The Dangers of Political Myopia

  • National Newswatch

For the average Canadian attempting to muddle through the pandemic, the truck convoy that arrived in Ottawa seemed something of an anomaly – a fringe protest using its heavy rigs to make a statement.    Almost two weeks later, we are coming to understand that perhaps the most dangerous aspect of it all has been the political response.Within that relatively short period, the Conservative Party dumped its leader, replacing Erin O'Toole with Candice Bergen – a socially conservative Manitoba MP who came out openly in support of the convoy and who reminded O'Toole just before his departure that there were good people “on both sides” of the issue.  And now as interim leader of the party, her affiliation with the protesting truckers hasn't abated.  In maintaining that focus, Conservatives run the direct danger of falling out of step with average Canadians.Opinions abound regarding the truckers and their supporters and the end of it all is not yet clear.What is apparent, however, is that the more radical right of the political spectrum, still furious of the result of the last federal election, has found another cause celebre with which to disrupt as much of Justin Trudeau's tenure as it can.  The chaos it has caused in Ottawa, Windsor and Coutts, Alberta, has risen in importance in a way that makes official responses to the protests seem timid.  At first, it all appeared like the tolerant way Canadians have of dealing with such things, but the more gridlock that results, the lack of an effective response has likely emboldened the protestors.It's all fascinating theatre, reminiscent of developments south of the border, but the crucial story in it all has been the rise of the Right once more in a nation that is largely centrist.  By playing politics with it, the Conservatives hope to wrangle power out of all the tumult.  And it's not just the fringe of the party.  The majority of the Conservative caucus tossed the more centrist O'Toole out the door, opening the floodgates for a free for all political season.British PM Boris Johnson has taken a similar risk.  His political tenure perhaps near its conclusion, he has opted to disrupt the nation rather than heal it following a brutal pandemic season.  Politics there has turned ugly as a result, with Labour leader Keir Starmer being labelled a “pedophile protector” and a “traitor.”  It's a typical, if farcical, political ploy used by a wily leader to escape his denouement.   It dangerously divides the country.  He knows it, but, hey, one needs to survive.  It's difficult to find a collective purpose when gaining or keeping power is really what it's about.Is it dangerous?  It will be if permitted to linger.  As one police supervisor put it to the Guardian concerning the British situation:“We have seen an increase in the volume of online extremism and hatred, much of which sits below a criminal threshold, but which creates a permissive environment which makes it easier for extremists to peddle their brand of hatred.”We know enough about the truck convoy to understand that these same tendencies run through its organization.  A significant percentage of Canadians, and truckers, have no desire to have this enter the mainstream of national life, but when the law is broken and authorities fail to stand behind it for fear of further violence, then what is to be done?Canadians get it that large swaths of our population feel disenchanted, disconnected, and denied, but little in our national tendency has been towards hatred, anarchy, or violence.  And, yet, there are those moments like the trucker protest when we wonder if we are inching closer to the precipice of political and social chaos.  We understand that the truckers have the right to demonstrate, but others are attaching themselves to the protest who have nothing but democratic chaos on their minds.  There is a difference, and we can't permit the former while coddling the latter.Our country, like all others in a global pandemic, has issues, serious ones at our core, that require attention.  But for the media, politicians, ad citizens to permit their time to be dominated by a fringe attempt at democratic overthrow is to forestall our recovery and the move back to normal life.  Most of us get this and look to our leaders to remain focused on the key challenges before us.  Canadians deserve better.  Our truckers deserve better.Glen Pearson was a career professional firefighter and is a former Member of Parliament from southwestern Ontario. He and his wife adopted three children from South Sudan and reside in London, Ontario. He has been the co-director of the London Food Bank for 35 years. He writes regularly for the London Free Press and also shares his views on a blog entitled “The Parallel Parliament“. Follow him on twitter @GlenPearson.