It was time for “sunny ways”

Life goes on.

So there I was the day after the federal election – out planting garlic in a recently cultivated section of my large front-field garden. It’s not too late, but you never know at this time of the year when winter will set in, no matter what Environment Canada says about the El-Nino prospects of a much milder winter than last shaping up in the warmer-than-usual waters of the Pacific Ocean. So I took a break from the barn-door repairs and planted garlic while the sun shone.

And yes, I was inspired to think of the night before when the first public words out of Justin Trudeau’s mouth upon being elected Canada’s next Prime Minister were, “Sunny ways my friends, sunny ways. This is what positive politics can do.”

I am indebted to National Post writer Joe O’Connor for pointing out that Trudeau was recalling the phrase and the approach used by Prime Minister Wilfred Laurier almost 120 years ago when he diffused a national crisis over public funding of Catholic schools in Manitoba.

The Conservative federal government of the day had pressured the province’s premier, Thomas Greenway, to reverse his decision to cancel Catholic-school funding, a position that was popular among anglophones in Manitoba and elsewhere.

“If it were in my power, I would try the sunny way. I would approach this man Greenway with the sunny way of patriotism, asking him to be just and to be fair, asking him to be generous to the minority…,” Laurier said.

“Do you not believe that there is more to be gained by appealing to the heart and soul of men rather than to compel them to do a thing?”

Laurier, leader of the Liberal Party, went on to win the 1896 election and settled the Manitoba school question with a compromise.

“He chose a sunnier path, and spent the next 15 years in power — a history lesson that did not appear to be lost on Trudeau campaign strategists 120 years later,” O’Connor wrote.

Soon-to-be-former Prime Minister lost the election because he finally lost the trust of most Canadians. It was a cumulative thing, with the Mike Duffy/Senate scandal affair and the nagging question of what Harper knew and when he knew it regarding a $90,000 cheque written by his former Chief-of-Staff, Nigel Wright. I wasn’t the only Canadian who had trouble believing the man every time he rose in the House of Commons to respond to that question by denying he knew anything about it before it was revealed in the news media.

Then a fear-mongering, divisive Harper/Conservative federal election campaign that appeared to assume the worst about what might motivate Canadians to vote Conservative was, I think, the last, fatal Harper mistake. It was based on a cynical view of the intelligence of voters. It fostered a huge amount of anger, even hatred, toward him, and he paid the price.

I note with some irony that Trudeau’s percentage of the popular vote (39.5) was almost exactly the same as that which gave Harper a majority in 2011 (39.6).

But Trudeau has promised to keep his election reform promise, and change the “first past the post” approach that makes it possible for MPs to be elected without a clear majority of votes.

I trust him to keep his word on that issue and others. Most of all I trust him to usher in a new era of open, inclusive, and ongoing democracy, one that encourages people to remain engaged and involved in the democratic process.

I also expect Trudeau’s commitment to “sunny ways” to extend across the floor of the House of Commons with a less partisan, more positive and respectful approach to cooperation with so-called opposition members.

Shortly before the election campaign officially began in early August, Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MP Larry Miller, now re-elected, made several Conservative government announcements about spending in this area, especially the promise of $15.6 million for Bruce Peninsula National Park improvements.

It’s usual for a new government to review any such funding commitments made by a previous government of a different political stripe.

Miller said in July about half of the money for the national park was slated for work on the Cyprus Lake Campground, over a period of five years. He said that, and the other work planned, would help attract more visitors.

The national park’s infrastructure can always use improvement, especially to deal adequately with the numbers of people it’s already attracting. Local people know there are problems in that regard that need to be addressed.

The national park’s impact on local tourism has not been all good. Yes, it has attracted more tourists to the Tobermory area and made that once little fishing village an international tourist destination. But other places farther south on the peninsula appear to be experiencing a drop in tourism, including Lion’s Head.

The tourism infrastructure that supports the higher profile the national park has given the area arguably extends as far south as Owen Sound and the rest of Grey-Bruce. I hope Miller and the new government will work cooperatively in “sunny ways” as they reconsider the tourism needs of that larger area, as well as the park itself.

Originally published in The Sun Times in October, 2015.

 

 

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