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Columns: Do As I Say … Integrity, Morals, Ethics And Principals In Politics
By James W Breckenridge. Just a few days ago Richmond BC resident Selina She Yin Tsui, who had held herself out as a “holistic healer”, lost two properties she owned after both were “declared instruments and proceeds of unlawful activity” under the province’s civil forfeiture laws.
What was unusual was not that someone collected money, sometimes tens of thousands of dollars for something they didn’t, couldn’t (Tsui had no actual medical training) deliver; rather it was that her ‘marks’ got some restitution.
Most often the reports are about how the con men (or women) made promises or claims, took people’s money, delivered nothing and kept the money or there were no assets or funds to repay the ‘marks’..
Citizens are always complaining that politicians lied or that they did not keep their promises.
The new television season of Holmes on Homes begins tonight, where Mike Holmes rescues homeowners from builders or contractors who made promises about what they would do, took the money to do what they promised, didn’t deliver what they promised and kept the homeowners money.
And on the news last night, there was Christie Clark coyly smirking about getting out of repaying Ottawa the $1.6 billion BC took to implement the HST. Undoubtedly most British Columbians are cheering for Clark to be 100% successful in reneging on British Colombia’s written agreement with the federal government on implementing the HST.
As a society we like to talk the talk about integrity, morals, ethics, and principles as long as it isn’t costing us, as individuals or a society, anything or any inconvenience. But as soon as it becomes inconvenient or is going to cost us effort, or worse money, we walk away – ignoring integrity, morals, ethics and principles.
We had an agreement with the federal government on the HST whereby the province of British Columbia would receive payments totalling $1.6 billion dollars in exchange for implementing the HST.
In that agreement it was clearly set out that we had the right to change our minds and extinguish the HST. It was also clearly set out that if we chose to change our minds and not participate in the HST, the $1.6 billion would have to be repaid to Ottawa.
The fact the $1.6 billion would have to be repaid to the federal government if we voted to extinguish the HST was oft cited in the discussion leading up to the referendum on keeping or extinguishing the HST. Prime Minister Harper clearly and definitely stated that if British Columbia chose to extinguish the HST the province would have to repay the $1.6 billion dollars to the federal government.
Knowing that a major consequence of choosing to extinguish the HST would be repaying Ottawa that $1.6 billion dollars, British Columbians voted to extinguish the HST – we voted to return the $1.6 billion to Ottawa.
That may be an inconvenient truth, but for a people or a society of integrity, morals, ethics and principles there would be no option other than returning the money.
The news has recently been full of the fact none of the rioters from the Game 7 debacle has been charged, much less meted out any punishment or consequences. About how the rioters needed to pay the penalty for their decisions and actions; and on the same broadcast we have Christie Clark sitting there acknowledging her efforts to get British Columbia out of the consequences of voting to extinguish HST.
Harper may well decide to forgive all or part of the $1.6 billion repayment due the federal government from British Columbia. Not because it’s a good idea, but as a matter of politics – an opportunity to buy votes in British Columbia. If Harper were a leader instead of a politician, he would clearly be saying “No, we had an agreement. You made a promise, a commitment, to the federal government. We, the federal government, made the promised payments to British Columbia. But the province of British Columbia chose to change its mind and not participate in the HST. In the agreement it was clearly set out that if British Columbia chose not to participate it was required to repay the$1.6 billion.”
“It would be unfair to the other provinces and territories not to require British Columbia to repay these funds. More importantly, it is necessary to require the repayment of these funds in order to protect the integrity of agreements made between the federal government, the provinces and territories, as well as agreements between the provinces and territories themselves.”
Consider the effect upon healthcare should the agreements between provinces, territories and the federal government become ‘flexible’ (not worth the paper they’re written on). Definitely a path we don’t want to start down, a can of worms we don’t want to open.
If Christie Clark was a leader instead of a politician, or if Stephen Harper was a leader and not a politician, there would be no question about the agreement between Ottawa and Victoria being kept as this is the best course for Canada and ultimately for British Columbia. It is in the fact they are politicians and not leaders that the possibility of a portion, or the entire $1.6 billion, not being repaid per the agreement lies. Because the question for politicians is not what is good for the country or province but what political gain is available to be had.
The reason we have politicians who lie to us rather than leaders, is that we are not a People or a Society, not a province or a country, of integrity, morals, ethics and principles as we like to lie to ourselves we are.
True integrity, morals, ethics and principle are not things one puts on when it is convenient and sets aside when they are inconvenient or uncomfortable or require sacrifice or the paying of a price.
As Martin Luther King Jr. stated “the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy”.