You know, I thought I had seen it all in recent months and years as we have witnessed the lowest levels of political rhetoric, character assassination, and a disregard for the truth in the United States, which has all but crippled effective governance there. And the most alarming thing about it, in my view, is that it has spread like unvaccinated COVID into Canada.
It is sad to see. Not just because it is unpleasant, but more importantly because it is unproductive, often damaging, and seldomly conducive to creating good public policy. That can only lead to poor governance which is not in the best interests of Canadians.
Last week, my friend and former colleague, Sally Barnes, really laid it out in her article on Listen Up when she outlined multiple reasons why we should be concerned about the state of important issues affecting our lives in Canada today. Some people didn’t like it and that is fair enough. But even though Canada remains an envied country compared to many other jurisdictions, few, I believe, can argue effectively that we are better off now than we were four years ago.
The easy thing, of course, is to blame the current Trudeau government for this. Certainly, they have much to answer for but that is not the whole problem. A huge issue is a nastiness that has crept into our political genre; the obsessive need to win and score points no matter the consequences, my way or the highway attitudes that prevent reasonable discussion and compromise, and a belief that those who think differently than you are your enemies, rather than your opponents, to be maligned and defeated at all costs and by any means.
All three leaders of the major political parties in Ottawa are guilty of this. Gone are the clever and witty ways of many of their predecessors when dealing with their political opponents. Now it is cut and thrust, no holds barred, damn the torpedoes, damn hard-earned reputations, and let the blood flow.
Both Justin Trudeau and Jagmeet Singh spend more time dividing Canadians than uniting them and Pierre Poilievre has become a master at negative and irresponsible politics. It is Poilievre’s vicious attacks on former Governor General David Johnson and on the probable demise of the Pierre Trudeau Foundation that was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me this past week.
People who read Listen Up know that I am not part of Justin Trudeau’s fan club. I believe he is well past his best before date, and it is time for him to go. But frankly, at this point in time, I do not see the reasonable alternative that opposition parties are supposed to provide, certainly not in terms of leadership.
Whatever partisan complaints one may have about David Johnson, he is, after serving as President of one of Canada’s finest universities, as former Governor General of Canada, and as a valued advisor to political leaders of all stripes, a highly distinguished Canadian. He is far above being a ‘Toady’ or a ‘Yes Man’ to anyone including the Prime Minister of Canada.
As the Leader of Canada’s Opposition, the two-line letter Mr. Poilievre wrote this past week to David Johnson was snarky, highly partisan, and totally disrespectful. He didn’t even have the courtesy to call Mr. Johnson by his name. He may have felt it was amusing and attention-getting (as he posted it online) but instead, it was demeaning and a further descent into destructive politics.
On top of that, Pierre Poilievre seemed to delight in playing a part in taking down the Pierre Trudeau Foundation in a calculated and erroneous move to connect it to the current Justin Trudeau government.
That Foundation was financially supported by all parties in agreement when legislation was presented to Parliament early in this century. It is an Independent and non-partisan charitable organization. Board members in addition to David Johnson have included former Ontario Premier Bill Davis, former Conservative Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed, and former New Democratic Premier of Saskatchewan Roy Romanov, to name just a few of the distinguished Canadians who have served on that board.
The Foundation has provided scholarships, fellowships, and mentoring to many hundreds of young people seeking a higher level of education and fostering the development of engaged leadership skills they might have been otherwise unable to either access or achieve.
Pierre Poilievre knew all of that. He also knew that bringing an organization with the Trudeau name attached to it to its knees would delight many Canadians, especially his base, regardless of the facts. His sole goal was a “gotcha” moment for the Prime Minister.
As former Minister of Industry and Trade, Allan Rock said, as far as Poilievre was concerned, the Pierre Trudeau Foundation was just collateral damage. He could not care less about destroying the good work of the Foundation or the reputations of those who volunteered their time and talent to make it work. His sole interest is to score points against the current government. He doesn’t care about who or what he destroys in getting there. That is just wrong.
It is sad to see that politics in Canada has stooped to this level. Pierre Poilievre fired the shots this past week, but all three major party leaders in Ottawa are becoming experts in this form of dirty and divisive politics, caring more about scoring points than moving Canadians forward. There is little evidence that any of them have anything positive to offer or have an effective vision for the country. Sadly, to me, this is reminiscent of politics in our neighbour to the South.
As Canadians, we deserve better from all of our political leaders. We need vision. We need sound public policy. We need hope.
We do not need destructive “gotcha” politics.
Hugh Mackenzie has held elected office as a trustee on the Muskoka Board of Education, a Huntsville councillor, a District councillor, and mayor of Huntsville. He has also served as chairman of the District of Muskoka and as chief of staff to former premier of Ontario, Frank Miller.
Hugh has also served on a number of provincial, federal and local boards, including chair of the Ontario Health Disciplines Board, vice-chair of the Ontario Family Health Network, vice-chair of the Ontario Election Finance Commission, and board member of Roy Thomson Hall, the National Theatre School of Canada, and the Anglican Church of Canada. Locally, he has served as president of the Huntsville Rotary Club, chair of Huntsville District Memorial Hospital, chair of the Huntsville Hospital Foundation, president of Huntsville Festival of the Arts, and board member of Community Living Huntsville.
In business, Hugh Mackenzie has a background in radio and newspaper publishing. He was also a founding partner and CEO of Enterprise Canada, a national public affairs and strategic communications firm established in 1986.
Currently, Hugh is president of C3 Digital Media Inc., the parent company of Doppler Online, and he enjoys writing commentary for Huntsville Doppler.
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