Chairman's Desk

Wedges provide no route out of this political sand trap. Above all, Canadians seek an end to divisions

“Wedged” has emerged as the buzzword to sum up our current political climate. The term has been deployed by politicians of all stripes to describe the current state of the nation, as disunity and division reach a new, brutally low nadir.

The convoys have exploited the most consequential pressure points in Canadian politics, blurring the lines of right and left, moderate and extreme. What’s more, the movement has become increasingly hard to define or resolve.

It has become the political equivalent of a Rorschach test — an event which everyone interprets slightly differently, projecting their own meaning, shaped by their biases and beliefs.

For some, the demonstrators are libertarians, finally standing up to increasing state encroachment and to so-called “elites.” For others, their causes could not be any less noble: the protesters are anarchists, fascists and perhaps even terrorists.

These varying interpretations and subsequent divisions can hardly come as a surprise. The demonstrations have come to epitomize the political divisions that have not only festered, but been encouraged by the pandemic.

Predictably, politicians have fallen further into this trap. The sad reality is that a national crisis of this magnitude requires the absence of such divisive rhetoric — especially since it is largely to thank for getting us here.

The majority of blame, of course, lies with those who blindly supported the demonstrations, arguing that the ends justify the means, no matter how abhorrent, finding every pretence they can to excuse the actions of these protesters.

But it would be remiss to not partly blame the rhetoric put forward by the prime minister and others that pre-emptively categorized the entire movement as racist and misogynistic, goading its most extreme factions.

Now, as disunity dictates the day and we bear witness to the first-ever enactment of the Emergency Act, surely right-minded people will conclude that the time has come to end the use of these divisive political tactics.

For Conservatives, the credibility of their motion to have the government engage in a plan to roll back restrictions — a position now supported by most Canadians — was hamstrung by the attempts of some of their MPs to capitalize on the convoys.

Similarly, the government has put itself in an impossible situation. By Justin Trudeau’s own admission, the inaugural invocation of the draconian Emergency Act is evidence that our democracy is unhealthy and threatened. The government has added fuel to an already toxic debate.

These current fractures largely ignore the fact that many of the restrictions implemented throughout the pandemic did not have to be forced on Canadians. We jumped into lines for vaccines, and we consented to stay home to protect our health-care system, more so than almost anywhere else in the world.

However, current events demonstrate that consent does not come without limits. The reality on the ground, and along with it Canadian’s expectations, have changed. After two years, what hasn’t changed is politicians’ unfettered willingness to exploit events for their own gain.

Above all, Canadians seek an end to endemic political divisions. They seek both a government and Opposition that can walk and chew gum at the same time. But sadly Canadians have lost confidence in the ability of politicians to collaborate and address common challenges, and with good reason.

The solution out of this mess lies in tabling an agenda that plays beyond political bases. The 2022 federal budget provides a crucial opportunity for politicians to demonstrate their utility beyond finger-pointing. Pressing issues persist regarding affordability, health-care capacity and national security, to name a few. Such areas provide fertile ground for constructive bipartisan collaboration.

The Global Centre for Pluralism sits on Sussex Drive in our nation’s capital, about halfway between the convoy occupation and our prime minister’s residence. Its mission? To champion a philosophy affirming the peaceful and productive coexistence of different beliefs.

Maybe it is time for our politicians to take a break from their day and walk over. It’s not far.

This article first appeared in Toronto Star on February 20, 2022.

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