Throughout this election campaign, the party leaders have been telling you what you should do. Now, with your vote, you get to tell them what they should do. You appear to be telling them to pull back from the brink of polarization.
If the polls are accurate, no party is likely to win a majority of seats in the 43rd Parliament. Electors appear to have decided that none of the federal party leaders has earned the right to govern without the consent of other parties.
So after weeks of name calling – with Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau accusing Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer of having a hidden agenda to claw back the rights of women and sexual minorities, with Mr. Scheer calling Mr. Trudeau a liar and a phony, and with NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh saying “we don’t respect Conservatives” – these leaders are going to have to work together and with Yves-François Blanchet of the Bloc Québécois and perhaps Elizabeth May of the Greens to keep Parliament functioning until the next election.
In the United States and much of Europe, politics has become so viciously polarized that some governments are barely able to function. Do we want that here? The leaders must be hearing that we don’t. Mr. Singh on Friday apologized for his remarks, saying “we need to build a country where we welcome everybody, respect everybody, and I feel bad about what I said."
For his part, Mr. Scheer maintained that he respects his opponents, he just disagrees with their policies (some of which exist only in the Conservative Leader’s imagination), while Mr. Trudeau said of Mr. Scheer: “He appears to be a strong family man.”
Let’s not forget that most Canadians mostly agree on the most important issues. All of the major national parties embrace continued high levels of immigration, for example.
The parties differ on the best mix of economic class and family class, and what to do about people making asylum claims after crossing into Canada from the United States. But these are nuances, compared with the bitter cleavages over immigration in other countries.
All major parties agree that climate change is a threat to Canada’s future and to the future of the planet. They disagree on the best way to curb emissions – the Liberals, NDP and Greens favour a carbon tax or its equivalent, while the Conservatives prefer to regulate industrial emitters – but no one questions the science of climate change or the importance of fighting it.
There is a party that is skeptical about global warming and believes immigration levels are too high: Maxime Bernier’s new People’s Party. But Nanos Research, which has conducted daily polls for The Globe and Mail, has shown the party throughout this campaign with the support of around 2 per cent of voters.
Proponents of electoral reform believe replacing first past the post with proportional representation as a voting system will compel greater co-operation. But the social and political cohesiveness within a society matters far more than its voting system. Germany and Sweden were both cohesive under PR, until the Syrian refugee crisis fractured the social consensus. Now both countries struggle to contain the rise of far-right, anti-immigrant parties.
At a rally for U.S. President Donald Trump in Dallas on Thursday, Republican Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick said: “The progressive left, they are not our opponents. They are our enemy.” That’s an incredibly dangerous thing to say.
The incivility of this election campaign, and the vitriol some people indulge in on social media, create the impression of increasing enmity between progressives and conservatives, and between the different regions of Canada. But that doesn’t mean we have to accept this toxic future.
Most Canadian politicians agree with, or at least accept, gun control, same-sex marriage, a woman’s right to choose, universal public health care, equalization, even the need for sensible taxation and fiscal responsibility.
We fight on the margins – balanced budgets versus a declining debt-to-GDP ratio, limiting or expanding the roster of banned weapons, what kind of private-members bills MPs should be allowed to introduce, whether and how to rejig the equalization formula.
Let’s keep that fight civil. Let’s demand that all MPs and party leaders treat each other with respect. The first law of politics must always be that people of goodwill can disagree on questions of policy. Let’s never forget that rule, no matter the result Monday night.