Good Sunday Morning,
My initial response to this address by Trudeau during CERAweek in Texas was "what a total sellout he has turned out to be." And then as I stuck with the speech I had flashbacks to the heady days of the 2008 US presidential election and then 2009, when Barack Obama failed his progressive base with the compromises of governing. The parallels are mind boggling. Like a sitcom rerun with a new cast of characters. Bush/Harper, Obama/Trudeau, Trump/O'Leary.
It is of course argued that Canada is different. Currently we have three official parties in the House and, with just one stellar MP, a much stronger Green Voice on the national stage. There are two leadership races under way that could change our trajectory. But in the general election we have the same 'winner takes all' voting system that breeds an US versus THEM mindset. In order to impact change 'WE' have to win and 'THEY' have to lose. Winners rule. Losers languish.
That paradigm breeds insular thinking and a righteousness that "we know best." It focuses us on gaining and holding power so OUR solutions can be implemented. And in Canada we hold this power knowing that even when we have an electoral landslide, as the Liberals did in 2015, we do it with just 39% of the vote. And that leaves the victors vulnerable, constantly looking over their shoulders, knowing that a clear majority of Canadians did in fact not vote for them.
An interesting observation is that none of the political parties in Canada choose First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) as the voting system to select their leader. It seems that within their tribe this would seem unfair as the leader should effectively represent the entire party and not just a minority view. We see this contradiction all around us. Sports teams will do anything for each other while trouncing their opponent. Soldiers will readily sacrifice their lives to protect one of their own while destroying the enemy. Even gangs have a strict codes of loyalty and collaboration as they ruthlessly cut down their rivals.
Perhaps it is this fundamental tendency of polarizing the world into US versus THEM that tends to leave us morally and politically stranded in the end. Perhaps the lessons of nature and the essence of building a sustainable future are that we are all in this together. And if for the benefit of the global community and the survival of our civilization we have to be responsible enough to leave most of the 173 billion barrels of oil safe and sound underground, then we should be prepared to "light our campfires before it gets dark".
It was while canvassing for Elizabeth during the last federal election that I was asked this question: "Why are you so engaged in politics? What do you hope to accomplish?" My answer surprised even me as I blurted it out, "I hope to see the day when Question Period in the House of Commons becomes relevant, riveting television." This past week, on International Women's Day, we saw a glimpse of what such a Parliament would look like if we approached it from the paradigm that we are all in this together.
Equal Voices Canada celebrated "Daughters of the Vote" with a special sitting in the House of 338 young women aged 18 to 23 who represented all the ridings in Canada. The Right Honourable Kim Campbell in her keynote speech reminded us all that the Honourable Members are not called out by name but simply as the Honorable Member representing their district. They are also not called out as the Honourable Liberal member or the Honourable Conservative member. As Elizabeth has remarked so often, partisanship is a construct that has been superimposed on our parliamentary democracy.
A parliamentarian's job is to represent her constituency and not the party. How often have we brought that message to the door while canvassing. Kim Campbell also spoke of how MPs are fortunate to learn the other official language after being elected to the House and how this allows for a better understanding of our diversity. Maybe we need to do more than just learn other languages. Maybe we need to learn to listen to one another. As these young women, one by one, stood up in the House to speak, and received thunderous applause from both sides of the aisle when they concluded, the passion with which they shared their concerns was contagious. "I was just so proud, to see these young women stand up and speak so clearly about the things they care about," said Elizabeth in this interview with Don Martin.
After Kim Campbell's keynote at about 26 minutes into this video, you can listen to thirty young women raise the complex but pressing issues of our time: "We have seen a shift in Global Values... international efforts to curb climate change and promote humanitarian efforts are at risk. Canada has long served as an example of what a free and multicultural society looks like. However, we must now do more. The world is looking to Canada for leadership."
When she rose to address the house at 44:13, the surrogate Honourable Member for Cardigan had this to say: "The UN has indicated that in order for women to be considered a critical mass capable of having an impact on policy and practice in government they must gain a minimum of 30% representation in legislative bodies. Our Canadian parties have still not reached this critical mass index. And our current electoral system is hindering women's progress in our pursuit to achieve equal representation. Electoral Reform is a clear and tangible way that we can take steps towards a Canada in which all voices are equally represented. Extensive research has shown that certain electoral models more effectively promote the election of more women to political office. Party list proportional representation systems in particular incentivize parties to run more diverse lists of candidates and therefore are more successful in getting women's names on the ballot. I believe wholeheartedly in the importance of reforming our electoral system to create the most fair, democratic and engaging system possible. The fight for electoral reform is not over."
Then, as if to underscore this point, the first question put to Prime Minister Trudeau challenged him on precisely this issue. Why had he abandoned his promise? In his answer Trudeau acknowledged that young women are much less likely to seek public office. But instead of recognizing that women gain a stronger voice under less oppositional and more consensus driven electoral systems, he chose to reiterate his official justification for turning his back on a new voting system. Instead of embracing a structural commitment to Real-Change he continues to opt for incremental changes within the status quo.
But incremental change is not enough to get us through this perilous moment in human history. To avert a global crisis we need decisive and bold action but we also need a sustained effort that does not fall victim to ideological extremes. We look to leaders like Elizabeth to change that landscape by inspiring collaboration across party lines. Speaking at TEDx Stanley Park last weekend, Elizabeth made it clear that Electoral Reform offers us that opportunity and that the fight is not over. We can’t give up. This week’s passage of a bill without the support of Trudeau shows that there is still hope for multi-party initiatives like LPR from Guelph.
In the meantime, if you live anywhere near Sidney, you have an opportunity to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with our very own Daughter of the Vote this Friday. Come join the toe tappin’ fun with live fiddle music and Green refreshments from our cash bar. This finger food potluck will feature a variety of nutritious nibbles and inspiring conversation. There will be no strangers, only friends you haven't met yet. Please click on the link to RSVP and don’t forget to bring a guest or two.
See you Friday,