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Too Enthusiastically Opposed? How the Loyal Opposition Needs to Adapt to Crisis | Op-Ed

Focus on political gain or focus on helping Canadians? The eternal partisan question.

Canada has a history of significant partisan battles and vocal oppositions. It is no different in 2020 than it was in 1867 – and, for the most part, it’s how our government needs to function.

During crisis, this may change.

While it’s true that healthy democracies require a strong opposition, in times of crisis and uncertainty, working together is more important than landing partisan jabs.

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Opposition all too enthusiastic: Without strong opposition, governing parties would be able to do whatever they want, whenever they want, with very little consequence. That goes against our understanding of responsible government and accountable leadership.

Tools like Question Period, Private Member’s Bills, and opposition motions effectively introduce an alternative voice. They help foster healthy and important debate in both the House of Commons and the Senate.

We saw this with the Conservative motion that introduced a special committee examining Canada’s relationship with China in December 2019. Opposition parties in the House of Commons voted together and were able to bypass the government’s stance

However, sometimes they do more harm than good.

Investing in Political Capital: No party is immune to using each other’s actions against one another – it doesn’t matter who holds the balance of power. It has become practically impossible to hope that our representatives in Ottawa will put Canadians’ best interests ahead of making life difficult for their opponents.

If the crisis stemming from COVID-19, or our strained relationship with China, or the political and social unrest in the United States has shown us anything, it’s that we need to come together to find solutions.

We cannot let our parties carry on in such a divisive manner – not if we want to see our country grow and strengthen from our challenges.

Our current opposition parties are telling us that the government is failing us. But is that truly the opinion of Canadians?

Representatives not representing public opinion: In a recent Abacus Data poll, 88% of respondents fell that the government is effectively supporting those who are suffering because of COVID-19. So if 88% of Canadians are satisfied with our government’s actions, why can’t our opposition politicians see that too?

When you break down the numbers even further, 76% of respondents who identify as conservatives and 92% of those who identify with the NDP have a favourable view of government response. So it’s no longer about representing their base when opposition leaders are constantly criticizing the government’s actions. It becomes about personal vendettas.

No system is ever going to be perfect and no government action is going to affect every single Canadian in the same way. But if we put our collective opinions and experiences together, we would have a greater likelihood of discovering solutions that could help the majority of Canadians.

Who has what to offer:

  • The CPC’s significant representation in the Prairies could bring a different perspective.
  • The NDP perspective tends to understand the needs of minority and lower-income Canadians.
  • The current Liberal perspective benefits from the knowledge and resources of the Public Service.

If we want to successfully flatten the curve and emerge on the other side of our current crises stronger than ever, it’s going to require every perspective we have access to. But for that to work, the partisanship needs to be put aside and the focus needs to be on practical solutions to a problem that caught us unprepared.

The bottom line: It is not extraordinary to ask our government to do what is best for us.  It is even less extraordinary to ask that they put petty arguments aside in order to do the work they’re elected to do.

Sometimes, we just need to put the pitchforks and carefully worded Tweets aside to focus on effective and equitable governing.