I was chatting with a good friend recently and as is usually the inevitable case, our discussion wandered in to politics. “Well,” he quipped, “buck a beer and legal weed. What more can you ask of our politicians?” Funny yes, cynical certainly, but as I later thought about it, also somewhat disturbing. It made me stop and think about how much our political landscape has changed in the last few years and to wonder whether we are better or worse off because of it.
Let’s start with cheap beer and legal weed, although I see them only as symptoms of a larger problem. The buck-a-beer strategy by the newly minted Ford Government in Ontario was little more than political gamesmanship; a signal from the Premier, to his grass roots support, that ‘hey, I have your back.’ It was a populist move and for the audience he intended, a successful one, even though most people knew that except in very rare instances, there is no such thing as beer for only a buck.
The more serious issue is the legalization of marijuana by the Trudeau Government. Now, before someone asks if I have ever smoked pot, the answer is yes….sort of! It happened a long time ago as I sat cross legged on the bare floor of an apartment, not yet furnished, that my friend had just moved into. She handed me a fag and I thought this was a big moment. I took several puffs, choked until it hurt and otherwise didn’t feel a thing. It left a bad taste in my mouth and I never touched it again! The date didn’t turn out so well either.
There is little doubt there was some public support for legalizing marijuana, but one has to wonder what the incentive was for the government to make this a public policy issue that almost overshadowed more important initiatives such as Free Trade and pipelines. Certainly, in recent months it has dominated the news cycle. Again, it seems to have worked. Although my guess is that the vast majority of Canadians have never touched the stuff, there has been a surprisingly small backlash to the legalizing of pot.
It will take some time before we know whether legal weed will have a negative effect on society, with more intoxication, more vehicle accidents and stepped-up drug abuse. But it is difficult to comprehend how this initiative is in the general public interest. There does not seem to be an upside to it, other than to cater to a wave of populism, where people should have whatever they want. It also seems a bit hypocritical to me, that the federal government is going to pardon those previously convicted of smoking weed when it was illegal. Hey guys, I have several convictions for speeding on Highway 11 before the speed limit was increased. Can I get a pardon and more importantly, my money back?
Less than a decade ago it would have been hard to imagine that diluting the price of alcohol or legalizing Marijuana would be top of mind for any government agenda. It would also have been hard to imagine the political culture that seems so prevalent today, where populism, giving people whatever they want, trumps informed and respectful debate on matters of national and provincial importance.
As well, civility in politics has now been replaced with acrimony and divisionism. The bottom line for many politicians these days appears to be the advancement of any cause that appeals to their particular core supporters and damn the consequences and to hell with everyone else. The result is that no one really speaks to each other any more. There is no cooperation and no collaboration between people and political parties with different views. Consequently, there is no way in which to find a middle ground on many important public policy issues and much too often, this leads to bad legislation or total dysfunction.
While surfing the internet today, I ran across this quote from Henry Yates. Now I have no idea who he is, but I like what he said. “People have always had differences of opinion What happens lately is that people have stopped intelligent, productive debates. Instead we shout and we shut each other down.”
In my view it is high time to once again, have intelligent, productive and civil debates on important, life-altering issues facing Canada. They are sadly lacking in today’s political environment. Cheap beer and legal weed may satisfy some of the masses but they do not measure up to sound or enlightened governance. We desperately need more of that.
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