I don’t think I’ve ever put up a partisan political lawn sign before. We have a gun-metal “welcome” sign featuring a couple of adirondack chairs (a parting gift from the community of Trinity Lutheran Church, New Hamburg) and one of the multilingual “welcome to refugees” signs which, although faded, gets trotted out every so often. But that’s it. Until now.
When I was working, I felt the need to be fairly circumspect about my political views. I sometimes commented at election time about political process but did so from a place of relative detachment in a fairly clinical sort of way. I felt that that was appropriate in my circumstance. Well, as it happens, my retirement has coincided with one of the most critical elections of our time. Perhaps the most critical. It is my view that we have a lot of work to do and, unless we get things right, in four years it may well be too late. I share that view with Elizabeth May. So I just got off the phone with one of the contenders for our Waterloo riding. I wanted a lawn sign and, no, she is not the Liberal incumbent. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Earlier this summer, I decided to give up my Liberal Party card. It was a very hard decision and one that I’d mused to Barbara about for some months. It all began with Mr. Trudeau’s late-2016, early-2017 reversal on 2015’s being the last election fought under the first-past-the-post system. I’ve been a student of political process forever and was greatly encouraged by the prospect of Canada’s moving in that direction with one or other of the various permutations or combinations. I was gobsmacked. I felt betrayed. I gather I have many confrères in my view and disposition. Still, I licked my wounds, grumped about the decision to our local Liberal MP, wrote letters but got on with life.
After all, I reflected, I grew up in a Liberal home where we read Liberal newspapers (in English and French) and voted for Liberal candidates. I’d voted otherwise before and could do so again. While I’d kept my single party affiliation for all of my adult life, I’d voted for reds, blues and oranges according to the issues, the times, the leader and the candidates. In the last election, I’d voted strategically, as did a great many other people in our riding, and it paid off. So nothing was written in stone even if my modest monthly contributions did go to Liberal coffers. I am liberal by temperament and could remain Liberal by affiliation. Then, strike two.
Mr. Trudeau, on our behalf, bought a pipeline. This made me queasy. Where did that come from? It seemed to me then, and seems to me now, that there would be no realistic possibility that we’d ever meet our climate obligations now that the Fed (as they say in Quebec) was in the pipeline business. Mr. Trudeau had been waffling around the path to meeting our climate targets. Now this. Never mind that the purchase of a pipeline would likely be interpreted by many First Peoples as a sort of bad-faith initiative on the part of the nation of Canada. And post-TRC, no less! Astonishing.
When I was working as our church’s ecumenical and interfaith officer, I would frequently hear myself saying that the single most important issue to transect all of my files was that of racism. It didn’t matter what the file, racism would be woven in somewhere or everywhere. That was in my day job. At the same time, I would hear myself saying that climate change was the single most important issue of our time, and for our planet, with nothing else coming even remotely close. Moreover, it is often the case that climate change and climate extremes affect racialized communities the hardest. For example, as the permafrost turns to swamp, the Inuit suffer most as a result. As the desertification of Africa proceeds apace, migrants forced off their their ancestral lands are often marked by the colour of their skin or other us-them signs for exclusion, expulsion or other wholesale inhumanity.
By coincidence, the other day, on the CBC, I saw an interview with the UBC’s Prof. George Hoberg. I pretty much agree with his assessment of the various party positions vis-a-vis climate change and what each one proposes to do about it. Check out his analysis. Fair? Fair. For further reading, consider Stewart Elgie’s work in environmental and economic sustainability at the so-called Smart Prosperity Institute. Fascinating read.
Anyway, while my discomfort with the Liberals had me hemming and hawing, the straw which broke this camel’s back was that of Mr. Trudeau’s astonishingly inept handling of the SNC-Lavelin affair and his cutting adrift Ms. Jody Wilson-Raybould and Ms. Jane Philpott amidst great wafts of stench and ooze of sleaze. I’d had enough.
The Liberal government had shown great tactical intelligence in handling the Nafta talks. I never understood why the SNC-Lavelin file should have proved so daunting and gone so completely off the rails. My suspicion is that it was one person’s hubris. Note, this was all before the blackface scandal which made me queasy all over again.
So I made the calls, said some goodbyes, and joined the Greens. Federal and provincial. My reasoning, imperfect as it may be, is this: none of the political parties of our day suits me entirely. Where are the Teals when we need them? My choice is simply based on the belief that the climate change file trumps all others and Ms. May is the best communicator and proponent for action. I miss the teal days of Lewis, Kierans and Camp on Peter Gzowski’s Morningside.
I think it fair to say that, of all of the leaders, Ms. May has the best grasp of issues and the greatest depth of understanding relative to the climate change file. She is by far the most informed on her feet. To be clear, I have absolutely no illusions about the Greens coming to power anytime soon. I do think, however, that they’d make the best partner for a minority Liberal government. Right now, the Norwegian Poling Gnomes are predicting a minority—maybe even majority—Liberal government but we still have four weeks to go, swamps to traverse and mud to fling.
So here we are. The teal of my world is a little greener than I might have predicted four years ago. And I’m a little annoyed. Discomfited. Grumpy. OK, angry! And while I’m not always sure there’s a lot of cause for optimism, I believe I’m called to hope and to participate in those mechanisms which advance some reason for hope. So…
I gotta get the sign up.
André Lavergne — writing from a settler-descendant’s home on the traditional lands of the Neutral, Anishnaabe, and Haudenosaunee peoples on the Haldimand Tract (1784).