LETTER: Candidates’ co-operation inspires hopeful vision

Reader Jennie Barron says the common ground between Green, Liberal and NDP candidates was a welcome surprise.

I recently had a vision that was so damn hope-inducing I can’t get it out of my mind. I was at last week’s all-candidates meeting at the United Church and Bill Green from the Green Party, Wayne Stetski from the NDP, and Don Johnston from the Liberal Party were all there, talking about peace, security and climate change (David Wilks, the Conservative, declined the invitation, and Christina Yahn, of the Libertarian Party couldn’t make it.)

I didn’t attend in order to decide who to vote for; I decided that a very long time ago. I went to hear what they had to say and find out who they all were, and I was amazed, really, by how many intelligent, articulate, compassionate, wonderful things they had to say — all of them.

I was especially impressed with Don Johnston, whom I’d never met before. But my guy was very good too, as was the other guy. All other things being equal, it might be a hard decision.

But here’s the special thing that happened: at one point it was Don’s turn to speak and in a moment of trivial confusion, just as he picked up his mic, Bill, who was sitting to Don’s left, offered him his mic, and one of them quipped, “We’re cooperating! How ‘bout that?” And everybody laughed and clapped. Loud.

Then Wayne, sitting to the other side of Don, offered Don his mic too, and without missing a beat, Don said, “What about a tripartite system? What if we were the government?” At that, the audience roared with approval, giving a huge cheer-laugh and thunderous applause. We were, all of us in that room, on the same page.

In that moment I felt a surge of something almost electric, a huge collective “aha” moment, like a burst of sunshine and surprise, as if we’d all suddenly felt, viscerally, how great it could actually be to have reasonable, smart, caring, honest, responsible, progressive people of different political stripes all together in parliament, showing a willingness to listen to each other, to debate the merits of different approaches respectfully, and to collaborate — none of them so far apart that they can’t get along, but each genuinely distinct on some issues. Pipe dream? Maybe.

But I really believe our best chance at having such a thing will come when we have proportional representation (and greater diversity as well!). And our worst chance at having such a thing will come if you-know-who gets back in. I’d take any of these three guys in a New York minute over the alternative, but I’m going with the one who is most likely to be able to make that hopeful vision a reality, and to open the door to every vote making a difference from now on — because he believes in that vision too, and because he alone, of these three, really has a chance of winning our riding. That’s Wayne.

So I beg and beseech all my Liberal and Green-minded friends to see this as a long game, and to recognize that sometimes you can’t get where you want to go in one move.

Wayne himself acknowledges this, and, to his credit, is not trying to bring traditional Liberal or Green supporters over to his side. Instead, he has wisely promised them “Vote NDP this time, and you will never have to vote strategically again.” That sits well with me. (Alternatively, consider vote swapping with someone in another riding — see voteswap.ca — if it will better satisfy your conscience. Sure, it’s gaming the game, but the fact that we have to toy with it is yet another symptom that the game, or the system, is broken.)

Please do whatever it takes, if you love this country — or what it could, someday, be.

Jennie Barron