The Reform Party came to Ottawa vowing to be different. It pledged to stay above the petty politics that often made an unruly kindergarten class look well-behaved compared to the House of Commons, and promised to refrain from the tired rhetoric and staged antics practised by the other parties.
But, in fact, Reform proved it is no different than any of the others by its disgraceful performance during the great flag flap, a ridiculous debate that has been raging around Parliament Hill since Bloc Quebecois MP Suzanne Tremblay moaned that there were too many Canadian flags at the Winter Olympics in Nagano last month.
Yes, the Bloc sparked this whole thing with Ms. Tremblay’s idiotic ramblings. But rather than let the whole thing drop right there and then, like it should have been, Reform MPs decided this was just too good an opportunity to stick it to the Bloc—and the governing Liberals—to pass up, and quickly engaged in antics that ranged from the silly to the downright embarrassing.
Of course, Reform leader Preston Manning predictably turned yesterday’s defeat of an Opposition motion on the right to display Canadian flags in the House of Commons into a vote against patriotism, saying, “This was the day to stand up and be counted for the Canadian flag.”
“[Those] MPs will now have to explain to their constituents why they voted against displaying the Canadian flag in the House of Commons,” he continued. “If they won’t stand on guard for the Canadian flag in the House of Commons, how can they possibly be trusted to stand on guard for the Canadian national interest on larger and more substantive matters.”
Mr. Manning knew very well that the party’s carefully-scripted motion would be defeated, just as he knew very well that the issue at stake was parliamentary decorum not patriotism. But all that went out the window in his eagerness to portray the Liberal, NDP, and Tory MPs who voted with the Bloc against the motion as enemies of the country who must be tossed out of office in the next election (if not executed for treason).
Reform may have wrapped itself in the flag this past week. But in the end, the party that boasts to be different really only let its true colours shine through. And it wasn’t a pretty sight.