An apology is a powerful thing. It can mend relations, restore trust, and heal wounds. Sometimes it is all someone wants when they have been hurt or wronged. In the world of politics and in Government, the apology is considered the ultimate act of humility and is widely view as the most unpolitician thing a politician could do. The apology is somewhat viewed as a rare object in politics as it seems that members of the Government and politicians are seemingly unapologetic for the perceived mistakes they’ve committed for the actions of their fellow party members. In the public’s eye, politicians are only ranked second to lawyers in the perception that they are nasty and deceiving individuals with a self-promoting, self-centered agenda.
In the last 10 years, apologies have become common place in politics, yet its perceive rarity remains. There have notable instances of political blunders that have seemed to warrant the need for an apology from high ranking politicians.
In the UK, the past couple of months has transformed the landscape of Westminster. Members of Parliament – once thought to be honourable individuals with their constituents best interests in mind – are now looked down upon as stealers and wasters of hard-earned “tax dollars”. As each MPs’ expense reports were being published in the British newspapers, British residents became infuriated, and politicians suddenly went into defence mode, promising to bring reform and change to the way they spend money, how Westminster would spend money, and how they would prevent such gross breach of trust. Leaders of the major parties immediately apologized for the members of their parties and implemented committees and panels to ensure that their members are not only following the rules but not spending beyond what is needed to do their jobs. Many MPs were either forced to resign or forced to resubmit themselves for nomination. The Speaker of the House of Commons also resign amid the expense scandal as well as a result of the arrest of an Opposition Frontbencher who published supposedly secret document while – as many in the public saw it – doing his job in his position as the Shadow Cabinet Minister for Immigration. In Britain, when the politicians apologized, they followed through with action to correct the problem at hand and took steps to ensure that such a gross breach of trust never happened again.
In Ontario, mistakes and political blunders are Premier Dalton McGuinty’s middle name. Or at least it should be. Since gaining power in 2003, McGuinty’s Liberal Government has been riddled in political blunders and scandals. Many of these in the perception that the McGuinty Goverment is a promise breaker as well as incompetent. Notable gaffes include raising taxes though the creation of the health premium when McGuinty made a promise not to during the 2003 election campaign, the Mike Colle scandal in which Minister Colle gave out Government Grants that were never applied for through official channels, the failure of the Smart System for Health Agency (SSHA) and its successor, the scandal plagued eHealth. While Premier McGuinty apologized for the gaffes and it seemed that, for the most part, action was taken for the sake of taking action and not to rectify the problem or to ensure that any repetition would be minimal or non-existant. There are a couple of things that are quite clear: (1) McGuinty uses the apologies purely for political gain and not for the greater good of the province and the people of Ontario; (2) Voters are overly forgiving, esspecially after McGuinty apologizes for the mistakes or blunders his Government has committed. When people see that McGuinty is apologizing, they view him as trustworthy fellow and a person that is not your everyday self-promoting, self-centered politician. However, what they don’t realize is that he is the embodiment of what everyone dislikes about politicians. He speaks of taking action and fixing the problems of Government in Ontario, and while he does take some superfluous actions to ensure that the public believes he has actually done something, he has in fact done nothing. Ontarians need to, for once, hold the Premier’s feet to the fire. Until that happens, McGuinty and his Government will continue to be riddled with scandal and blunders.