Friday, October 20, 2006

Montague 10 : On Emotion In Politics

Commenter 'Anonymous' has posted a lengthy comment here. I started to answer the comment in the same thread, but since the issue it raises is fundamental, I thought I would elevate it to a new post. I'll try to answer some of the concerns raised.

I would caution you and your MRA supporters to ensure they have a full understanding of the facts and defamation laws before they openly support a martyr like Mr. Page.

First, I hope I have made adequately clear that I do not 'side' with any parties in terms of the Riceville fire incident itself. I certainly am not a supporter of Mr. Page, except in as much as I oppose governments suing citizens on principle. I freely admit I do not know enough about firefighting, or the specifics of the incident to hold an opinion. My concern is solely with the approach taken by council in the resolution of the dispute. I have no reason to doubt that the firefighters in our township are there working hard for us, and are willing to risk their lives for our safety. I salute them.

Nor, in this situation, do I 'side' with the MRA. I am unhappy with the actions and attitudes of my current elected representatives, but that does not mean I have to 'side' with any other group. Opinions expressed here are just that - personal opinions. I have no 'supporters'.

This is a blog about politics. The political aspect of this case is council's decision to launch the lawsuit as a government against a citizen. The politics of it do not depend on what the issue was, or even the rights and wrongs of the case. I personally would still oppose council's actions in this matter on principle, even if they had won the case. Governments should not sue citizens. Period.

Defamation laws exist to protect individuals and as such they should be used by individuals. As was made clear in the all-candidates meeting, any individual who felt defamed by Mr. Page had, and still has, the right to sue him. Council could even, as an employer, fund such action in whole or in part. That would be a much more correct course of action, and I confess I am surprised that such actions have not been launched individually if the case against Mr. Page is really as strong as has been suggested.
How would you, the creator and readers of this blog, feel if these lies were openly said about you? And what if a person or customer at your work accused you of killing someone during your work day?

I should, of course, be very unhappy indeed. And I would expect my employer to stand behind me. But there are two important points raised by this comment. First off, the comments were made about individuals, not about the employer. Therefore it is up to the individuals to defend themselves, with the employer supporting and standing behind them. If defamation occurred it was not council that was defamed, therefore it was not council that should have sued Mr. Page.

Secondly, many of Reeve Doyle's public comments on the matter have an emotional basis. 'How would you feel,' 'What we felt,' etc. Mixing emotions and politics is a dangerous game. It is my personal view that as far as possible, emotions should be kept out of political deliberations. Political decisions are best made in an objective, rational way, rather than in the heat of emotion of any kind.

The reeve and council keep saying they had no choice. In the famous words of Brian Mulroney, 'Sir, you had a choice.' Absolutely they had a choice. They chose to launch a misguided lawsuit that was doomed to fail on constitutional grounds, rather than either ignore Mr. Page or encourage those who felt defamed to take individual action. And, as an aside, where is lawyer Tim Ray's accountability?

For the record, I would support an arrangement whereby individual employees who felt defamed as a result of their work for council could sue as an individual and have their legal fees paid by the council. I think that all, or a major proportion, of the money should be returned by the individual to council in the event the suit did not succeed, if only to prevent frivolous use of such an arrangement.

This Montague election should not be a referendum on any one issue and certainly not on the lawsuit alone. There are many other important issues: development, taxes and fiscal management, openness vs. secrecy, continuity vs. change, and so on.

As the issue of what happened on Riceville Road that day is still very emotional for all concerned, I will not be accepting further comments on that. I refer readers to the comments that have been posted here from those who have first-hand knowledge of the situation. I also believe that we have to trust the Fire Marshal and the OPP, or where will we be? I see no point in going over and over this same ground. As far as I am concerned the matter of the incident itself should be long closed.

That council launched a doomed lawsuit is part of their political record on which they should be held accountable and re-elected or not. From now on the discussion here will be back to politics and politics only.