It is interesting that it is only in the wake of Harper's downfall that the full weight of the irony involved in the decade of Conservative rule begins to become clear to many.
The last time a conservative party lost their federal majority they lost not only to the Liberal Party but they lost to another upstart conservative party, the ironically named Reform Party. It seems almost unbelievable now to recall that the Reform Party came to Ottawa on claims that they would have lots of free votes, their MPs wouldn't accept the rich pension plans, their leader would never live in Stornaway if they became the Offical Opposition, and they would stand for a genuinely open government (in contrast to both the PC Party and the Liberals). WOW! That program of reform was so short lived that many people have forgotten it altogether. It also seems easy to forget now that Peter MacKay sold out the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada even after verbal and written agreements that he would not do so. But like the proverbial toad in the slowly heating water, many people seemed blithely unaware that a political party that had begun its life devoted to openness and honesty became the very symbol of secretiveness and corruption. Conservative all over Canada readily accepted (and still accept) this wild perversion of our system. If nothing else, this past decade has confirmed to me (along with some other personal experiences) how little people really are committed to democracy, openness, honesty, fair play, and responsible representation. I fully realize now that people just don't care about that stuff, they are fine with corruption and secretiveness etc. as long as it is their side doing this stuff.
In an effort, perhaps, to double down on the irony, next week Brian Mulroney is giving a speech at Toronto's Albany club in which he is widely expected to make some kind of case for the return of civility, openness, and even centrism to the Canadian conservative movement. Fact, as they say, is stranger than fiction. Many of my peers are watching with a certain amount of glee as the knives begin to come out in the days after the Conservative fall from power. Will we see the so-called 'Red' Tories attempt to reassert themselves in the wake of a leader who more or less gutted the party of any position short of his own maniacal hunger for power? Is there anything left to recapture at this point? Let's face it, over the past ten years there was hardly a single voice of dissent in the conservative movement against the over the top centralization and nasty one-man rule of the party. There were a few of course, but the fact that they were such an exception, demonstrated the rule of discipline and centralization in the Party.
The past decade has made me think that what we need in politics is something like a Turing Test. The Turing Test is a test designed by Alan Turing intended to determine whether a machine or robot can display true intelligence and can appear to a person as conscious. We need a kind of Turing Test of politics, not to show us whether a politician is conscious or intelligent, but whether they possess enough human empathy to qualify to be political representatives. Few of us have any doubt at this point that Stephen Harper would fail such a test miserably. The real question is- will those who seek to replace Harper try to apply some standard of meaningful social behavior to their new leader, or will they accept the status quo?
Of course, the real dilemma of the Turing Test is that it might always be unclear whether the robot you are testing is truly an "artificial intelligence" or just a very well programmed simulation of intelligence.
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