Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s words regarding the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez may well have been ill-chosen, but it’s not the duty of Victoria’s city council to set things straight.
Following Chavez’s death last week, Harper issued a statement in which he offered condolences to the Venezuelan people but said he hopes the death will bring a more promising future to the country.
Harper and Chavez were obviously not in tune politically, but Chavez’s passing was not the time for political philosophizing. It’s not surprising that many found his remarks offensive and inappropriate.
Harper stands on uncertain ground in making implications about the state of democracy in another country. Chavez won the 2012 Venezuelan election with 55 per cent of the popular vote, while Harper’s party won the 2011 Canadian election with just under 40 per cent.
Some of Chavez’s supporters in Victoria want city council to issue an official statement of condolence to the leader’s family and to the country, but responding to international events falls far outside council’s mandate. If the council decided to issue a statement regarding Chavez’s death, it would have to consider doing so upon the death of any national leader. Some might not be deserving of the honour, which raises the problem of deciding who merits attention and who doesn’t, distracting councillors from the nuts-and-bolts details of running a city.
Those who object to Harper’s stance have a right — even an obligation — to make those objections heard, to the prime minister, to their MPs and to Venezuela, if they choose.
But it’s not the job of a municipal council to mop up the prime minister’s puddles.
© Copyright 2013