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Why Canada Cannot Give In To Isolationism

03/27/2017 01:51 EDT | Updated 03/27/2017 01:51 EDT

There's an old saying that it takes a village to raise a child. While the concept of the nuclear family experiences is at the end of its heyday, the village is making a comeback. Parents are starting to notice that children exposed to a diversity of cultural backgrounds and ideas in their formative years tend to do better in school, easily make friends and often become more successful adults. The benefits of the village principle also apply in other sectors, such as news and politics. Individuals who openly and freely consider all options in front of them are more likely to make truly informed decisions.

While the Trudeau government is not without fault, and there are glaring flaws that can easily be pointed out, public attention must be shifted to the problem at hand: two frontrunners in the Conservative party's federal leadership race are exhibiting similar traits shown by Donald Trump and his team during their 2016 election run.

oleary leitch

Kellie Leitch, right, and Kevin O'Leary participate in the Conservative leadership candidates' debate, in Halifax on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017. (Photo: Andrew Vaughan/CP)

Disinformation, fear-based statements and outright lies have dominated the cults-of-celebrity surrounding Kellie Leitch and Kevin O'Leary, leaving a distinct bitterness hanging in the air that can be heard in discussions across dinner tables and seen on news-feeds as conversations shift away from policy-based issues towards who said what outlandish thing.

We are entering a new era of identity politics -- the increasingly common practice of political campaigns throwing actual policy to the wind and instead playing directly to our emotions -- this method is defined by selfies, sunny-ways, hope and change, fear and division and class anger turned into blind rage.

Make no mistake, Kevin O'Leary -- who has still not presented a policy platform -- is winning the Conservative leadership race with nothing other than a reality TV inspired cult-of-personality that people are flocking to. He is using Trump's playbook. Facts don't matter -- not until much further down the road when they begin to negatively affect the people that voted for him.

The toxic bitterness of the 2016 American election was difficult to watch for people across the globe as the once-hallowed title of "leader of the free-world" was unceremoniously discarded without a second glance and picked out of the trash by a celebrity brand.

The same tactics and dogmatic rhetoric are now being used by some candidates in the Conservative leadership race regardless of how much facts may controvert them. Canadian politics are 1/10th the size of those in the U.S. and the cultural influence from our neighbours is being felt stronger than ever as roving bands of alt-right have sprung up across the country.


There are real concerns coming from these folks, and it is important to remember they are people too whether or not you agree with their style of communication. In many cases they've lost jobs, houses, and life savings but their very justified anger is being redirected toward immigrants and fear of the unfamiliar instead of the real causes of their struggles such as increasing automation, global economic restructuring, and the machinations of the elite corporate interests served by the very politicians misdirecting the alt-right's anger.

Ineffective communication represents a large part of the problem, instead of looking forward and proposing evidence-informed policy solutions, this crowd would rather react to a fire by tossing gasoline on it, all the while screaming "but someone else started it!" Real solutions take real leadership.

The Americans will need to go to great lengths to keep their country from fracturing further along political lines, luckily Canada is not yet so far gone. We still have the capability in our country to form the strong bi-partisan dialogue that has been integral to the success of our political system in decades past. Our value is placed in hearing opinions from all angles and not simply those of the majority -- inclusiveness, openness and respect aren't just buzzwords to Canadians, they carry real weight behind them and we cannot risk losing them to the creeping influences of American culture and toxic politics.

Closing borders, reducing workers' rights and hyper-partisanship are political stances that have no place in contemporary Canadian culture. We can always improve screening and increase our defense-spending but our greatest security comes from our personal qualities of openness and mutual-respect.

If we can govern with level-headed leadership within and across across party lines, we can build a Canadian village that remains a global leader for decades to come.

When confronted with the fearful words of aspiring politicians, alt-right media and other leaders we as Canadians need to take a stand and demand better -- better than closed borders, better than more division, better than initiatives that will directly and in most cases only benefit the rich. That isn't leadership, it's pure reaction.

A young, pre-drama teacher Justin Trudeau was once rebuked by his father - "Justin, we never attack the individual. We can be in total disagreement with someone, without denigrating them as a consequence." Setting aside for a moment whatever problems may exist with the Trudeaus, it must be acknowledged that this statement's pure essence is timeless and truly embodies Canadian values.

The issues of automation, massive migration, unrestrained hyper-capitalism and unbridled technological and social advancement will be among the biggest concerns of this generation. If we can govern with level-headed leadership within and across across party lines, we can build a Canadian village that remains a global leader for decades to come.

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