Day after day, we are fed more House of Commons questions and more media headlines and more speculation about Helena Guergis and Rahim Jaffer. Maybe it’s good politics to keep this issue hot and in the public eye. Ekos polling seems to show that it is, to some extent. But Guergis is out of Cabinet and out of caucus, the RCMP is on the case, and the Ethics Commissioner may be looking at some issues as well. Is it not time to focus on bigger issues, issues that matter to our future, our country? Let due process unfold.
Whatever the polling may show today, it is likely that the net impact of this affair is the continued deterioration of trust in government, not because two people may have violated ethical standards or broken the law – and we do not yet really know anything much here – but because we hear about it every day, it dominates the political news, it shapes our impressions of the people in public office, and it reminds us how much time is lost to issues that do not make our lives any better.
In almost thirty years in public life, I have learned that the vast majority of people who choose to serve are decent and ethical people and with a degree of courage that defies understanding – why else would they expose themselves to the gotcha Ottawa culture. Sometimes people act badly and sometimes they abuse trust and when and if that happens they should be dealt with fairly and firmly depending on the infraction. We should be proud of our system that one way or another these issues do normally come to public attention and are dealt with rather than covered up.
The productivity gap, poverty, healthcare and education, climate change and the environment, Afghanistan and Canada’s place in the world – there are other issues that should be preoccupying Ottawa.