Mining for open minds

Jonathan McCully was a lukewarm supporter of a Colonial Union. As a contributor to the Halifax Morning Chronicle, the major Liberal newspaper in Nova Scotia at the time, he expressed his views strongly and frequently.

In 1864 one of his former students, Sir Charles Tupper, named both Liberal and Conservative delegates to represent the province in Charlottetown. At that conference, McCully was converted from his praising of the notion of a colonial union to that of Confederation.

As the province’s Solicitor General, railway commissioner and editorial contributor at the Chronicle, McCully was in a position to have his voice heard. After his conversion, Joseph Howe took control of the Chronicle and in 1865 McCully was fired as the newspaper swung over to an anti-confederation stance.

McCully promptly bought the Morning Journal and Commercial Advertiser and began two years of selling confederation to readers. As a “Father of Confederation” he was a delegate to the conference of 1867. His career demonstrates the influence of political journalism on confederation, with his editorials contributing to a shift in public opinion in favour of confederation.

Had McCully been a politician in today’s world, it’s likely he would have been branded a “flip-flopper” by the media and his arguments would have lost weight. Keeping an open mind allowed those making the arguments for and against confederation to choose the best path, and get the best terms for citizens.

Would we be as open-minded today?

With the winds of political change blowing through B.C., The U.S.A. and Great Britain, it appears that those that are motivated to vote have little appetite for intellectual arguments. They’re more inclined to feed on a steady diet of sound bites — most limited to 140 characters — than proposing and discussing ideas and philosophies. Watching Canadian Parliamentary debates does nothing to reinforce the belief that we are somehow above the rest.

It appears today that we vote for, or against party leaders, rather than ideology.

In this country at various government levels, there have been epic debates surrounding Medicare, the Canadian Pension Plan and free trade. They captivated and engaged the public, and set the tone for our future. Now, it seems it’s more about the party leader and how he or she has been branded or labelled.

As we celebrate 150 years of Confederation, let’s endeavour to elevate the level of discussion and engagement to that which started us on this journey as a nation.

— Parksville Qualicum Beach News