The Calder Bateman team is marking Canada’s 150th birthday by reflecting on what this country means to them. The second post in our four-part series is written by CB Strategist Chris Henderson, who has had the pleasure of working on political movements and campaigns across this amazing country of ours. He’d be delighted to share his experience with anyone, anytime, anywhere.
Look around the world today, and you might feel like global democracy is crumbling. In Venezuela, the government is attempting to spin a massive national food shortage by touting the reduction in the obesity rate. In the United States, Washington D.C. – long the modern bastion of the democratic flame – is consumed with a back-biting street fight of political operatives and elected officials either defending against or pursuing scandals. The language surrounding Theresa May’s disastrous result in the UK election is enough to write a chapter on sexism in politics (and probably will).
In this context, Canadians often bemoan how boring our own democracy is. We don’t have the same horrible or hilarious scandals of many of our other global counterparts. The biggest recent scandal in Canadian politics was over the submitted expenses of our Senators – a scandal that wouldn’t even register in most countries. The biggest political crisis this country has ever seen – the “King Byng Affair” was essentially an unpleasant process disagreement over Parliamentary prorogation. Yawn.
But our democracy isn’t just boring. It’s decent.
And while it might not be sexy or the plot of a John Le Carre novel, that’s worth celebrating in Canada’s 150th year since Confederation (Canada’s existence as a nation goes back a lot further than 150 years!).
Of course, politics in Canada are a contact sport, just like any other. Of course our politics are not without corruption, lies or scandal. Parties try to undermine one another, shake the public’s confidence in their abilities and catch them in their moments of weakness. We still shout and bray in the House of Commons. But despite all that, you still see regular moments of genuine decency and deference among the parties. A recent example can be seen in the remarks given on the occasion of then-Interim Conservative Party Leader Rona Ambrose’s departure from Parliament. Normally heated differences were put aside and the House celebrated the achievements of a dedicated public servant. Regardless of how Canadian politicians speak to one another sometimes, there is always a sense that they are working in the best interests of Canadians and Canada’s position in the world. Regardless of whatever party is in power, you know they want to make our country greater for all of us, not just some of us. You can’t say the same about other countries right now, particularly our trading partner to the south.
This underlying decency is the foundation of our Canadian Democracy.
Canadians, by and large, agree on most fundamental things that make us uniquely Canadian –access to health care; our welcoming stance on a diverse culture; our need to protect the natural beauty of our country; the list goes on. It’s these fundamental things that we all believe that bind us together. It is the results of our orderly and well-intentioned disagreements that move us forward and ensure we are a better country every day. That decency is why this year Canada gets to celebrate its 12th year of legal same-sex marriage.
I’m proud of our boring, decent democracy. It may not be the most exciting one on the planet, but by-and-large it’s one that doesn’t allow our government to lie to us, is open for all to participate in (just ask Ruth Ellen Brosseau), and is absolutely accountable to the people that it serves.
This coming Canada Day, I think that’s something we can all raise our glass and be thankful for.