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Oct. 17, 2021 | Sunday
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Israelson: As vote looms, let's ignore the nasty babble
Debate is healthy, but nasty comments should be ignored, says columnist David Israelson. (File/Jessica Maxwell)

David Israelson
Special to The Lake Report

As we stumble toward the Sept. 20 federal election, some of the biggest questions voters may face are not on the ballot.

The biggest question of all, I think, is about us. As in: What is wrong with us?

This is not about taking sides in the vote here. I have my own preferences and though it’s a secret ballot, I’m happy to share them, but not here.

The bigger problem right now is not who might win or lose the election and who gets to run Canada, but how we get there. In these lingering days of lockdown, too many Canadians are sizzling in a season of rage.

It’s tempting to say we should reach out and understand. Actually, the rest of us should plug our ears and focus.

Really, what else to make of those people who show up and boo someone at an all-candidates’ meeting because she’s filling in for a candidate who is sick? This is what happened at The Lake Report's candidate debate held at Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery.

Attacking people for feeling ill during a pandemic? Really, what is wrong with us?

Three huge issues

We can do better. We have three huge issues to contend with, now, and they don’t involve people yelling.

We need to keep the post-COVID economy moving. We need to help families who need daycare. And we need to get serious about climate change — the carbon we burn is now indisputably making our lives unpredictable and damaging our work and our homes.

In a twisted way, it may be fortunate that because of COVID-19 restrictions many people will avoid going to election rallies with crowds of people who attack the sick. As seen on TV and online, there have been a lot of these big knots of mean-spirited folks venting their spleen, swearing, shoving and shouting things that should not be repeated.

Speaking of spleens, some demonstrators even took to attacking modern medicine, protesting against doctors, nurses and front-line responders who might save their own spleens some time.

Protect what’s being lost

Anyone who places even the tiniest bit of value on the rule of law — on civilization for that matter — ought to be concerned about what’s being lost amid the noise.

The first thing that’s being lost is the minimum standard of civil discourse we thought we had. The bar was never high, but it’s already at a new low.

The nastiness seems to be organic too. It used to be that anti-vax, anti-science and all the other unsavoury anti-causes could be ascribed to people following around creepy people who could whip them to a frenzy with trumped-up rhetoric.

Now the hate seems to be coming from people who congeal using social media to organize and show up on their own to spew.

Canadian society has long tolerated outrageous ideas. But until recently, one of the magical features of our politics has been a public preference for cautious compromise. A province doesn’t want to sign the Constitution? OK, let’s talk. You think the Senate is useless? Let’s talk about it for 154 more years.

This patience can be annoying, but in many ways it has served Canadians well. At the same time, on some key issues in this election, there should be a rush to move forward.

Shouting doesn’t help 

First, we’re going to have to pull together to dig ourselves out of the last days — one hopes — of the pandemic. No one has a perfect answer, but whomever we elect is going to have to keep the economy moving, and shouting horrible things at them isn’t going to help.

Next, with a real, universal, affordable child care program, we have an opportunity to actually restructure our society for better. Eight provinces have miraculously agreed to sign on for $10 per day child care — significantly though, not Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative Ontario.

The quality of child care could be enhanced by a universal, nationally funded program, and with $10 daycare, many families that are already struggling to afford home ownership might be able to save enough money to own a decent home by no longer having to shovel huge piles of cash to daycare.

The third big issue? Climate. Just weeks before the election was called, the United Nations’ panel of scientists warned that the world is in Code Red. Who in this election has the best plan that will actually do something to meet this existential challenge?

That’s something voters can decide — if we don’t let the nasty babble of irrational crowds seize the day.

David Israelson is a non-practising lawyer, author, communications advisor and journalist who lives in Niagara-on-the-Lake. A version of this article appeared recently in The Lawyer’s Daily.