Right in the centre - Standing up for what you believe


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

Last week’s column on learning how to disagree without being disagreeable certainly got some reaction. It was gratifying to receive the feedback and, so far, everybody agrees that is how we should conduct ourselves.

If we all did that, there would be less strife and posturing in government at the municipal, provincial and federal levels. Because we may have a different opinion should not make us enemies. If the “agree to disagree” theme was applied to organizations, the membership numbers might go up. If it was applied to marriages, the divorce rate might go down.

I think this principle definitely applies to politics. Across Canada, and certainly in the United States, everything gets divided into left and right. The Democrats in the states and the Liberals and NDP in Canada get branded as left wing. The Republicans in the states and the Conservatives in Canada get branded as right wing. This branding is a harmful process that virtually eliminates valuable discussions. In reality, politics isn’t, or shouldn’t be about left or right, it should be about truth or fiction.

There are some “left wing” policies that are insane and there are some that make sense. There are some “right wing” policies that make sense and some that are insane. The problem is that media, commentators and political operatives would have us believe that they are always correct and “those other guys are always wrong.”

That is simply not true.

If political parties would present, defend and debate policies and not just spout a set of platitudes, we would all be better off. Let me give you a close-to-home example. Many people in southwestern Manitoba will remember Brian Ransom of Boissevain, Manitoba. He was educated at the University of Manitoba and the University of Alberta. He worked as a resource manager and farmer before entering public life.

He was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba in 1977, representing the rural riding of Souris-Killarney. In that year, Sterling Lyon’s Progressive Conservatives won an upset victory over Edward Schreyer’s New Democrats. Following the election, Ransom was appointed Minister of Mines, Resources and Environment. Following a reorganization of cabinet in 1979, he became Minister of Natural Resources and Chairman of the Treasury Board. In January 1981, he was promoted to Minister of Finance. Although  the Lyon government was defeated, Ransom was easily re-elected in the riding of Turtle Mountain. He ran for the party’s leadership in 1983 as a representative of the party’s rural/conservative wing, but on the second ballot, lost to Gary Filmon.

Ransom did not seek re-election in the 1986 Manitoba general election. He subsequently became chairman of the Manitoba Hydro-Electric Board, and worked as a consultant in sustainable development.

I only met Ransom once that I can recall and I asked him why he left politics. He said, “I got tired of people not being willing to debate conservative policies on their own merits.”

1986 is a long time ago, but how many times have we seen policies wrapped up in political colours and presented to us without honest and clear debate? Ironically, the colour red is “right wing” in the States and blue is “left wing”. It’s the opposite in Canada.

Ransom was absolutely correct. We need to discuss and debate policies on their own merit. Are they based on facts and truth? Will they help the country and the people? Do they strengthen or restrict freedom? Who makes money from a proposed piece of legislation? Who suffers?

Defining a policy, without trying to hide or disguise it, is very important. Wishy-washy definitions of policy is what has caused the downfall of many leaders. The recent years’ stumbling by federal conservative leaders has made them unelectable. Firm, clear policy statements are what is propelling CPC leader hopeful Pierre Poillevre to the apparent lead. Whether you agree with Pierre or not, you know where he stands. Leaders need to stand out. In days of old, generals wore shiny uniforms and rode white horses. They stood out but also made highly visible targets.

We need to have leaders who stand out, who clearly say what they believe and carry out their ideas once elected.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this column are the writer’s personal views and are not to be taken as being the view of the Banner & Press staff.