I know most people “review” books, but Tom McMillan‘s (2016, Nimbus) Not My Party: The Rise and Fall of Canadian Tories from Robert Standfield to Stephen Harper is not one for review as much as deep reflection on the course Canadian Politics has gone down. It could easily become a “partisan attack” work, by some in other parties, but they would miss the point of collective and personal self-reflection within their own context this can be used for.

The book itself at around 553 pages before foot notes is an investment, but a worthwhile investment that traces the author’s political career from the Standfield-Symons era up to the merger. He touches on service as an MP, Cabinet minister, consul to Boston, thinker…and whether or no he would accept it I believe an elder political statesman in Canada (much like Mulroney, Chretien, Martin, Broadbent, Clark and Manning amongst others are as well).

The intriguing piece for reflection though is the transformation from collective nation building, bridge building of inclusion, and the dance of holding together a spectrum of beliefs under one tent, to the drive that has happened since 2003-04 to push out those “not like us” or the us and them show down within parties that has bread into our country.

Look back historically, when policy was actually not only well crafted and well thought out, but also could be used to build conversations and dialogues. Upon my own reflections of the past, our parties have always shared the same centre of policy for the collective good in our Just Society and social contract, with flare differences dependent on the source.  Yet that evaporated post merger, and some say it is only a conservative story of the loss of this enlightened-inclusive-collective good drive.

Yet look to your own ideology, what matters more? The ideology (party loyalty) or a good policy/law/practice?

This is the beauty of McMillan’s journey and sharing. The core question to emerge, are we in our wonderful mosaic and diversity truly unified under one banner as Canadian?

Historically this has always been the story, continual building on what has come before, and for the last 10 years that halted. It is time to get back on track, but to get back on track, it is embracing the conversation, embracing the research-qualitative, quantitative, anecdotal and pragmatic–

and more importantly surrendering of labels of this is conservative, liberal or socialist— the key question that needs to be asked by the citizens:

is it good for all Canadians?

Parties are currently seeking identity through renewal, new ways to get members, new policy and leader conventions at all levels. They are seeking candidates to run..if you are on nominating committees seek a candidate that may be a bit different than the homogenized norm, to get the progressive/thoughtful flare to percolate conversation in your ranks. If you are feeling called to run, perhaps it is time to start reading those you normally don’t agree with on ideology to begin to understand the other, is still someone you are called to represent and what that needs to look like?

In Canada, we have freedom of thought and expression, but it is curbed by a responsibility to hold the collective health in that we speak (do no harm)…it is a cornerstone in building towards peace, order and good governance.

This is the reflection that struck me as a former policy wonk/writer, candidate, volunteer and activist on the political hustings. Renewal is through understanding, accountability, and seeking best for ourselves and our neighbour…

For truly someone, including yourself, is someone’s neighbour.

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