Focus On

Election ’21: Ignore the nasty babble | David Israelson

Tuesday, September 07, 2021 @ 10:00 AM | By David Israelson


David Israelson %>
David Israelson
As Canadians stumble toward the Sept. 20 federal election, some of the biggest questions voters may face are not on the ballot.

The biggest question of all, I think, is about us. As in: What is wrong with us?

This is not about taking sides in the vote here. I have my own preferences and though it’s a secret ballot, I’m happy to share them, but not here.

The bigger problem right now is not who might win or lose the election and who gets to run Canada, but how we get there. In these lingering days of lockdown, too many Canadians are sizzling in a season of rage.

It’s tempting to say we should reach out and understand. Actually, the rest of us should plug our ears and focus. We have three huge issues to contend with, now, and they don’t involve people yelling.

Three huge issues

We need to keep the post-COVID economy moving. We need to help families who need daycare. And we need to get serious about climate change — the carbon we burn is now indisputably making our lives unpredictable and damaging our work and our homes.

In a twisted way, it may be fortunate that because of COVID-19 restrictions many people will avoid going to election rallies or mingling in crowds full of screaming people. As seen on TV and online, a lot of these gatherings are just big knots of mean-spirited people venting their spleen, swearing, shoving and shouting things that should not be repeated.

Speaking of spleens, in British Columbia demonstrators even took to attacking modern medicine, protesting against people who might save your own spleen some time. Who would have thought people would take time to pick on doctors, nurses and front-line first responders?

Protect what’s being lost

That’s the state of affairs in Election ’21. Anyone who places even the tiniest bit of value on the rule of law ought to be concerned about what’s being lost amid the noise.

The first thing that’s being lost is the minimum standard of civil discourse we thought we had. The bar was never high, but it’s already at a new low and there are still many days before the  vote.

The nastiness seems to be organic too. It used to be that anti-vax, anti-science and all the other unsavoury anti-causes could be ascribed to people following around creepy people who could whip them to a frenzy with trumped-up rhetoric.

Now the hate seems to be coming from people who congeal using social media to organize and show up on their own to spew.

Canadian society has long tolerated outrageous ideas. But until recently, one of the magical features of our politics has been a public preference for cautious compromise. A province doesn’t want to sign the Constitution? OK, let’s talk. You think the Senate is useless? Let’s talk about it for 152 more years.

This patience can be annoying, but in many ways it has served Canadians well. It took us more than a century just to get the Constitution home from Britain, and we have many talented lawyers, judges and professors who are still figuring out what that means. What’s the rush?

In fact, there is a rush to make headway on the key issues in this election.

Shouting doesn’t help

We’re going to have to pull together to dig ourselves out of the last days — one hopes — of the pandemic. No one has a perfect answer, but whomever we elect is going to have to keep the economy moving, and shouting horrible things at them isn’t going to help.

Next, with a real, universal, affordable childcare program, we have an opportunity to actually restructure our society for better. Eight provinces have miraculously agreed to sign on for $10 per day childcare. The quality of childcare could be enhanced by a universal, nationally funded program, and  many families that are already struggling to afford home ownership might be able to save a little money by no longer having to shovel huge piles of cash to daycare.

The third big issue? Climate. Just weeks before the election was called, the United Nations’ panel of scientists warned that the world is in Code Red. Who in this election has the best plan that will actually do something to meet this existential challenge?

That’s something voters can decide — if we don’t let the nasty babble of irrational crowds seize the day.

David Israelson is a non-practising lawyer, author, journalist and communications consultant. You can follow him on Twitter @davidisraelson or on Linkedin.  

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