Political opponents are not mortal enemies

The level of discourse within political parties could use a tune-up

Like a lot of immigrants who came to Canada from Europe, my father was a life-long Liberal. For him it was a matter of loyalty.

It was the Liberal party that opened the door wide and invited him in. “You dance with the one who brung you,” as Brian Mulroney used to say. It was a maxim my father lived by.

That’s not to say my dad didn’t respect other political traditions. He had all kinds of admiration for Robert Stanfield and even once supported a New Democrat in a provincial election. But he remained a federal Liberal all his life.

When I was growing up, I was quite enamored with politics. I remember reading that many Liberals and Conservatives would excoriate each other in the House of Commons but then go out for dinner at night. They even played together on the same hockey teams.

What could be more Canadian than that?

It showed that at its heart, our democracy was imbued with mutual respect. We could all fight hard for the policies we believed in but at the end of the day, we were Canadian — bound by shared dreams and love of country.

That mutual respect extended right into our very conservative neighbourhood. When Dad had the temerity to put up a Liberal campaign sign, several neighbours ordered Conservative signs. Within hours we were literally surrounded. But it was all in good fun and everyone stayed friends.

Unfortunately, the world has changed since I was a boy. Just a few weeks ago, Conservative Dean Del Mastro objected to Justin Trudeau speaking at Catholic schools suggesting that he isn’t a good Catholic. In fact, Mr. Trudeau attends mass every week. And Del Mastro? He attends a different church.

But how did we get to the state where politicians seem to detest each other so much that they would dare attack each other’s faith?

Firstly, please don’t think it’s just the Conservatives who are at fault. NDP member Pat Martin recently sent a text to a Conservative in the House using the F bomb. Whatever his point of view, surely he could express himself without resorting to such crude language. After all, aren’t our representatives supposed to be the best and the brightest?

And what about the Liberals? In some ways, I think they started all of this: first in the eighties with the Liberal ‘Rat Pack’ and then in the nineties when they painted Reform members as hayseeds and religious zealots.

Whoever is at fault, it’s the government that sets the tone. Insiders say that the Conservatives want not just victory but the complete destruction of the Liberal party. What a cheerless ambition. When the Progressive Conservatives were reduced to two seats in 1993, I felt deeply saddened at the thought of losing such a great political party and Canadian institution. In that regard, I hope the Liberals make a credible comeback because the country needs three vibrant federalist parties to avoid the hopeless gridlock that now grips our neighbours to the south.

Pierre Trudeau was no angel. But I remember at his funeral, Justin Trudeau related an incident that spoke to his better instincts. Justin had told his father a Joe Clark joke, thinking Pierre would be pleased. Instead his dad walked him down the hall and knocked on Mr. Clark’s door. When he introduced his boy to the Leader of the Opposition, Justin soon realized what a nice and decent man Mr. Clark was. And he never told another Joe Clark joke.

That’s the kind of leadership we need now from all of our politicians. No matter what their political stripe, their fellow legislators are Canadians just like them. They are political opponents not mortal enemies.

Isn’t it time they stopped treating each other that way?


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Qualicum Beach resident Harold MacDougall won $75,000 off a Casino Royale II Scratch & Win ticket, purchased the ticket at Qualicum Foods on Memorial Avenue. (BCLC photo)
Qualicum Beach man $75K richer thanks to scratch-and-win ticket windfall

MacDougall plans on trips to Cape Breton and Scotland

Regional District of Nanaimo will be receiving $1.17 million from the B.C. government in COVID-19 safe restart grant money. (News Bulletin file)
Regional District of Nanaimo directors getting started on budgeting decisions

Proposed tax requisitions for 2021 range from 7.3-per cent increase to 2.2-per cent decrease

David Darmadi, owner of Kalvas - The Log House restaurant, is offering a sweet initiative for SOS. Guests can bring in a new, unwrapped gift or financial donation for SOS, and receive a free dessert. (Lissa Alexander photo)
Sweet initiative to support Parksville Qualicum Beach residents

‘A lot of our guests are very generous and they want to help out’

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement forecasting windy weather Sunday and Monday. (News Bulletin file photo)
More windy weather on the way for Vancouver Island

Environment Canada issues special weather statement for Victoria, east coast of Island, north Island

The property at 113 and 161 Island Highway is currently being dismantled as the developer attempts to salvage ‘usable’ lumber for their development application to the City of Parksville. (Mandy Moraes photo)
Development application delayed for high-profile Parksville property

Council refers application to staff for further improvements

Mary Cox and Jack Plant dance in their pyjamas and slippers at the morning pyjama dance during the Rhythm Reelers’ 25 Annual Rally in the Valley Square Dance Festival in Chilliwack on June 4, 2011. Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 is Square Dancing Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Nov. 29 to Dec. 5

Square Dancing Day, Disability Day and International Ninja Day are all coming up this week

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

A small crash in the water south of Courtenay Saturday afternoon. Two men had to be rescued, but reports indicate there were no serious injuries. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Small plane crash in Comox Valley waters Saturday afternoon

Two rescued from plane that had flipped in water; no serious injuries reported

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

Kevin Bieksa during his days playing with the Vancouver Canucks. (Photo: commons.wikimedia.org)
Bieksa to guest on free Canucks Alumni ‘Hot Stove’ on Zoom app

Former NHL player has become a game analyst on Sportsnet

A photo from 2017, of Nuchatlaht First Nation members outside court after filing a land title case in B.C. ( Submitted photo/Nuchatlaht First Nation).
Vancouver Island First Nation calls on B.C. to honour UNDRIP in historic title case

Nuchatlaht First Nation says Crown counsel continues to stall the case using the ‘distasteful’ argument that the Nation ‘abandoned’ their land

West Vancouver Island’s Ehattesaht First Nation continues lock down after 9 active cases were reported today after a visitor tested positive last week. (Ehattesaht First Nation/Facebook)
Ehattesaht First Nation’s COVID-19 nightmare: nine active cases, a storm and a power outage

The Vancouver Island First Nation in a lockdown since the first case was reported last week

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

The Ahousaht First Nation confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on Nov. 26, 2020. (Westerly file photo)
Ahousaht First Nation on lockdown over COVID-19

“Emotions are high. The anxiety is high. We want our community to pull through.”

Most Read