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Loose Cannon: The allure of Timbit politics

Thursday, October 1, 2009

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  • Like picking out the best flavours in a box of
bite-sized treats, the Conservatives choose their battles carefully. (Greg Benet

    Like picking out the best flavours in a box of bite-sized treats, the Conservatives choose their battles carefully. (Greg Benet

Written by Greg Beneteau

Last week, world leaders met in New York for the United Nation’s 64th General Assembly. With everything from nuclear proliferation to climate change on the agenda – not to mention U.S. President Barack Obama’s first speech at the international body – the atmosphere was full of unrealistic promise, like when you buy a microwave dinner thinking it will end up looking like the picture on the package.

It was quite the contrary up north, where expectations were set pretty low. The fervent hope among critics was that Canada would at least stop playing games like climate change chicken, insisting that big ticket emitters like the United States and China go first in accepting binding targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The critics got their wish, though in hindsight they probably wished they’d clarified their demands.

The Canadian government didn’t play the obstructionist in New York. It could hardly muster the energy to attend. 

During an unprecedented one-day conference on climate change, arranged in the hopes of finding common ground before the Copenhagen climate change talks in December, Prime Minister Harper left early to have lunch with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Harper returned for the leaders’ dinner later that evening, but his presence was short-lived. By the time Obama and other world leaders stepped up to the podium the next day, he was back in Canada for a caffeine fix and economic announcement at the Tim Hortons Innovation Centre in Oakville.

The event was meant to celebrate the company’s return to Canadian ownership, which Harper credited to his government’s tax policies. If so, it would also mark the first time the PM has actively assisted with repatriating a dark-skinned Canadian stranded abroad, even if was just a chocolate dip.

Sadly, I doubt that Canada’s absence from the world stage will make a ripple in the current polling numbers. That’s because the Conservatives are uncannily skilled at Timbit politics. Like picking out the best flavours in a box of bite-sized treats, they choose their battles carefully.

The Conservatives see no long-term political advantage in advocating for a new climate change treaty, and they’re absolutely right. Any plan the international community is likely to come up with will be costly, take decades to achieve and involve tough policy decisions.

More importantly, the environment has dropped off voters’ priority list, which is the all-consuming focus of our minority government. That gives the Tories the opportunity to score a quick victory by switching to a more pleasant subject, like the economy. Which would you rather have: a freshly baked apple fritter or day-old Dutchie?

The Conservative policy on crime is another example of Timbit politics at work. Seeking clemency for Canadian death-row inmates in the U.S. or repatriating accused terrorists won’t do anything for your polling numbers, and this government knows it.

Only under order of the courts, it seems, will the Conservatives extend constitutionally-guaranteed rights to all Canadians, even the ones we aren’t particularly fond of.

Fortunately, they can always blame the intellectual elite for being the bearers of bad truths. When an independent report slammed the Tories’ plan to revamp the federal corrections system with larger U.S-style prisons, restricted visitations and the elimination of gradual release, Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan didn’t respond to the reams of data suggesting harsher treatment and longer sentences increase rates of recidivism.

Instead he pointed out that “the professor” – as he repeatedly referred to one author of the study – was advocating for prisoner rights, the proverbial Brussels sprouts of politics.

“The professor has a different philosophy than us,” Van Loan told CBC Newsworld. “We think the protection of society has to come first.” Now, doesn’t that taste better?

The current minority government has developed an appetite for easy answers that resonate with the Tim Hortons voter. Like a sugar rush, it gives them an immediate boost in popularity, but it’s no way to plan for long-term governance.

And if Canadians don’t start demanding and end to the regular indulgences, they may start to remember why Timbits aren’t part of a balanced diet.  

Greg Beneteau is Editor-in-Chief of thecannon. Loose Cannon publishes every Thursday in The Ontarion Student Newspaper at the University of Guelph.

The opinions posted on thecannon.ca reflect those of their author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Central Student Association and the Guelph Campus Co-op. We encourage all students to submit opinion pieces, including ones that run contrary to the opinion piece in question.

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  1. Posted by: D.L Newton on Oct 8, 2009 @ 12:50pm

    To be honest, I did not bother to read the whole article. The title got my attention for some reason, but unfortunately I lost interest at schmuck. So I skimmed the rest, I apologize. Though I have to agree with you on something that I think I gathered from your article, Conservatives are quite often guilty of oversimplifying issues and with this usually comes the oversimplification of the solutions to those issues.

  2. Posted by: D.L Newton on Oct 8, 2009 @ 12:51pm

    Such as an increasing crime rate warrants the increase in, police officers, jail sentences, and jails. True issues, such as the cause of the increase in crime rate, are glazed over. I have to say that I am in agreement with you over the fact that the conservatives are very dishonest in their politics, like any other party perhaps, but it seems that their mandate in combination with that dishonesty causes a larger societal detriment than other parties.

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