We get the government we deserve
By: Tom Oleson
Posted: 10/5/2011 1:00 AM |
CHEAT me once, shame on you; cheat me twice, shame on me, as the old saying has it. But those old-timers never thought that anyone would be credulous enough to be cheated three or four times by the same bunch, so they never extended the thought.
They had apparently never met a Manitoba voter.
After Tuesday's election, we may have to extend it ourselves. Cheat me three times and you have become some sort of caregiver on whom I have become heavily dependent. Cheat me four times and it becomes pretty clear that you as my caregiver have given me a lobotomy and I am no longer capable of feeling any sense of shame. Whoopee! Free at last!
The New Democratic Party, this time with a sad-sack Greg Selinger as its leader -- we can no longer blame our shame on the charisma of Gary Doer -- on Tuesday was elected to its fourth term in office. That is no small thing. It means that when the next election comes along in 2015, there will be an entire generation of new voters who have never in their conscious lives known anything but a socialist government. As they eventually head west to Saskatchewan and Alberta to get jobs and make money, they're in for quite a surprise.
But let's not spoil the surprise for them just yet. It is, after all, possible that Premier Selinger will actually keep the promises that the NDP have made and left unkept during three successive previous governments -- fiscal responsibility (Hello? Is that a deficit up there?); better health care (Could you get that gurney out of my way?); and getting tough on crime (Welcome to Winnipeg, the most violent city in Canada.)
It is kind of remarkable that the NDP, which has campaigned on those issues for the last three elections, would have the nerve to campaign on them again in this one, with astonishing success. If there is an upside to this it is only that we are saying goodbye to Tory leader Hugh McFadyen -- who actually deserved better -- and Liberal leader Jon Gerrard -- who, despite hanging on to his own seat, and that image is almost literally true, is living proof that earnest doesn't often work in politics.
It is possible that this time the NDP will keep its promises, but, frankly, it's not likely. They didn't do that during what are now called the "golden years" of federal largesse, when money came like honey, flowing like mother's milk from the federal government's breast -- this is not, I know, a particularly attractive image, given that the prime ministers during those years of milk and honey were Jean Chretien, Paul Martin and Stephen Harper -- and the fact is that the flow is drying up. So how will Selinger do more with less when as Gary Doer's finance minister he could only do less with more?
How did this happen? Manitobans are prairie people. How did we get cheated not just once, twice or three times but four times by the same government making the same promises?
The Globe and Mail has had a reporter in the city for that last few weeks, mostly covering the Jets but also giving the election a nod occasionally.
On Tuesday, he wrote that in the context of Winnipeg's summer and the return of the Jets, "in defence of those running for office, politics never really had a chance."
That's certainly part of it. Another part is a lacklustre opposition that could never identify the issue -- it's the deficit, stupid.
Selinger made a big deal of how he would eliminate the deficit by 2014, while the Tories would let it drag on till 2018. Good for him, you say.
But asked by the Free Press editorial board last week if he would resign if the deficit was not eliminated by then, he answered with an unequivocal "No."
There are always things to blame a deficit on other than NDP incompetence. In four years we may hear a few of them.
One of the unfortunate things about democracy is that people really do get the government they deserve.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 5, 2011 A11http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinio ... 23898.html