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KINSELLA: Politics about bringing people in, not pushing them away – Toronto Sun

Partisans and partisanship have persuaded too many Canadians to stop participating in elections and democracy

Publishing date:

Mar 12, 2022  •  March 12, 2022  •  4 minute read  •  53 Comments

Former Quebec Premier Jean Charest speaks on energy and resources to a luncheon gathering of the Chamber of Commerce in Winnipeg, March 4, 2015.
Former Quebec Premier Jean Charest speaks on energy and resources to a luncheon gathering of the Chamber of Commerce in Winnipeg, March 4, 2015. Photo by Brian Donogh /Winnipeg Sun / Files

So, I voted Liberal in 2015. Voted NDP in 2019. Then voted Conservative in 2021.

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Fiscally, I can be conservative. Socially, I’m always progressive.

I dislike ideologies and ideologues. When you live in country like Canada, which is made up of regional fiefdoms held together by resentment and disdain for the Maple Leafs, I think compromise is a strength.

I don’t think it’s possible, in politics, to always get your way. I don’t think compromise is a weakness. I think democracy is impossible without it.

I’m an average Canadian, in other words. There are millions of Canucks like me. I, we, are suspicious of those who always think they know what is right. We like politicians who accept that the world is made up of hues of grey, and not just bits of black-and-white.

We move our votes around. Keeps the politicians on their toes.

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Partisans aren’t like that. I know, I know: I used to be one. I ran Jean Chretien’s War Room in 1993 and 2000, and all of Dalton McGuinty’s. We did okay in those elections, as I recall.

And, when I was a little fella, I used to think the sun shone out of the ass of whomever happened to be leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.

When I got to know some of those leaders, I experienced how deeply human — and therefore how deeply flawed — they truly are. Except for Jean Chretien, that is, who has the initials JC for a reason. Chretien is as close to godlike as you can get in a politician.

But that’s not because of partisanship. That’s because of who he is, as a person. Decent, smart, motivated by the greater good. Great guy, is JC.

(Jean Charest shares the same initials, by the way. He may not be perfect, like Chretien, but he’s the Conservative leadership candidate who is most like Canadians themselves. Which is why Conservative partisans profess to hate him. But I digress.)

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I know the old bromide is that, as you get older, you get more conservative. That may be true for other folks, but not for me. As I edge closer to my dirt nap, the only political conviction I have is that partisans are crazy and dangerous.

They’re cult-like. To them, their leader can do no wrong. To them, dissent is treason. To them, anyone outside their little group is viewed with suspicion. To them, opposition is unCanadian.

Justin Trudeau’s partisans are like that. They’re #TruAnon, a name given to them by CNN’s Jake Tapper, who is no knuckle-dragging conservative. If you are not sufficiently deferential to their boy, if you dare utter a single syllable of criticism, TruAnon are on you like a pack of flying monkeys. They’re nuttier than a fruitcake.

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But Conservative partisans — and New Democrat partisans, too — are no better. Almost to a one, they are pious and angry and holier than thou. Conservative partisans, who demand unquestioning fealty and RPTs (rapid purity tests), have mostly lined up behind Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre and the whackadoodle social conservative variants. They’re always against everything, and for nothing.

New Democrats, meanwhile, never laugh and rarely smile. They think Saint Tommy Douglas put them here to wear hair shirts and flagellate themselves. When they finish doing that, they want to flagellate everyone else.

Those are all generalizations, of course, but politics is all about generalizations. They’re the truth.

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This is also true: Canadians intensely dislike partisans and partisanship. It is the main thing that has persuaded too many of them to stop participating in elections and democracy. When Canadians look at Twitter, they think they are looking at a brain scan of a typical political partisan.

And yet, partisans don’t get that. They particularly don’t get the mathematical reality: there are more of us and fewer of them. There are many more Canadians, like me, who want less partisanship, not more.

To win an election in a country as big and as diverse and as disputatious as this one, you always need to reach the greatest number of hearts and minds. You need to reach the maximum number of eyes and ears. You need to capture the support of a big and robust non-partisan majority, not the puny partisan minority.

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My fellow Irishman and colleague Brian Lilley put it best: politics is all about addition, not subtraction. It’s about bringing people in, not pushing them away.

All three political parties — under Justin Trudeau, under a Pierre Poilievre, under whomever happens to be running the NDP on any given day — push people away. They wouldn’t know how to build a bigger tent if you gave them a million free sewing lessons.

Want a better country? Get rid of cultish partisanship. Get rid of the partisans of Messrs. Trudeau and Poilievre. Embrace compromise and conciliation.

But will the partisans ever do that? Not a chance.

They’re partisans, after all.

— Kinsella was Jean Chretien’s special assistant

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