Editorial – Attawapiskat is in the news and the government does not get it

Across the Ottawa River in Ottawa, the Tee Pee where Attawapiskat Chief Spence is holding fast on a hunger strike
Across the Ottawa River in Ottawa, the Tee Pee where Attawapiskat Chief Spence is holding fast on a hunger strike

THUNDER BAY – Editorial – Attawapiskat is in the news and for the second year in a row, the Conservative Government appears to have given up the field. The Conservatives appear more content to play to their perceived hard-core supporters. As a result, caring people are putting more distance between themselves and the Conservatives. The government, once again will lose ground on the Attawapiskat issue. The comments by Minister Duncan reported in Britain make the Government look very out of touch and uncaring.

[pullquote] That’s social media, so we’ll just have to see where that goes – Minister Duncan [/pullquote]

From a quiet vigil across the river from the House of Commons, sitting hungry, Chief Theresa Spence is making the Prime Minister and his government appear heartless and uncaring. The Idle No More movement is reaching out around the world showing up the ‘Conservative machine’.

Perhaps in the backroom, likely as the donation dollars flow in, and the comments from some supporters on how ‘cracking down’ on First Nations is playing well.   Conservative MPs making comments are sticking to the speaking points for the most part, in many cases likely ignoring the reality of the situation, and ignoring the human empathy needed to fully engage with Canadians.

When one uses a ‘Google Shovel’ and digs in past the top surface, the speaking points are really hard to prove.

Looking across Canada, and around the world, as thousands of people are taking time out of their Christmas shopping to rally for a political cause is a matter that likely has never been ‘factored into the data’ by the Prime Minister.

[pullquote] But the Conservatives are making Chief Spence into a saint, and while they do that they play into the hands of those who state that the Prime Minister is ‘evil’ or uncaring. [/pullquote]

A case in point, Kenora Rainy River MP Greg Rickford commented on CBC Radio on Saturday morning on how working in lock-step the Conservatives are working with the AFN and First Nations to improve water quality on First Nations Reserves. However the MP did not share how many communities with boil water orders in place have had that end in 2012. The Government never shares those facts, and communications remains so tightly controlled that it never gets out.

Once in power, governments become far to engaged in holding onto the power they sought. They should be using that time to make positive change in our world.

Is Chief Spence a saint? Nope. Is Stephen Harper ‘evil'” Nope.

But the Conservatives are making Chief Spence into a saint, and while they do that they play into the hands of those who state that the Prime Minister is ‘evil’ or uncaring.

It is the second coming of Shannen’s Dream, and while all that might play out for the hard core in the party base maybe it is time for the Conservative backroom to be asking if Ezra Levant and Sun Media are going to be enough to carry the day into the next election? Probably not. Speaking points are going to wear thin real fast too.

Is the Conservative government out of touch and not caring? Likely around the caucus not one MP would suggest that the Conservatives are either. They see themselves as doing the right thing.

All that they are forgetting is the treaties that are binding on Canada.

In politics as in life,  perception is reality. Between tweets from Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau stating that ‘Attawapiskat wasted money getting an ice re-surfacer‘, and alluding to the falsehood that the funds were government money has angered people across Canada.

Remember how last December the Conservatives told Canadians they were very unhappy with the results from the $90 million dollars they had poured into Attawapiskat, and promised to get to the bottom of it? While Attawapiskat has their financial statements on their website, the Conservatives have never shared the results of an audit to prove their point.

One might have thought after the Residential School apology, and then after the total support of Shannen’s Dream that the Government would have seized the action opportunity. The opportunity to put in place a plan worked on with Aboriginal People could have made a massive paradigm shift in long term voting patterns.

Instead, the Conservatives are seemingly preferring to toss political ‘red meat’ to their base, and boost the level of anger and division in Canada.

The inaction in pro-active action and the failure of engaging communications on a number of issues are hurting the Conservative government, and there is no apparent end in sight. In a world where social media is increasingly common, that is a fatal flaw.

The results of social media in Egypt, Syria, Libya and other countries was a clear indication of the power of social media. Instead, the Prime Minister shares silence, and the Aboriginal Affairs Minister, who many Aboriginal people have lost respect for comments, “”.

When the Conservatives were the Reform Party, they were a grassroots policy based party which took its frustrations person to person, living room to living room and reached out to share news with people both online, and through their ‘broadsheets’.

Today the Conservative Party has evolved well past that grassroots party that was going to change Ottawa.

Increasingly, it is virtually becoming hard to make the distinction between how the Chretien Liberals were, and how the Harper Conservatives are becoming.

Harsh? It is increasingly at least to many people I engage with that the problem with politics isn’t the party but the attitude of arrogance in Ottawa that somehow they know more and know better than the people do on how to live their lives.

The Conservatives are at a massive watershed moment, and instead of being human and empathatic, they appear cold, distance and heartless.

To do so at Christmas is offering Canadians a huge contrast.

James Murray

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