Editorial: The right and the duty to question

By: Korie Marshall, Editor

I am a journalist now, so maybe this goes without saying, but I have always believed we have a fundamental right to question authority. We have the right in Canada – and I think the duty – to question the motives and the decisions of our governments. We may not always get the answers we want, but both the decisions and the responses to our questions about those decisions is what I base my voting decision on, because I want to be able to support my government’s decisions, even if they are tough ones to make.

But it is sometimes really hard to know who to trust.

For example, I got a series of news releases over the last two weeks on the topic of federal funding for health care. First was a notice about one of a series of rallies being held across the country to protest federal health cuts, saying that the Conservatives cut $36 billion from health care a year ago. Next followed releases from both our local Conservative MPs. Bob Zimmer, MP for Prince George-Peace River, says the cuts to health care are false rumours that have once again surfaced. Both he and Cathy McLeod, MP for Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo, say that health transfers to the provinces are increasing and will reach a record $40 billion annually by 2020. And then I received a response to McLeod’s news release, from Steve Powrie, the Liberal candidate for her riding. Powrie says McLeod’s release failed to mention that the Conservatives allowed the 2004 Health Accord to lapse last year, and imposed a unilateral plan without consulting the provinces and territories. He says the government’s new funding formula will result in decreased spending on health care, by an estimated $36 billion, according to a report by the provincial finance ministers. He also says they’ve eliminated funding for an independent monitoring and reporting body for health care delivery and funding.

So who do I believe? What is political spin, and what is truth?

I admit, most of the time I focus on matters much closer to home. So I must choose who to believe based on my knowledge of each player’s previous actions, especially on the issues I have looked into myself. And I do know that BC, probably much like other provinces, is struggling with how to pay for health care costs.

One thing the federal Conservatives have just done is use their majority vote to support an extension and expansion of Canada’s mission in Iraq. The vote passed 142-129 to extend the mission up to a year and authorize bombing runs in Syria against targets belonging to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The NDPs, the Greens and to some extent the Liberals have spoken out against extending the mission.

On CBC Radio on The Sunday Edition this week, host Michael Enright called the vote a “war resolution”. He said “The government has formally disburdened itself of the argument that Canadians are only advisors. In fact of all the countries involved in the coalition against Islamic State, only Canada and the United States are conducting bombing missions. Which puts us firmly on the side of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, whose family has been slaughtering Syrians for decades and continues to do so.”

Enright says the government has been warning us for months that Canada is under threat, that the Islamic State has declared open war on our country, and that we must mobilize to protect ourselves. “Expect rationing and scrap metal drives any day now,” Enright adds dryly. But he says no one has explained to him for example how bombing IS warriors in Iraq or Syria will prevent terrorists from attacking the West Edmonton Mall. I don’t understand it either.

“War is the ultimate acknowledgment of collective failure,” says Enright. “War means that we don’t know how to confront evil by any means other than killing and dying.” It makes me immeasurably sad.

I am afraid of a lot of things, many of them for good reason. I am afraid for our health care system which seems to lack funding; I am afraid for the safety of our highways because I have been in and seen accidents; I am afraid my dog may get hit by a car, because it has happened to other dogs. Being scared of those things has a purpose – it makes me aware of the situation, alert to dangers, open to options. It makes me consider my actions and ask questions.

I am not afraid of terrorists. There is nothing I can do about them, except acknowledge that they are desperate, so fear of them has no purpose for me. It only has a purpose for the terrorists and those who stand to gain by my fear. I don’t believe Canadians bombing in Syria and Iraq is going to make terrorists any less desperate. I am sure it is going to cost us much, and make a small few a lot of money. So in this topic, as in many others, I choose not to believe the Conservatives. They don’t seem to like the CBC, and I imagine essays like Enright’s don’t foster Conservative support for our public broadcaster. But I agree with Enright, I like CBC Radio, and I believe in our right to question and discuss our government’s decisions. I believe that is the only way we can actually make good decisions.