Yeah? Well they started it!

Whether it’s pork-barrelling, patronage appointments, complaints about misusing public funds and advertising for partisan purposes, or any of the sundry things that they’re accused of doing when they shouldn’t, or not doing when they should, the Harper government invariably defends by pointing out that “the Liberals” did it too, or started it, or didn’t end it, or whatever, back in the day. Case closed.

Sometimes it’s even true. But finding ourselves in Opposition often provokes a new clarity of vision, and seeing things in a new light and seeing things as wrong, we are correct and fully justified in saying so, regardless of whether, regrettably, we started the problem, did it too, or failed to fix it ourselves.

There are three main issues here: there is the question of hypocrisy; there is the excuse that “the other guys” did it too; and, finally, there is the matter of the actions themselves.

The first two of these: whether there is hypocrisy involved on either or both sides, or that the “other guys” did it too, are certainly discouraging and disappointing — but they cannot be allowed to distract from the core problem, which is whether what is happening now is correct and proper?, what should be done about it?, and by whom?

Regardless of who said what before, regardless of who did what before, and regardless of who was responsible before, what matters now is who is responsible now, and what can be done now to correct it.

This responsibility always, and rightly, falls squarely upon those who are in a position to act on the matter, which is the government of the day. Today, it is Mr Harper and his government who are responsible, and today, it is they who must be held to account.

If it’s wrong, it remains wrong, never mind whatever the previous government did or didn’t do. It is no defence that the government before did it too, started it, or didn’t end it. It’s not up to them any more.

If we truly want accountability in our governments, we must realize that as much as it is up to them to live up to it, it’s up to us as citizens, regardless of our respective political affiliations, to hold them to it.

But outcries of “hypocrisy!” raise a smoke screen. And, unfortunately, the false defence that “the other guys did it too,” or “it’s the other guys’ fault” almost always works. These ploys offer easy outs, short-cuts past the high-road. When we support the governing party we tend to accept them and will even trot them out ourselves. And when we don’t support the government we still tend to buy into them because we trotted them out, too, back in the day.

We cannot allow ourselves to be diverted like this. Hypocrisy, however valid the accusation, is not the real issue. But, more importantly, we must not accept any shifting of blame in lieu of taking responsibility as either a defence, or an answer. It is, of course, neither.

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