Following the recent release of House of Cards’ third season, many fans have panned the show for its departure from the precedents set in the first two seasons. President Frank Underwood, who was a powerful Machiavellian political manipulator as a Senator, becomes a restrained and vulnerable figure. However, is this not realistic? The office of the President of the United States comes with intense scrutiny, mass media coverage, criticism and greatly relies on the public’s opinions. With Air Force One full of reporters, and every White House briefing session filled to the brim with foaming journalists, Underwood’s power is, if not completely neutered, at least subdued. Underwood is scrutinized and kept above board by public implicit interest, which unfortunately, the Canadian media cannot seem to produce.
Member of Parliament (MP) for Montcalm, Quebec, Manon Perreault was found guilty of public mischief on Mar. 20. After the ruling, Perreault was expelled from the NDP caucus, from which she had recently been under suspension following earlier charges of fraud and breach of trust.
This confirmed case of public mischief, while sounding almost juvenile, is representative of wider issues within our governmental and social systems.
It’s often confirmed by polls and studies that politicians are among the least trusted professionals in Canada. Especially in the last several years, there’s been more controversy about MPs and MPPs’ misappropriated funds and travel experiences than ever, which contributes to the national sense of political distrust.
In an article published by The Star, Tim Harper poignantly discussed that Canadian politicians “have slipped into the dark world of imagined entitlement”. While this sentiment may be carried by many, this absolute boldness to break the criminal code and betray the trust of the electorates, stems from something beyond privilege — a lack of oversight. As citizens of a free and democratic country, it isn’t just a responsibility to be politically aware, it’s a duty. If you aren’t watching and keeping tabs, why should MPs care if they dip here and there into the public coffers when everybody is looking the other way?
MPs and politicians break this trust, they commit fraud, and mischief and work outside the boundaries of the law, simply because nobody is watching. Most Canadians simply aren’t interested in the state of Canadian politics, whether local, provincial or federal.
In order to create honest MPs who don’t feel entitled, Canadians and the media must shine a scrutinizing light on politicians in order to keep them honest. Flying ‘below the radar’ simply because the public does not care about their actions, those holding political office are denied accountability, which the Canadian media and public together must remody.
In 2005, following coverage of a Quebec sponsorship scandal, The Globe and Mail reported that CPAC “had [their] worst year ever”. Overall, this creates an environment in Canadian government in which there are a lot of shadows for MPs and other politicians to lurk in. Even with near round-the-clock reporting and programming of a political spectacle, it seems that the Canadian public remains uninterested.
If the public continues to turn a blind eye to Canadian politics, and if CPAC viewership continues to be approximately 1.4 million weekly (3.98 per cent of the current Canadian population), then nothing will change. Perhaps in a country where everyone is tuned in, and everyone is informed, politicians at every level of government will be adequately scrutinized in order to bind them to the oaths they take when being sworn into office.