Last night’s historic election of Justin Trudeau and a Liberal majority government was met with mixed reactions, as all elections are. Liberals are elated about the results, Conservatives, New Democrats and Greens are disappointed. It seems to me though that partisan politics are frequently toxic and do not have the impact that people think they do.
No matter which party wins, no one is going to be happy with everything they do. Everyone, at some point, will want the government to do something that they don’t do. If you’re waiting for a party you agree with all the time about everything, you are going to spend most of your life frustrated and will probably either stop voting or spend your evenings wearing a tin foil hat to meetings of the lunatic fringe. Anyone who agrees with any party on every issue all the time has traded in independent thought for a party membership card.
The trick is to look for opportunities for progress. While you’ll never agree with any party on every issue, you can probably look at any party or leader and find specific issues on which you agree.
It is also true that if public opinion on an issue shifts enough, just about every party will change their position. If the Conservative party is still anti-choice and anti-LGBT equality, they can’t admit it publicly and get elected. So, while you may not be able to directly influence party policy, you can influence public opinion and public opinion can influence party policy.
The problem with the Harper government was that there were very few issues that I, or most Canadians, agreed with them on and Harper wasn’t influenced by public opinion or even the opinions of those closest to him. Harper was a egomaniac and, I believe, a sociopath. This has made the last decade frustrating at best.
While I do not agree with the new Liberal government about everything there is plenty of room to move issues that I care about forward.
Among other things Trudeau has pledged to:
- Amend Bill C-51 to take out the draconian and racist parts while leaving the little bits of actual security improvements.
- Repeal the completely racist C-24.
- Create a more open and democratic government.
- Restore funding to the CBC and improve funding for arts and culture generally.
- Pass meaningful democratic reform.
- Take the gags off of federal scientists.
- Reduce greenhouse gasses in a variety of ways including putting a price on pollution.
- Spend heavily on infrastructure improvements.
- Pass a middle class tax relief bill and a universal child benefit.
- Increase grants for higher education as well as spending on education for First Nations people.
- Launch an inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women.
- Cancel Harper’s irresponsible purchase of F-35s.
- Improve Canada’s relationship with a variety of countries, including the United States, Mexico and Iran.
- Bring 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada by January of 2016
- Legalize and regulate marijuana.
- Strengthen environmental regulation including returning protection to Canada’s waterways and national parks.
And that is not a complete list.
If an NDP government came to power promising these things, NDPers would be thrilled to tears. However, because it is a Liberal government they are crushed, angry and disappointed. This is part of the toxicity of party politics I alluded to.
But, partisans will say, it's a trust issue. Past Liberal governments haven't enacted these kinds of policies. This government, however, is not past Liberal governments. Only 34 Liberal MPs survived the 2011 election. Only a handful of Trudeau's 184 MPs were there when Paul Martin and Jean Chretien led the party.
But, partisans will say, he voted with the Conservatives a bunch of times! Sure, yes, he did. The Conservatives were the government at the time and voting against the government at every turn is usually called 'obstructionist' (think the US Congress and Barack Obama). When you're not in government (especially when you have only 34 seats) you take even tiny wins when you can and there was likely something in those bills that the Liberals liked, even if they didn't like the whole bill.
So again, I'm not particularly interested in partisan politics. Ideology is too often an inflexible short-cut to thinking. All I really want is a PM who is reasonably well educated, intelligent, fair and open minded. Regardless of who is in power I look for opportunities to advance issues I care about and with this government I see plenty of opportunity.
If half of the things the Liberals have proposed come to pass before the next election, I'll be cheering for a second term.
For those of you who are still reading, I've created a non-partisan Facebook Group that will focus entirely on issues: Not which leader or party we like more but issues of concern, facts about those issues and possible solutions. You can find it at facebook.com/groups/419750784856246/
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