On Being Better Than We Were

Let us be thankful for small mercies as we contemplate our post-election shambles and try to find a way to run our country without a clear mandate from the electorate.

In a way, simple decisions should guide us through the first murky weeks.

Before the final count was in, the incumbent Liberal Party was forecast the winner in the race for seats – but only just. It would be by too small a margin to guarantee the Liberals’ ability to govern without help from other MPs.

Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is well aware he must find ways to survive the trench warfare western parliaments face in a minority situation; so was another young politician, a federal election rookie new to his leadership role of the New Democratic Party.

His name is Jagmeet Singh. After a slow start, he soon commanded attention with meticulously argued policies delivered without rhetorical “to the barricades” bravado.

And, he was on target once a Liberal victory was assured recognizing the need for his party’s life-sustaining assistance any time a serious vote is called in the House of Commons.

Jagmeet Singh and the NDP have a few ideas. They know the Liberals favour a national Pharmacare program, a national affordable housing program, and half a dozen other “people programs” as part of their undertakings on the hustings.

Singh didn’t attack the Liberal promises or suggest they were stolen. He said he felt there was much support for such programs, and that he and the PM could talk about NDP support to enable a minority government to bring overdue programs to the people.

Whether the Liberals accept the NDP support and live long and prosper remains to be seen, but it would not be precedent setting. CCF/NDP leader Tommy Douglas and Liberal PM Lester B. Pearson worked hard to make health care a national priority.

There is no reason why the new kids on the block can’t match that success with Pharmacare and affordable housing.  It’s the way a democracy should work, but rarely does because blind loyalty to party or personal aggrandizement conquers reason.

Shakespeare once defined a politician as “one that would circumvent God,” and in our time of watching the political wheel turn, the great wordsmith has proved himself right.

It will not be as easy to bring “reason” to the debate with Alberta and Saskatchewan, two provinces with legitimate claims that they have been poorly treated by Ottawa. But, solution is possible if both sides can shelve whatever “leverage” they might have in favour of mutual advantage.

Hope springs eternal. I’m hoping the arrival of Jagmeet Singh – ready to listen and articulate support for what he and his party believe – is good for the nation and will lead us into better parliamentary times.

I’ll give way again to Shakespeare with a final line from Hamlet: “We know what we are, but know not what we may be.” But we should never stop hoping that what we may be will be better than what we are.


  1. It appears that two intransigeant sides, the Trudeau Liberals and two oil-producing provinces, are pitted against each other in a fight to the death struggle. Of course this is absurd. The solution lies in compromise, in stepping back a bit and finding workable solutions.

    If Singh can help make this happen he would make a great contribution.

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