06/28/2017 12:29 EDT | Updated 09/24/2018 09:24 EDT

This Is Why I Love The Canadian Political Party System

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When I was consulting in New York, my liberal American friends would wax on about Canada as a socialist bastion of free health care, politeness, and ketchup chips.

"We love Canadians! They're so friendly!" they'd say.

Conservative Americans likely think of Canada as, at best, misguided, and at worst, the socialist devil!

Of course as Canadians, we know better. We know that we aren't always so polite. Our health-care system is not exactly perfect (though we're working on it!). And America now has ketchup chips?

Canada is also not nearlyasliberal as we are seen from the outside. Historically, Canada was a much more conservative country. From 1867 - 1921, our prime ministers and ruling governments were primarily Conservative (with a couple of breaks in 1873 and 1896). This includes our very first prime minister, Sir John A. MacDonald. Yet even back then, there was constant evolution in the political system. There was the Liberal party, the Conservative party, the Liberal-Conservative party, the Clear Grits, the Parti Rouge...

It wasn't until the 1930s that a liberal grassroots movement began growing in the Prairies -- centered in the (more recently) conservative province of Alberta -- among farmers, workers, and labour groups. This movement lead to the founding of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), which eventually evolved into the New Democratic Party (NDP).

What makes Canada great is that we are a country with a strong and ever-changing diversity of viewpoints.

Tommy Douglas ("The Greatest Canadian") was elected on a CCF platform as Premier of Saskatchewan, and is largely credited for the implementation of medicare for all Canadians -- along with Prime Ministers John Diefenbaker, a Progressive Conservative, and Lester B. Pearson, a Liberal. Douglas was the first Canadian leader to pass a Bill of Rights, later adapted and implemented nationally first by Diefenbaker, and then finally as the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by Pierre Trudeau. These are two excellent examples of ideas supported and implemented by a political cross-section of Canadian leaders.

We now have the Conservative party, Liberals, NDP, Green Party, and Bloc Quebecois, all of whom have held at least some balance of power provincially and federally (though only the Conservatives and Liberals have run the federal government). We also have a variety of other wonderful parties, including the Pirate Party, Marijuana Party, and the Rhinoceros Party.

I believe that what makes Canada great is not that it's a particularly liberal or conservative country, because we're liberal in some areas, conservative in others. What makes Canada great is that we are a country with a strong and ever-changing diversity of viewpoints. Our political system is always evolving, which means there is opportunity for change and growth. We can debate with each other, and evolve through that discussion.

For Americans who are interested in where we got it right, consider asking yourselves: how should our political system evolve? Where are there opportunities for new or different political parties? Where are the places our politicians can work together in a bi-partisan manner to build programs that benefit as many citizens as possible?

And for Canadians, happy 150th! Let's continue to evolve, work together, and support every Canadian, regardless of how they feel about ketchup chips.

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