By Parry-Sound Muskoka MP Scott Aitchison
Anthony Housefather is a Liberal Member of Parliament who represents the riding of Mount Royal in Montreal. Before his election to the House of Commons in 2015, he served as mayor of the city of Côte Saint-Luc for 10 years. He is a lawyer and was a competitive swimmer and polo player in his teens. Currently, we serve together on the Heritage Committee.
On January 11, 2021 he posted the following message on Twitter:
“Watching @Twitter the level of vitriol in Canada and gotcha politics is rising on all sides. We do not want to go down the US path where two different realities exist and policy differences are buried in personal attacks. We are all human & err. Let’s try to tone it down.”
I am grateful to him for posting this message and thankful that people like him choose to serve in public office. We have a similar style, and I would like to think that our approach to public life has been shaped to some degree by our municipal experience—a consensus-building model of government that is closest to the people.
When I was a mayor, I used to encourage my colleagues to be able to “disagree without being disagreeable”, and I always tried to lead by example. We could argue and debate at the council table, but then go out for a pint after it was over.
Today our political discourse is drenched in rage.
We have real problems in our beloved Canada that require real solutions—problems like lack of attainable housing, effective environment and climate change policy, insufficient access to mental health supports, lack of clean drinking water in First Nations communities and so many more. These challenges require serious people with serious ideas and serious action.
Our democratic system is designed for civic dialogue and debate of not just our problems, but the proposed solutions to them. When this system works well, that debate should produce better solutions—that debate should build a better Canada.
A key message from former U.S. President Bill Clinton’s first inaugural address is true in Canada: “There is nothing wrong with [Canada] that cannot be cured by what is right with [Canada].”
We live in the greatest country on earth. Together we have created a predominantly prosperous, free, and inclusive society that with the same determination and care we invested to get us to this point, we can improve on this success to ensure equality of opportunity for all, freedom and security for all, and inclusivity for all.
Former Prime Minister Diefenbaker declared, “I am a Canadian, free to speak without fear, free to worship in my own way, free to stand for what I think right, free to oppose what I believe wrong, or free to choose those who shall govern my country. This heritage of freedom I pledge to uphold for myself and all mankind.”
We all have a role to play in securing a better Canada for all Canadians and we will achieve so much more if we take the advice of my colleague Anthony Housefather—Let’s try to tone it down!
(Photo of Parliament Hill by festivio on Pixabay. Photo of Scott Aitchison courtesy of Scott Aitchison.)
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