Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Monday, October 25, 2010

The taming of Preston Manning?

“A national virtue, the tolerance and moderation of Canadians, is being turned into a liability for short-term political gains. Thus, whenever you hear a public figure or their positions being routinely characterized by their opponents and the media as ‘extreme,’ think twice. There are political extremists in Canadian politics, but 90 per cent of the time, such accusations are false.”—Preston Manning, Click here: Preston Manning, “Stop Polarizing our Discourse,” The Globe and Mail, October 21, 2010.

For a decade, as the founder and leader of the Reform Party, Preston Manning was slandered by moderation monitors as being an extremist and un-Canadian. He has every right to complain about the sloppy way politicians call each other “extremists.” However, there are troubling implications in what he said. What should we think when the accusation is accurate? 

Do only ten per cent of us hold positions that could be called “extreme”? Does our national virtue of “tolerance and moderation” not include respect for extreme opinion peacefully expressed? When the press get it right and the position is extreme, is it Canadian common sense to look away in disgust?

There are numerous radical positions waiting to be taken up by the political system—the three-E Senate of Preston Manning, sovereignty for Quebec, various forms of integration with the United States, evolving from a common currency to a common federation, the privatization of our electrical utilities, and the nationalization of universal child care, for instance.  Surely, the test for Manning—and other citizens with something to sell—is not the location of the idea on last year’s official political spectrum, but whether it appeals to our interests and our values.

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