Canadians have a pretty jaded view of their governments, apparently. Three-quarters of them think governments are "ineffective" at fighting corruption, according to Transparency International's Global Corruption Barometer.
The exposures at the current inquiry into corruption in the Quebec construction industry, linking contractors, public servants, politicians and the Mafia, has caused people in other provinces to look around at what goes on in their neck of the woods.
In this province, the derailed B.C. Rail court case is not forgotten, despite the government's claim that justice has been done. Not everyone believes that Christy Clark, when she was deputy premier, "absented" herself from cabinet discussions about the sale of the railway.
Some people seem to think that the legislative precinct, which makes Premier Clark sick, is infested by shady characters with envelopes full of cash, looking for corners and red tape to cut to benefit shady clients.
They don't believe that the harmonized sales tax offer from Ottawa, when Clark was deputy, really flew under the radar as was claimed and took a cash-strapped cabinet by surprise.
They're suspicious of a government that seems anxious to bring on board private partners for everything from hydro to hospitals.
They're enraged when told inspection and enforcement of laws is not always affordable. They wonder if there's a Ministry of Lookingtheother-way in government.
Most of these conspiracy theorists, of course, are New Democratic Party supporters. They've deleted bingo, fast ferries and post-dated documents from their hard drives.
The latest bit of bother for our Liberal governors involves Rich Coleman, who has held so many portfolios that he might be the Mikado's Pooh-Bah - Lord High Everything Else.
Apparently it was his intention to give "medium-size" breweries more tax room to increase production. The main - sole? - beneficiary of this beneficence from a government that is short of funds, would have been Pacific Western Brewery of Prince George.
Coleman said the tax change needs "amendment" after it came to light that Pacific Western donated two-week stays in the Bahamas, reportedly worth about $27,000, to the minister's Nov. 8 fundraising auction.
B.C. brewers have done well by government in the past. Pacific Western used to be Uncle Ben's Brewery, founded by Ben Ginter, who was openly chummy with Flying Phil Gaglardi in Social Credit days and made part of a fortune from government construction contracts.
Coleman seems unimpressed with suggestions that political donations might taint the political process, since they come from so many sources.
"To think that someone would gain a favour, when they are all donating, is ludicrous, frankly," he declared last week.
Really? What are their expectations? The sponsorship scandal in Quebec ostensibly was designed to counter the separatist movement with Maple Leaf flags and advertisements. It was pretty minor compared to what apparently has been going on in that province's construction industry.
Jean ChrÃ©tien, who was prime minister during AdScam, claimed in his autobiography Straight from the Heart, that politics was all about looking after friends.
Friendships can be won in politics, of course - or bought.
Since the days of Jean Lesage as Quebec premier, certainly, political contributions brought road-building contracts. And how unique is that?
Former B. C. premier W.A.C. Bennett used to tell voters, up front, that if they wanted roads or bridges in their ridings, they should vote Social Credit. Would Christy Clark be so open today?
Perhaps that's a difference. Governments - this government included - are prone to making and unmaking decisions in secret and hiding things.
They shun open debate in legislatures. They prefer to operate more by "policy" than by law, giving the impression that they believe, with Tacitus: "The more corrupt the state, the more laws."
But there may be another difference. Citizens today may be more suspicious of their governors, with or without cause.
But they have also a more developed sense of what "the public interest" means. And it doesn't mean rewards for "friends" and serving private interests.
It means governments following a higher ethical standard than they used to.
And it means encouraging, by a law that's lacking in B.C., people in government who become aware of skull-duggery, to blow the whistle on their colleagues and political masters without risk of reprisal.
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