A strange phenomenon has been happening over the past decade or so that has stifled great debates, great conversation. I did not truly understand the magnitude of the problem until I began receiving messages from people on Facebook after getting into debates with strangers about one of those hot-button topics. The messages are almost always identical; 'Hey James, just wanted to let you know that I agree with a lot of the points you made today. But I can't jump in because I don't want to get fired from my job.'
While both the issues of "cash for access" and electoral reform will continue to dog the government in 2017, it is the drip-drip of the former that could prove fatal to the credibility of the government. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should embrace the constructive suggestion of the three opposition parties.
The past year has been very eventful for Canada and the world -- in some very good ways, and, unfortunately, in some very bad ones. I do think the next year can provide an opportunity to support more women and marginalized people to be involved in politics and run for office, but this will require our collective actions to create spaces and opportunities.
Try to envision the anxiety that parents must feel when they can't afford shelter; when there's little hope of them doing that in the future; and when governments fail to make their situation any better. Now imagine a politician claiming to understand their pain. Who explains away their suffering using a bogeyman like trade deals or foreigners. And who gives them a sense of catharsis at knowing they have something to blame for their troubles. It seems unlikely now that Canada would ever see a person like Donald Trump running the country. But the seeds have already been planted to support a revolt that would bring a guy like him to power.
The mistake during last year's election campaign though, which everyone now recognizes, was to focus our message on identity issues like this one and the misguided barbaric practices snitch line proposal, instead of running on our excellent economic record. Yes, Canadians care about shared values and about these issues. But I would argue that they care a lot more about issues that impact their standard of living and quality of life. They care about whether our economy is strong enough to provide job opportunities. They care about having to pay twice as much as Americans for basic food like milk, eggs, butter and chicken.
The wedge politics and fearmongering of the Conservatives in the last election were resoundingly rejected by Canadians. Whether it is Kellie Leitch playing to xenophobia with her values test or Tony Clement gleefully trampling our rights, it seems the Conservative Party still hasn't gotten the memo.
As with most leadership races (regardless of political party) the voting public will be treated to leadership candidates turning on each other like dogs fighting for a bone. While the nastiness and name calling might end in May 2017, the divisions and animosities created will linger on until well after the 2019 election.
He won't talk about his government's non-progressive policies, but man does he ever look good with his shirt off. This calculation is duplicitous; it showcases an accessible leader but one with little time to get into the specifics of the policies that run counter to Trudeau's reputation of a real progressive. It is the best of Trudeau, it is the worst of Trudeau, and until his gushing fans and the complicit media start doing their jobs by demanding transparency, we will be stuck having to tolerate both.