As Canadian CF-18s participate in the Allied forces military mission against Libya this week, the country enters a week of domestic political uncertainty.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s minority government faces a stern test as it faces contempt of Parliament ruling, the introduction of a new federal budget and a series of serious questions regarding the ethical behaviour of the Conservative Party of Canada.
Locally, federal politics is also heating up. Liberal candidate Kim Rudd took Tory MP Rick Norlock to the woodshed over economic development funding. This comes after he admitted unemployment rates of nearly 10 per cent for the last quarter of 2010 are unacceptable.
Strategist in Ottawa may think this is not a good time to be going to the polls with the Canadian military involved in a second war. While Afghanistan is winding down, Libya could be just gearing up; Canadians may not want to be distracted by electioneering. Also, it could be argued the country’s political leadership should be stable during such tense times as when the country is engaged in military action.
In fact, there is not a better time.
The federal government is out of touch with ordinary Canadians and the disrespect for the institutions and democratic principles of this country are being put to an unprecedented test. Now is the moment when the nation should pass its judgment.
Elections Canada charged two Conservative senators and party organizers for an in-and-out scheme leading to allegations of overspending in the 2006 campaign. This was followed by House of Commons Speaker Peter Miliken giving two major rulings against the Conservatives for lying to the country and keeping politically sensitive information from citizens and Parliament. This could mean a ruling later this week for contempt, one of the most serious sanctions against a government.
Add to this the RCMP investigation into access to information requests by government staffers, a police probe into a former top aide for influence peddling and the credibility of the current government is bleak.
Then, there is the local politics.
With Northumberland County facing tough times, it appears the conservative are looking at phasing out the Easton Ontario Development Program, possibly cutting all money for businesses to help them grow. The $2.4 million given to the Community Futures Development Corporation and the Trenval Business Development office would dry up, meaning entrepreneurs and existing corporations would be unable to get financial help to expand, train workers, get additional money or advance technologies.
Norlock has defended his government’s actions, saying he is optimistic the fund will not be cut. But, Rudd was on the attack last week holding him accountable. It seems hypocritical of Norlock to be talking tough on unemployment only a few weeks ago and then gut one of the major ways his government contributes to job creation.
With Northumberland facing the highest unemployment rate within the Muskoka-Kawartha area at 9.9 per cent in December 2010 and a steady decline in manufacturing jobs, Norlock needs face the verdict of voters. He must answer for his government’s actions and his own record.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper may say Canada does not need an opportunistic election, but the opposite is true. Voters need to be heard despite two wars, an uncertain economy and whatever else may unfold in the upcoming weeks.