By ARNOLD A. AUGUSTE, Publisher/Editor
There were a number of reasons to not vote for the Stephen Harper Conservatives last Monday. Obviously, enough Canadians thought otherwise and gave him the majority government for which he had long sought. Maybe they just found more reasons for not voting Liberal.
Now, will the real Stephen Harper please stand up!
We have seen him in action over the past five years and, up to the weekend, there were still doubts about whether or not he can be trusted with the power and authority of a majority government.
We now have four or even five years to find out.
Canada has been acclaimed, and with good reason, for its handling of our economy through the recent economic downturn. Arguably, Harper inherited a sound balance sheet from previous Liberal governments to begin with, but the Conservatives deserve respect for what they did with it. It could not have been easy.
But there were so many other things they got wrong. Their disrespect for parliamentary process, for example, led to this being the first government in the history of this country to be found in contempt of Parliament.
Then there were the misrepresentations – the fudging of the facts, if you may – on so many levels, not least of which were the mischaracterizations of Liberal leader, Michael Ignatieff. Most of the time he must have felt he was back in the U.S. and under attack by the Republicans.
But, as Harper himself has said, he got the big things right. And that is what counted at the ballot box. Canadians, after making their fourth trip to the polls in seven years had enough and decided that some stability was in order. For better or worse.
The other big stories were the rise of the New Democrats and the devastation of the Bloc Quebecois. With so many newcomers, especially from Quebec and especially young people – one as young as 19 – now making up the NDP caucus, it will be very interesting to see what kind of opposition they will pose for the wily Harper and his seasoned ministers.
Someone mentioned to me that it was interesting the NDP, which is considered a grassroots party, couldn’t find any Black candidates to run in Toronto or in the GTA. They do have two Black members from Quebec.
For one thing, do we know if there were any Black people with the potential to be good candidates with an interest in running?
But that raises a larger issue, our presence or lack of a presence in this election.
For a number of years now, political operatives and strategists have been suggesting that members of the Black community do not vote. That is not exactly true, but the fact is that, even if/when we vote, it is not in such a way as to make much of a visible impact.
For example, we don’t hold political rallies to engage the community or, when we do, they are so underwhelming in their promotion and execution that they do not register.
We seem more content to just cruise along while other newer communities are getting noticed and are being respected as major participants in the country’s political process.
We may not think about the ramifications of this, but that presence helps individual members of those communities to move ahead in both the public and private sectors. They are being seen and recognized as upwardly mobile – just as we used to be a few decades ago.
So, what happened? Where are our dynamic, young professionals? I know that they are out there.
Some of them may be afraid to step up because of our tendency to quickly and unashamedly pull each other down. They may feel it is better to keep their heads down and maintain a low profile. But that is to our disadvantage. We have some of this country’s brightest and most astute people in our community. And many of them excel individually in their chosen fields. We need to celebrate them, to be proud of them and to let them know that their community respects, welcomes and are proud of them and that we will support them if and when they step forward to make their contributions. But, we have to be prepared to do so, not just talk about it.
Just as the Liberal Party now needs to rebuild – and they will, of that I have no doubt – we need to regain that spark we used to have which earned the respect of the politicians, brought them out into our community and gained their support when it was needed.
Or are we content to just sit on the sidelines for the next four or five years?