One of my uncles had a lifelong fascination with Canadian politics.
He wasn’t an elected official, a political science professor or a journalist on the Parliament Hill beat. Instead, he simply wanted to keep informed about the government news of the day.
What I recall is how knowledgeable he was about the House of Commons. If I was watching the news, This Week in Parliament or Question Period with him, he would occasionally mute the volume, just for a moment, to mention something about the person who was speaking. He might tell me how long the person had served, a cabinet posting he or she had held, or what issues were important to the person. And then he’d bring the volume back up and we’d continue watching the show.
I was impressed with his understanding, but something else stood out even more. He respected the parliamentary process and the people who served as elected officials.
He could follow politics without expressing disgust with any of the parties or individual members in the House of Commons. If he happened to disagree with someone’s position or with the outcome of a decision, he remained respectful.
Come to think of it, I have no idea which party, if any, he supported.
Politics for him was not a cosmic battle of good versus evil, playing itself out in the country’s decision-making chambers. Instead, governments were institutions where ideas were discussed and debated and difficult choices were made.
If an election didn’t turn out the way he would have preferred, he still saw the process as fair and transparent, and the outcome as what the people had chosen.
In short, he believed in the political process we have in Canada. It involves free and fair elections and government transparency.
What I saw from my uncle is a far cry from what I’m watching these days from some of the most vocal critics of the various levels of government. Some of the comments I hear show a level of distrust of the government process, elected officials and those who work in non-elected roles for government departments. Sometimes this turns into a visceral hate for some of those in office or working within government.
This level of cynicism and distrust is not held by all, or even by a majority, but in the past few years, I have noticed a growing number of people around me expressing anger with the way communities, provinces and the country are being governed.
Each of us can watch political debates and follow what is going on at the municipal, provincial and federal levels of government. Despite this, some will watch with a fascination of the governing process while others will view the same events through a lens of cynicism.
How is it possible to have such differing views on Canadian politics?
My uncle’s level of respect for government has left a lasting impression on me, and it’s part of the reason I want to be as fair as possible in the way I respond to those who have been elected to leadership roles, as well as to those who are seeking office.
And perhaps, if you and I are ever watching parliamentary news or perhaps a broadcast of a council meeting, I might mute the volume or hit the pause button, just for a moment, to share an observation I have about what is unfolding.
There’s something fascinating about watching our democratic process.
John Arendt is the editor of the Summerland Review.