Politicians need to do a better job of safeguarding our democracy
Article originally published in The Star
Recent polling from Abacus Data found that just over half of Canadians agree with this statement: “official government accounts of events can’t be trusted.” All politicians should be united in trying to preserve faith in our public institutions, and actively working to safeguard the literal democracy in which they currently serve.
The federal government claims to care about this, but it’s hard to take that claim seriously — they often hide behind a mix of government bafflegab and focus-grouped talking points, instead of speaking plainly and directly to Canadians. For its part, the official Opposition seems perfectly content with pouring gasoline on our tire fire of a predicament, pushing overly simplistic rhetoric at best, and outright misleading or conspiratorial narratives at worst.
The debate surrounding the frenzied disarray at Toronto’s Pearson airport was a perfect example of this. After weeks of being dogged by the chaos at Pearson and being pounded by the Conservatives to “end the mandates,” the federal government suspended the requirement of COVID vaccines for domestic air travel, as well as the random testing requirement for passengers coming into the country.
Needing to upload one’s proof of vaccination is annoying — and certainly prohibits Canadians who continue to choose to remain unvaccinated from travelling — but it doesn’t lose your baggage for you or cause a flight cancellation. Yet the Conservative sloganeering solution to the mess at Pearson was simply to “end the mandates.”
Anyone with the ability to use a search engine could tell you the situation we’re seeing at Pearson is being seen in other jurisdictions as well — places without vaccination and testing requirements. That’s because the root cause isn’t singularly the mandates, as the Conservatives have repeatedly claimed. The problem is multifactorial in nature, including widespread staffing shortages due to COVID, both long and acute.
The vaccine mandate itself, however, made no sense at two doses. In addition to waning immunity, Omicron and its family of subvariants have completely changed the game. The federal government should have changed the definition of “fully vaccinated” to include booster doses when this first became obvious roughly six months ago. Instead, Canadians were met with tired talking points about “following the science.”
And so we’re faced with a federal government that is either unable or unwilling to communicate transparently and effectively, and an Opposition party that is increasingly willing to say anything, so long as it dunks on the libs in the process.
This will only get worse if Pierre Poilievre becomes leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. Having one of the two parties ever in contention to form government in this country led by a conspiracy theory-pushing cryptobro would basically institutionalize the worst elements of the modern conservative movement into the mainstream.
The CPC actively cheered on people whose stated goal was to overthrow the government, while prominent Conservative politicians will plainly state that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is the “biggest threat to freedom in Canada.” It’s therefore at least logically consistent that they wouldn’t be particularly concerned with safeguarding our democracy.
Faced with multiple overlapping crises — climate change, the ongoing pandemic and the threat of new ones, rising unaffordability — we don’t exactly need to be adding the deterioration of our democracy to that list.
Canada needs to put in the work to keep our democracy healthy. It’s clear that the Opposition won’t do that, and will even participate in trying to undermine it. This means it’s up to the federal government. They’ll need to move beyond the agonizing recitation of governmentese talking points and start to communicate more transparently to Canadians.
The state of our democracy will be worse off if they don’t.