When Justin Trudeau’s Liberals started election night by first sweeping the East Coast and then into Ontario and Quebec, my youngest daughter, just turned 18 and a first-time voter, sent me a text.
“MOM! ARE YOU WATCHING THIS? IT’S LIKE A FRICKIN’ REVOLUTION!” she wrote.
I laughed out loud. And then I realized that actually, for her, it was. Her immigrant Opa and Oma always talked about the open and inclusive country they came to 65 years ago, and I have always extolled the virtues of Canada’s place in the world. But how to reconcile our words with what she has witnessed since she was old enough to be conscious of politics; bullying in Parliament, muzzling of scientists, attacks not only on the public broadcaster that gave her Mr. Dressup, but also aimed at the Supreme Court and all the institutions even a child can sense are important to a functioning democracy. And greater still a growing recognition that the Canadian flag on a back-pack no longer made us candidates for an instant welcome abroad.
The divergence of what we believed of Canada, and what was happening in the halls of power was bound to create a kind of fear of the future, and not the fear Harper was talking about. The thought of ‘another four years’ made my daughter anxious, physically anxious. I think most of the ‘progressive’ population felt that same gut deep terror that the country was at a kind of tipping point from which we could not return.
When the Liberal majority was declared, I received another text.
“I AM SO RELIEVED.”
As were we all. I don’t think it mattered if you voted Liberal or NDP, there was a collective and visceral sense of relief at that moment. And when the analysts began to wonder about how Tom Mulcair’s NDP fell from the good graces of the anti-Harper vote, I didn’t have to look any further than my young adult kids. While the young and the ‘change’ people wanted progressive policies, I believe they were yearning even more for progressive politics. So when Mulcair’s reaction to his party’s drop in the polls was to climb into the pigpen with Harper and start flinging mud with the hope some of it would stick and make him look better than the other guy — well — the ‘change’ vote took one look at the two old guys wallowing down there in the same old shit, and went for the guy who rose above the fray.
Ironically, it was Justin Trudeau who channeled Jack Layton’s message of hope and optimism. It was Justin Trudeau who correctly read the zeitgeist and understood that for many Canadians this election was about so much more than taxes, security or even the environment. It was about who we are. About who we want to be at home and how we want to be perceived abroad. About being a Canada that is bigger than the sum of its geographical and political parts, a Canada that proudly recognizes its unique success as a truly multicultural society and recognizes also the challenges of keeping it so, and a Canada that is a bit of conscience in the larger world.
No matter a citizen’s political stripe, I think that Justin Trudeau’s speech at the end of a long campaign and a long night was a proud moment for this country. He made us all remember what my Mom and Dad felt when they first arrived in this country; that all is possible, that instead of spouting the hyperbole of fear we can speak with both the courage and the compassion that confidence allows, that we as citizens are able always to shape Canada into its best self.
At the end of his speech, I received one last text from that girl of mine.
“CANADA WILL BE OKAY (smiley face).”