Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Arnold Chan's Important Parting Message

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Arnold Chan's Important Parting Message

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: Arnold Chan's important parting message


An editorial from the Toronto Star, published Sept. 24:

Before Liberal MP Arnold Chan died earlier this month, he shared with Justin Trudeau a nagging anxiety. Ill with an aggressive form of cancer for much of his brief parliamentary career, Chan, who was just 50 years old, worried that he would not have time to leave a mark on his country. Yet, as the prime minister pointed out in a tribute last week, the guidance Chan left to his colleagues in a series of speeches this summer points the way to a healthier democracy. His legacy is now in their hands.

In his final few remarks, Chan spoke about his concerns and his hopes for Parliament and country. He called for a more civil politics, an approach to democracy and debate rooted in kindness and respect. His vision was straightforward, but as he himself acknowledged, by no means easy to enact.

Much has been made of the growing incivility of our politics, the heckling and the point-scoring, blind partisanship and robotic talking points - all of which, Chan rightly argued, have undermined trust in Parliament and thus its power to do good.

This is perhaps nowhere more evident than in the disrespectful and often puerile heckling that frequently infects parliamentary debate. A recent report from Samara, a non-profit group dedicated to civic engagement, found that 69 per cent of parliamentarians feel heckling is a problem in the House of Commons. Many MPs say they believe the practice has contributed to the widespread perception that our politics is dysfunctional. Yet 72 per cent admit to engaging in heckling themselves.

If you were surprised by Conservative MP Gerry Ritz's recent retrograde tweet deriding Environment Minister Catherine McKenna as "Climate Barbie," you probably haven't been watching Question Period. A number of female MPs told Samara their parliamentary speeches have been interrupted by insults about their appearance. It's hard to think of another workplace in which shouting personal, sexist epithets is seen as acceptable; surely our leaders should be held to at least as high a standard as the rest of us. …

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