, but in the months since the Gomery testimony blew the story open in April, bloggers both north and south of the 49th parallel have kept readers engaged in the story. And the significance of the collapse has not been lost on those who have faithfully watched the workings of the complicated four-party political machinations since the spring. When the estimable blogger-journalist Austin Bay comments that Martin has become the “Nixon of the North”, American media consumers may realize that they have missed a major story thanks to the apathetic nature of the response from domestic news agencies to the scandal.
The no-confidence motion should not have taken anyone by surprise. The Conservatives originally tabled the motion on Thanksgiving, giving the media some catch-up time to bring Americans up to date on the political situation. Did they bother to apprise their constituencies of the alignment of the different opposition parties? Have any of them analyzed the Gomery Inquiry report itself, or even bought an analysis from one of the Canadian newspapers? Or have they shown their usual disdain for anything north of the border, as if our neighbors above the parallel have become completely irrelevant?
Canada’s relevance, despite the American media’s judgment, will only grow more significant as Islamofascist terror remains focused on the US and China grows into a more traditional opponent on the international stage. Before this week, the last time the Canadian government got much mention at all was when they started negotiating with Beijing on a sweetheart oil deal that eventually fell through. Most Americans probably don’t realize that the US imports more crude from Canada than Saudi Arabia, running neck and neck with Mexico for top honors. Their proven oil reserves come second only to Saudi Arabia in the global market. Shouldn’t the stability and direction of the Canadian government concern Americans on this key issue alone?
How about border policy? Much attention got paid to the latest speech by George Bush on protecting the southern border and on illegal immigration. However, Canada and the US share the largest undefended national border system in the world – and we need an active partnership with Ottawa to keep Islamists from exploiting that system. That means we need to influence Canadian immigration policy, or at least stay aware of the direction in which their governments take it to ensure that terrorists cannot easily enter either country, and transit in either direction to hit North American targets. The issue gets some mention from Republican hard-liners for whom immigration remains the most important domestic issue, but it doesn’t equate into any interest or reporting on how Canadians feel about border protection.
What positions do the four major political parties take on immigration? Border security? Cooperation with America on continental defense issues? The media has had all weekend to start informing American readers and viewers about the answers to these questions. In fact, they have had months to bring their customers up to date on the politics and the policies of our closest ally, since Adscam first threatened to take the Liberal executive down in May.
Managing those issues with a stable and reasonably clean government in Ottawa would have its challenges. Watching the Martin government fall due to its corruption of the Sponsorship Programme should concern us. Will a new election push the Canadians farther to the European position on Iraq? Does the emergence of Bloc Quebecois as a partner to the Conservatives signify greater autonomy for Quebec if the Tories win the upcoming election, a move which might anger Alberta enough to start its own separatist movement?
Americans should have at least some idea of the issues that this election and the fallout of Adscam will have on Canadian politics. The failure of the American media to cover our closest ally could have disastrous consequences for American security and economic growth. If the media takes itself as seriously as it claims when dismissing citizen journalists as unresourced, narrowly-focused political zealots, then perhaps they should look outside their own telescoped version of global politics as a continuum between Washington DC, Turtle Bay, Brussels, and Baghdad. The upcoming election cycle in Ottawa gives them the perfect opportunity to remedy their Canadian political illiteracy and move us closer in understanding to our most strategic trading and security partner.
If not, then the blogosphere may well serve them with yet another no-confidence motion of our own.