REFRACTION: What we can learn from Terry Lake, Cathy McLeod

At the outset of this column I think it’s important to note that I am no Political Pollyanna.

I don’t think politics should be lollipops and rainbows. I have worked on elections at all three levels of government, have seen the underbelly of the political machine and know how brutally political parties can affect the lives of taxpayers; but neither do I think that electoral disappointment justifies behaviour beneath the reputation of Canadians.

Whether the party, candidate or leader of my choosing wins or loses, I am finding with increasing regularity that it’s the reaction of everyday Canadians after an election that I find most distressing, and the knee-jerk seemed particularly absurd this year. Chicken Littles burst forth from their First-World nests when election results rolled out, declaring that not only is the sky falling, but they hoped the Earth would open up with it too.

“It’s time to separate!”

“People who voted differently than me are morons, idiots and losers!”

“This isn’t Canada anymore!”

“There is no hope!”

“This isn’t what our veterans fought for!” (By the way, this is exactly what our vets fought for.)

“This is the beginning of communism”.

You name it, they screamed it — regardless of the fact that this thinking endangers Canadian ideals more than any major political platform I’ve seen within our borders.

In case we decide to stop and ask ourselves about the end result of such self-indulgent reactions, we need not look further than America for answers. Our neighbours to the south have generously demonstrated that the consequences of such unbridled vitriol are pathetically limited choices on the ticket, a gridlocked progress and a country crippled by political tribalism.

I, for one, want so much more for Canada than that.

Since when did it become acceptable to sling mud at our neighbours for making their own choices, drive the wedge of division deeper to indulge our petulant spirits or erode the core values of this mosaic because we did not get our way?

Say you don’t like the results; fine. But how shamelessly entitled have we become that we spew whatever venom scratches our partisan itch?

We might not like it, but Canada chose and it’s our job as the democratically privileged to respect that choice. We contribute to the degradation of our core values as Canadians when we suggest that our country should be torn apart or that our neighbours are fools because we don’t like the results of our parliamentary process.

Maybe, just maybe, the best lesson we can learn from this election isn’t about who won and who lost, even if that has serious consequences.

Maybe when considering our political disappointments we should take note of how the two most prominent candidates in the Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo riding reacted to the election results.

Veteran municipal and provincial politician Terry Lake hoped to add “member of Parliament” to his moniker after tossing his hat into the ring on the federal stage, but it was not meant to be. Meanwhile, successful incumbent Cathy McLeod celebrated her personal victory but will have the challenge of four more years as official Opposition because her party did not form government.

Both candidates suffered disappointing losses on Oct. 21, but both also demonstrated that they were every inch Canadian class acts.

On election night, Lake visited McLeod’s campaign office to make his concession. “Congratulations, that was a great win,'' Lake said, acknowledging McLeod’s decisive victory while embracing the now four-term member of Parliament.

“You had me worried,” McLeod humbly replied with a smile while shaking Lake’s outstretched hand.

“As always,” continued Lake, “thank you for all the work you do for the people of Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo. We’re all there for you; you’re our MP.”

These two exhausted and opposed politicians didn’t break into each other speeches, call each other names, pout behind their keyboards or even withhold support. Despite the party lines, differing views and political priorities, they sincerely acknowledged the heart behind the other and even extended invitations to share a beer; they were all class and did our riding proud.

Could we find a better demonstration of what civilized Canadian politics should look like? And if that does not properly shame the childish fits of political disappointment in others, what will?

I am not saying we shouldn’t be passionate, engaged and involved in the outcome of our elections; on the contrary, it is each of our civic duty to be responsibly informed and intentionally invested. I am saying that while debating the issues, advocating our positions, and celebrating or grieving the outcome, it is entirely possible for our political attitudes to be representative of the country we know and love: respectful, inclusive, dignified, hopeful and, dare I say it, even polite.

Like everything else in life, our reaction to what happens in politics can and should reflect our values.

So if you remain unhinged about the election results and think the world is ending, then try following the example of Terry Lake and Cathy McLeod: find someone with different views than your own, congratulate them on their successes, take them out for a beer and be there for each other despite the political divide.

Because our riding just proved that classy Canadians still exist and no one needs a political pouter.

Katie Neustaeter is a professional writer with a background in broadcasting and owner of Refraction Communications. Katie is also a multiple Kamloops Readers Choice award winner in categories including Influencer, Volunteer and Personality. She also really loves candy. As a community advocate who is passionately engaged in her region, Katie explores a wide range of topics in her column Refraction with the purpose of promoting healthy public discourse.

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