I’m unenamoured with tribal politics. I can get caught up in the excitement of dramatic machinations just as much as anyone, but I’m much more interested in the boring day-to-day work of pragmatically making things work for as many people as possible.
It is abundantly clear that a majority of Canadians feel the same way, repeatedly sending a message to the MPs they elected: “You get a minority government. We want you to work together.”
To that end – and I wish I could broadcast to the pundits and the hacks – if you don’t like the policies of the NDP or the Liberals, please just say so. Trust us Canadians to hear you and to think smartly about what you have to say.
If you think the ideas of those parties are bad for Canada and our position in the world, then you should advance a platform that cogently makes that argument. Now you might have a hard time winning by doing that these days, since it’s clear that a majority of Canadians, as expressed by their actual votes, seems to prefer those policies. But, nonetheless, the strength of our multi-party, pluralistic democracy depends on a vital loyal opposition that continues to offer a robust viewpoint diversity.
That kind of dissent would be, well… more than ok, since we are fortunate to live in a multi-party, pluralistic democracy (some might even go so far as to say that ours is among the freest of countries, *cough*cough*, MP Poilievre).
Instead, we’re being treated to a series of entirely different strategies from most of the members of the opposition.
Look, I get it, those vying for leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada need to drum up support and sell lots of party memberships. But inspiration is one thing. Accusations of some secrete undemocratic deal are just nonsense. As Aaron Wherry put it, these arguments “would earn a failing grade from any high school civics teacher.”
Such arguments demonstrate either (1) an abject lack of education of how our Canadian parliament works, or (2) that they know full well that there’s nothing undemocratic about this, but are counting on Canadians to not know that and are employing fear as a tactic to get votes.
Of course, it’s #2 that frightens me the most. And it’s not like the Liberals and the NDP haven’t used the same tactics in the past – they have, and I’ve been equally dismayed and as critical then. But we’re talking about what’s on the table now, and to suggest that it’s undemocratic is really foolish. This has to be the bottom-line starting point for any conversation.
At a time when liberal democracy is struggling to defend itself globally against populism and authoritarianism — and just weeks after a protest convoy came to Ottawa demanding the undemocratic overthrow of the government — such statements are also dangerous.
As a coda: for students of Canadian politics, it would be a fascinating study to go back to the 80’s-early aughts and look at the political rhetoric and voting records when the Canadian Alliance, Reform Party, and Progressive Conservatives were competing for the same pieces of the right-of-centre pie. What kind of similar “back-room deals” were being made then in an effort to “grab power”? How were we all thinking about it then, and how much have we forgotten?