How disappointing to read the disparaging remarks made by MP David Anderson in response to the letter of MP Ralph Goodale. (Southwest Booster, August 28, 2014) It seems that more and more often these days our politicians fail to engage in intelligent critical debate, choosing instead to rely on rudeness, belittlement, and crass partisanship. I am aware that this is not a recent phenomenon. To quote political journalist, Andrew Coyne: “We should be aware of falsely idealizing how politics used to be in this country. There never was any golden age. But we should equally steer clear of the lazy assumption that it’s always been this way. It hasn’t. It’s worse now.” (Our Broken Democracy, speech, Canadian Club of London, March 2014)
It seems to me that the main point being made by Mr. Goodale is that the Liberal Party of Canada, with the aim of providing better government for us all, has been traveling across the country listening to Canadians and noting their concerns in an attempt to “use feedback from these conversations as [they] build the plan and the team to reflect the priorities of Canadians.” What is it about this conventional and innocuous democratic practice that disturbs Mr. Anderson so much?
Polls over the last year have indicated that 55 per cent of Canadians believe the country is headed in the wrong direction and 56 per cent feel their government is doing a “poor” or “very poor” job. (Nanos Research, December 2013) Similarly, an Ipso Reid Poll (December 2013) showed that 60 per cent of respondents do not think the government is working well. And public-opinion research (January 2014) for the Federal Finance Department indicated that key government policies are out of step with Canadians’ priorities. Given these public opinion markers and the looming federal election, does it not seem not only reasonable, but wise for politicians to engage in conversations with Canadians about their concerns?
In fact, it appears that Mr. Anderson was more interested in attacking Mr. Trudeau. Why? Because Mr. Trudeau thinks that resource depletion is a threat to global security? Who would argue?
• Not Fraser Thompson, senior fellow at the McKinsey Global Institute: “Short-term fluctuations in supply and demand aside, a global population explosion combined with finite resources means the planet cannot sustain ever-increasing levels of consumption using current models of production. The challenge we are facing over the next 20 years is unprecedented.” (BBC News, June 2012)
• And not a group of researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark, Vermont Law School and CNA Corporation in the US: “Three years of research show that by the year 2040 there will not be enough water in the world to quench the thirst of the world population and keep the current energy and power solutions going if we continue doing what we are doing today.” (Science Daily, July 2014)
Or what about economic uncertainty and the lack of hope for the future in a world that seems less and less fair? Again, nothing here to be so scornful about.
• "Estimates suggest that the lower half of the global population possesses barely one per cent of global wealth, while the richest 10 per cent of adults own 86 per cent of all wealth, and the top one per cent account for 46 per cent of the total. " (Credit Suisse's 2013 Global Wealth Report)
• As for Canadians themselves, research done for the federal Finance Department this year indicated that “…lower-income households are less sanguine about the state of the economy than wealthier households, citing few well-paid jobs being generated and saying the gap between rich and poor is growing. Unbalanced or unequal are words that come up frequently to describe the economy for these individuals. Participants polled often stated that economic decisions tend to support the corporate sector more than average families."
• Every three months since 2010 Angus Reid Global has asked Canadians this question: “One year from now do you think your standard of living will be better or worse?” Over the last four and a half years, there has been a gradual decline in optimism among Canadians in regards to their future standard of living. (Angus Reid, August 2014) Results from ARG’s 2014 second-quarter survey showed the lowest ever Canadian response for those who thought their standard of living would be better one year from now — only 16 per cent.
It seems evident that the comments by Mr. Trudeau are not, as Mr. Anderson accuses, “disjointed, stream of conscious platitudes.” Rather, they underscore matters that are of genuine concern for a majority of global citizens.
As for the tragic bombing at the Boston Marathon last year, one wonders why a remark suggesting that we need to look at the root causes of terrorism signals “moral confusion” for Mr. Anderson. It certainly doesn’t for Paul Rogers, professor of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford in England, an expert in the field of international security and the war on terror whose comments about the bombing echo precisely those made by Mr. Trudeau: “It isn’t just a question of trying to prevent these [acts of terror,] you have to go really quite deep down and be far more clear as to why these people are acting this way in the first place… one has to try to get to the root to why [terrorism] has support.” (Interview CBC Radio, April 2013)
And what about the comment about Mr. Trudeau’s admiration for China? Every informed Canadian knows that the facetious remark made by Mr. Trudeau was intended to underscore the inefficiency in our bureaucratic system of government that often results in inaction on important issues. No one, Mr. Anderson included, really believes that Mr. Trudeau reserves his highest admiration for a dictatorship style of government. In fact, the opposite is true, as Mr. Trudeau’s continued remarks showed: “But if I were to reach out and say which…kind of administration I most admire, I think there’s something to be said right here in Canada for the way our territories are run. Nunavut, Northwest Territories, and the Yukon are done without political parties around consensus…I think there’s a lot to be said for people pulling together to try and solve issues rather than to score points off of each other.” Scoring points is precisely what Mr. Anderson is attempting to do, not to mention misleading Canadians.
My comments are not meant to be construed as political support for Mr. Trudeau or the Liberal Party of Canada, but rather as an illustration of the disquiet I feel about the banal level of political discourse that exists in our country. Canada is a big country with many diverse views and opinions. Any attempt by politicians to discern the concerns of Canadians should be applauded, not disparaged. Democracy, as the strife around the world today shows, is not easily established, but it can be easily toppled and attempts to silence or deter opinion rather than to listen is a sure way of undermining it. Mockery of those who have a sincere desire to do good for their country says more about the character of the person doing the ridiculing than it does about his target. Calling fellow citizens “vultures coming to pick the flesh of Canadians” or attempting to pit one region of Canada against another is not helpful to voters and is a good example of why fewer and fewer Canadians are even bothering to vote. We need to be open to discussion about issues facing us and strive to work together to find solutions. That is what we expect of our Members of Parliament.
Yes, Mr. Anderson, Canadians do deserve better. We are weary of wanting “ better government” and always getting “just a different one.” We long for a renewed system of democracy in which, as you put it, having to “boot governments from power because of corruption and for having lost touch with Canadians” is a thing of the past.
Phyllis Nakonechny - Swift Current