Friday, April 11, 2014

Politics and its Worst and at its Best

Yesterday was Canadian politics and the House of Commons at their worst. Today was Canadian politics and the House of Commons at their best.

Former Finance Minister Jim Flaherty died today of a massive heart attack. He had resigned from Cabinet only one month ago with the intention of returning to the private sector and spending more time with his family. Coverage can be found in all major Canadian media, including here and here. The House of Commons rose for the day prior to the scheduled Question Period.

If yesterday was a case study in politicians conducting themselves like petulant toddlers, today was a case study in politicians putting partisanship aside and acting with grace and compassion.

It isn't that Jim Flaherty wasn't a partisan guy. He could be fiercely partisan - although today his colleagues chose to dwell on other times and other anecdotes when other qualities were on display. Even a fierce partisan knows that there are times to set such things aside. There is a human side to our political culture.

A week ago, I blogged about why I couldn't find any humour in the self-destructive saga of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. One of my memories of Jim Flaherty's non-partisan side was from last fall, when he was asked to comment on the scandal swirling around Ford.

Flaherty had served in the Ontario Legislature alongside Ford's father, and had been something of a mentor to the Ford brothers early in their political career. He did not choose the path of partisan pitbull, defending the mayor's indefensible conduct. Neither did he choose the path of partisan protectionism, distancing himself from Ford. Instead, he gave the very human response of one who sees a family friend committing slow suicide with alcohol and drugs. Watch the video here.

Last fall, I was asked to brief new members of our diocesan synod on how synod works, how to raise issues, how to get things done and so forth. Some of my non-church readers may be shocked to discover that ecclesiastical politics can sometimes be as fiercely fought as secular politics.

My closing admonition to that group was a reminder that, however heated the discussion, they should always remember that the person on the other side of the argument loved Jesus every bit as much as they did - and more importantly, Jesus loved that person just as much as he loved them.

We too often forget that most people get involved  in politics to accomplish what they believe is best for their country - even if they disagree with us about what that looks like.

Today the House of Commons remembered that.

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