Jul. 04, 2012 - Issue #872: The Beer Issue
An award of merit
The idea of merit can be a difficult one. Who is entitled to reward? This past Canada Day former Premier Ralph Klein was awarded the distinction of the Order of Canada. Premier for 14 years in this province and mayor of Calgary before that, Klein has certainly served his time in public office, but is he worthy of Canada's highest honour?
Choosing a politician for an honour of merit is difficult. Politics is a tricky field that wins you many enemies and few friends, and decades after your time in office the results of your decisions will be analyzed as to whether they truly served the public you were elected to represent. There are few politicians who can move beyond the dichotomous party lines and win the respect of all. We saw an outpouring of respect for Jack Layton's approach to politics, Peter Lougheed will always be remembered for his respectful, well-measured approach to the province and his dedication to service even after his time in office. Pierre Trudeau leaves behind a controversial legacy, but few could argue his impact on the Canadian people.
But should it be about more than simply impact and longevity in office? The Order of Canada awards the title based on "a lifetime of outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation … Their contributions are varied, yet they have all enriched the lives of others and made a difference to this country." It's the "made a difference" part that becomes problematic in the recognition of a politician. What kind of difference did they make?
The impact of Klein's time in office is controversial. Throughout his 14 years he was accused of plagiarism, made fun of AISH recipients and laughed at homeless people. Beyond the simply outrageous, his cuts to public spending are still being felt today. The lack of long-term economic planning has left the province with little in the way of savings and an absurdly low corporate tax rate, especially on oil companies making millions off of our resources. In this regard, the impact of Klein's term in office is most certainly viewed differently by seniors in hospital beds and the nurses taking care of them.
The recognition of Klein's term in office is about more than years served: it's also about how those years impacted a province and its people. In that regard, the rewarding of merit on this controversial premier should include the long-term implications of those 14 years in office, because when all is taken into account it's not a given that time served equals the Order of Canada's motto to "desire a better country." V
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