Poisoning The Wells In Canadian Politics

Posted on Monday, December 09 at 17:23 by JaredMilne

Even before Ford became mayor, Toronto politics was becoming increasingly polarized between downtown and suburban councillors and their supporters. Many suburban residents were frustrated with what they saw as the downtown elites who supposedly ran the city. These elites were seen as obsessed with raising and spending taxes, and condemned people in the suburbs as wasteful and bigoted because they went to chain stores, commuted by car or did not want to live near the homeless population.

Rob Ford ran for mayor on a platform of cleaning up what he called the “gravy train” at Toronto city hall and standing up for the average citizen against these elites. The strategy was a major success, propelling Ford into the mayor’s chair. When Ford tried to implement his agenda, the polarization of Toronto city hall became an open conflict as more progressive city councillors and their supporters fought back against Ford and his followers.

The different sides in the fight painted ugly stereotypes of each other. Ford and his supporters continued to attack their opponents as the snobby elitists described above. Many of their opponents, meanwhile, depicted Ford’s supporters as all being racist, homophobic, greedy, hating the environment, etc. The worst voices on each side were seized on as a way to make everyone associated with them look bad.

You can see the same larger tendencies in Canada as a whole. Commentators like Allan Gregg have noted how many of the Stephen Harper Conservatives like to portray themselves as fighting for the everyday, hardworking Canadian against the progressive elitists who vote NDP or Liberal and want to tax and control everything. On the other hand, there are Liberal and NDP supporters who portray their parties as fighting for ordinary Canadians against big business and the corporate elites who apparently control Canada.

This, as much as anything, is one of the things hurting Canadian politics. Taking the worst voices from any political party or movement and using them to paint everyone else in the same party or movement with the same ugly brush is what’s contributed to the polarizing of politics not just in Toronto but Canada as a whole. People with different beliefs are not seen as fellow citizens with different opinions, but personal enemies who need to be defeated.

In a way, the worst voices and their supporters on either side of a debate often feed off each other. They use each other as a way to demonize everyone on the other side, and to undermine people on their own side who might be more moderate or open to discussion.

We’d all be better served by finding ways to build bridges between citizens and emphasizing what we have in common, but how do we do that in this day and age?


This article was originally published in the St. Albert Gazette on November 30, 2013 and can be found online at http://www.stalbertgazette.com/article/20131130/SAG0903/311309971/0/sag

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  1. Wed Dec 18, 2013 4:07 am
    I think it starts with each each individual coming to realize that if your neighbour or someone on the other side of the world can find himself or herself impoverished, starving, or violently oppressed, then it can happen to me and you as well. Therefore, we must demand of ALL political parties and actors, to implement fair and just policies for all people, not just a chosen few, or the ones who voted for you.

  2. by RickW
    Mon Dec 30, 2013 5:17 pm
    Rob Ford ran for mayor on a platform of cleaning up what he called the “gravy train” at Toronto city hall and standing up for the average citizen against these elites

    Isn't this a theme common to virtually all parties that want to replace existing regimes?

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