Our political class needs to get it together for Ukraine

Article originally published in The Star

One of the dumbest parts of our federal political discourse over the last few years has been the rampant use of hyperbole to make partisan points. That hyperbole then feeds into an undercurrent of populist rage; mixed in with mis- and disinformation, it makes for an incredibly hostile political atmosphere. Anyone who has been paying attention to our politics knows that none of this is particularly new, but it’s undeniable that it has all been exacerbated by the pandemic.

The so-called “Freedom Convoy” was a stark example of that. Protesters — and more worryingly, sitting Conservative MPs — couldn’t simply frame the federal vaccine mandate for truckers in terms of its negative policy implications, instead making claims like Justin Trudeau is the “biggest threat to freedom in Canada.”

It was an incredibly asinine statement at the time it was made by former Conservative leader Andrew Scheer, and it’s even dumber now given that the entire international rules-based order is under attack.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is actually the biggest threat to freedom for all liberal democracies in the entire Western world, including ours.

Russia has pummelled Western liberal democracies with co-ordinated disinformation campaigns for years. We ignored it at our own collective peril. Putin has now embarked on a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, using blatant propaganda as a cover for starting war with a peaceful, democratic country.

The entire Western world failed Ukraine. We allowed a nuclear-armed kleptocracy to fulfil its imperialist-fuelled fever dreams of conquest. Canada can’t simply watch in abject horror as Putin’s invasion continues.

Our country has the highest population of Ukrainians outside of Ukraine and Russia. We have a national obligation to ensure that Putin’s actions do not go unpunished, and we can’t do that unless our political class gets its act together.

It’s been worrying to witness the Conservative party’s open embrace of Fox News and willingness to peddle deranged conspiracy theories. Up until now, Canadians in general have been largely permissive of this, as has our political coverage. The current situation, however, should be an urgent impetus for change.

Likewise, one cannot stand against Putin and his disinformation war while being complicit in spreading Russian disinformation themselves, as three NDP MPs have recently done. There is no partisan monopoly on being a useful idiot to the Putin regime, and Canadians should be demanding more from all our political leaders.

Democracy requires a political environment guided by objective facts. Once mainstream political parties and politicians abdicate their responsibility to the truth, we are all worse off for it.

In addition to needing our politicians to commit to operating in an objective, fact-based environment, we need all our leaders to park their immediate partisan interests during this crisis.

The level of economic sanctions that are required against Putin and his oligarchs will mean a lot of Canadians will need help to weather the brunt of the consequences that will be felt here. Good-faith debate that is grounded in reality will be absolutely necessary to pass any forthcoming legislation providing Canadians with needed relief.

This also means ensuring each political party stays away from its own worst instincts. The Conservatives need to avoid trying to appeal to the Maxime Bernier crowd. The NDP has to avoid sounding like a first-year poli-sci student hopped up on Glenn Greenwald’s Substack. Liberals, and especially the prime minister, have to remember they are not in a campaign right now — they are the governing party leading the country through the worst attack on democracy since the Second World War.

We need our political class to up its game in order to do everything that is physically and materially possible for the safety of the people of Ukraine, as well as for the future of democracy itself.

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