They say that everyone produces happiness in this world; some when they show up and others when they leave. This is particularly true for a couple of parliamentarians recently. The Harper Government ™ currently broke even, when it gained a caucus member in the name of Peter Goldring who was welcomed back with open arms, after beating a “failure to provide a breath sample”charge, following a “quick beer or two” at a bar. The Tory caucus also lost a member when Brent Rathgeber gathered up all his office supplies, his principles and his kahunas and quit the party to sit as an independent, having tired of being a mere rubber-stamping cheerleader for the government side.
There surely was happiness and merriment at the acquittal of Mr. Goldring and the reinstatement to his privileged place as leader and role model. One would have to assume that there is bias in the judiciary not to believe there was reasonable doubt in the judge’s mind, that Goldring wasn’t unnecessarily thwarting the efforts of the arresting officer, despite what transcripts appeared to indicate to us ignorant lay-people. I am sure the good vibrations of the “not guilty” verdict was certainly felt in the community at large, too, although some might argue those ripples may only have been experienced by friends, family and would-be DUI suspects trying to “pull a Peter”. The judge did indicate in his verdict that others shouldn’t try and emulate Goldring’s methods to avoid arrest but you know there are those that will try.
The joy felt by Goldring’s supporters, however, doesn’t appear to have translated to the man on the street. In the coffee shops, hair salons and pubs, people are talking about things like “preferential treatment” and “political influence”. No one I know of believes if they had done as Goldring did, that the verdict would have most certainly gone the other way and they would be walking instead of driving. It instills the same kind of disgust and distrust when we hear of a police constable getting off on charges, even after videos showing the officer assaulting an already-subdued citizen.
The problem is that because of these sorts of incidents, people look at every high-profile acquittal as some kind of conspiracy. If people truly trusted their judiciary, the average Joe and Josephine would have applauded Mr. Goldring’s exoneration. The news should not have been met with incredulity and eye-rolling but with perhaps just mere surprise. This is not the case, however. People are worse than angry; they are not surprised, which is far more dire, from a societal point of view. They have apparently become inured to the circumstance that an MP who appeared to have been so clearly guilty in media reports prior to the trial, would get off scot-free. Some might say it’s the fault of the media for encouraging their reporters to try and dig up as much sensational dirt as they possibly can, but when we read the transcripts of what was said, once again we relive the feeling of watching with our own eyes, a cop putting the boots to a guy laying face down on the ground, and then being cleared of the charges, sometimes years later.
Whether Mr. Goldring had actually driven impaired or not, will never be suitably resolved in many people’s minds, as a result of this distrust of all things official in these folks’ world view. This is a disservice to Mr. Goldring and a sad verdict on society’s faith in their courts. It is almost enough to ruin your faith in mankind.
Then a guy like Brent Rathgeber comes along. Having told the Tories, ever so politely, that he no longer wanted to have to toe the party line on every issue, he instantly raised himself on the nation’s respect-o-meter to the heights of “WOW” having come all the way up from “Who the heck is Brent Rathgeber?”. There was joy in the streets that integrity in Ottawa, though endangered, could still be found. It would be wonderful if there was a party of independents he could go to that all vote according to their consciences but unite to gain more staffing and material resources. Who knows? There may even come a time when people become so sick of partisan politics, party affiliation may become a liability and the designation of ‘independent’ would be the most sought-after quality in a candidate. We can only dream.
Still, it did the voters’ hearts good to see another CPC backbencher speak with the courage of his personal convictions, instead of those of the party. We know when others, such as fellow CPC member Mark Warawa, defy the iron grip of the party, there are recriminations. Rathgeber grabbed Warawa’s lead and ramped it up a notch. He chose to leave the party completely, rather than sit in a political time-out corner as Warawa will face for the next two years. True, these backbenchers were simply bench-warmers, anyway and had little hope of advancement in the party’s hierarchy. For whatever reasons, some members get tagged as “up and comers” and others are seen as career lesser-lights, and both Rathgeber and Warawa would fall into that category. Since they weren’t going anywhere, anyway, what have they got to lose, one might ask. The fact is they may lose the next election without the party name and machinery behind them. They are risking a job that pays $132,200 per year with more perks than a coffee pot.
But what is that worth if you lose your soul?
It was nice to have the affirmation of Rathgeber’s courage in leaving the party when compared to the jaded bitterness that Goldring’s welcome engendered.
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