Canada less divided than U.S.
by Candice Malcolm
October 23, 2015
During last week’s CNN debate between Democrats vying for the U.S. presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton was asked about the enemies she has made in her political career.
Her response, which earned her great applause from left-wing audience members, shed light on the cynical state of affairs south of the border.
“Well, in addition to the NRA, the health insurance companies, the drug companies, the Iranians,” said Clinton, “probably the Republicans.”
The front-running Democrat and former secretary of state declared half the country her enemy.
True, Clinton criticized Iran’s mullahs, but she didn’t even mention al-Qaida, ISIS, Boko Haram, or any other militant Islamic group terrorizing the world and antagonizing Americans.
She later walked her comment back, but it underscores the fierce political rivalries and divisions that plague American politics.
Clinton is not alone in this divisiveness.
Partisanship defines many aspects of public life in America, a country increasingly inundated with political animosity.
Political allegiances become something you are raised with, rather than something you choose.
When young Americans register to vote, most do as Democrats or Republicans. They can register as independents, but most Americans choose to affiliate with a party.
Contrast this with the Canadian experience.
Most Canadians choose politicians based on merit and performance, rather than a blind devotion to a tribe.
Our political experience is more civil because of this.
One needs to look no further than the speeches given by Canadian leaders on Monday after the election results came in.
All three major party leaders conducted themselves honourably.
Harper and Trudeau went out of their way to congratulate one another.
After the longest election campaign in modern history, the party leaders smiled, thanked Canadians, and graciously accepted the wishes of the electorate.
No one demanded to see anyone’s birth certificate or implied the other side had cheated.
Despite all the rhetoric and mud that gets thrown during Canadian election campaigns, at the end of the day, our politicians are relatively civil and respectful.
Trudeau reminded Liberal supporters that Conservatives are not their enemies, but their neighbours. We are all Canadians first.
Those who follow politics sometimes lament that voters don’t pay close enough attention to politics, meaning they sometimes reward politicians for bad behaviour.
But the fact many Canadians are ambivalent about politics is a blessing as much as a curse.
Average voters don’t need to pay much attention to politics because they generally believe in the system and trust the restrictions placed on politicians.
Canadians live in a country defined by peace, order and good government.
Our political institutions and traditions help ensure that no matter who is in power, the country will be run in a responsible and prudent way.
Despite the hyperbole about one party or another “ruining the country”, in reality they are all restrained by convention.
People don’t pay attention to politics because they don’t have to.
Politics doesn’t much affect their lives, and for that we should be thankful.
Unlike our American cousins, Canadians aren’t very partisan.
The same person might vote for a left-leaning mayor, a Conservative provincial politician and a Liberal in Ottawa.
In the next election, they might switch their allegiances.
Politics in Canada doesn’t really define us and therefore it doesn’t really divide us.
We should take solace in the strength of our democracy, but we should also be thankful that politics doesn’t dominate our lives.