Open letter to Ryan Leef, member of Parliament for Yukon:
Congratulations on your election win, May 2. During the arts forum, you expressed a wish to represent all Yukoners regardless of whether they voted for you or not. I applaud you for that. It is good to know you are a person of principles who considers it his responsibility to be in touch with and answerable to all constituents.
I am an artist/activist living in Whitehorse. Other than a brief membership in the Progressive Conservative Party in Alberta, I have never belonged to or actively supported any political party. It is unlikely I ever will. In spite of my activities, I consider myself to be nonpartisan. I am far more concerned about the democratic health of our country than in promoting any particular ideology.
Having said all that, it is highly likely you and I have very different points of view on matters of public policy. I did not vote for you.
Therefore, I have a proposal. I intend to write you one letter a month for as long as you sit as my member of Parliament. The purpose of these letters is to discuss my concerns as a constituent and to help me understand your perspective.
I will refrain from emotional rants. In return I ask you to avoid scripted Conservative party talking points in your replies. Most importantly, I encourage you to reply. Surely, we both want to reach out beyond the divisiveness that has overtaken Canadians everywhere. The letters will be courteous. They will also be frank, challenging and, from time to time, uncomfortable.
I intend to make my letters open to the public and publish them on the internet as a blog. They will be called; “Letters to Ryan Leef.” I will publish your responses only with your permission.
The subject of the first letter will be civil discourse in government. Character assassination, dirty tricks and bullying have become increasingly commonplace in Parliament, the Senate and within government during the last six years. Efforts to make scapegoats of the defenceless, fearmongering and even hatemongering are seen as really smart political tools to shape public opinion and change public behaviour.
Sadly, those we elect to represent us at international meetings and forums embarrass all Canadians by conducting smear and blame campaigns when abroad. Those who speak truth to power now risk not only their livelihoods, but their reputations and their right to privacy as well.
If schoolchildren behaved this badly, they would be expelled.
These behaviours have spread beyond Ottawa and poisoned the Canadian political and social landscape. Canadians have become habituated to the most appalling Republican-style attack ads and public behaviours intended to appeal to what is worst in human nature.
Some of us have learned to admire bullies and see politics as a blood sport: reality TV at its worst. Others have become disillusioned; unable to trust or respect their representatives and, therefore, no longer participating in the democratic process. It is common to hear people say, “They are all the same,” when talking about politicians.
How sad is that?
Larry Bagnell leaves his office with the respect and affection of many Yukoners. As our representative, he worked extremely hard. Bagnell was a community builder. As such, he didn’t waste his time on dirty politics. He championed northern interests, particularly our vulnerable environment and threats to its health. He treated colleagues and opponents alike with courtesy. He genuinely likes all Yukoners and his concern for our well-being was sincere. Hopefully, you will follow in Bagnell’s footsteps in these regards.
Your colleague, Conservative MP Michael Chong, has undertaken the lonely task of restoring civility to the House of Commons. I encourage you to ally yourself with Chong. Here is a website you can go to in order to review his failed motion to reform question period: http://www.mikechong.ca/articles.asp?ID=135.
I wish you the best of luck. May your time in Ottawa be constructive and may you always walk on the high road.