Returning civility to politics

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Some of the negative political advertising which prompted Roseanne Orcutt to get people to think about civility in politics

Roseanne Orcutt is tired of the bullying in politics.

So the Petrolia woman is on a mission to get every person running to be a member of parliament in the Oct. 19th election to take a pledge of civility.

Orcutt remembers the exact moment she’d had enough of the trash talk in politics. She was lying on the couch in her home, watching hockey, when an attack ad came on – a picture of then Liberal Leader Stephane Dion labeled as a failure. “They stamped it right across his face.”

Fresh in Orcutt’s memory was the suicide of a teen who had been bullied; all she could think about was “is no one making a connection here?”

She decided to make the connection for people; Orcutt started writing letters to newspapers and national magazines suggesting the bullying in politics was setting a bad example for the nations children. She urged people to write letters to their local politicians to stop the trash talk. That was 2012 and Orcutt admits not much has changed.

So with the rhetoric ramped up again in this election, Orcutt saw this as “the perfect time to attempt again to do something about this.”

So she talked to her friend Bob Sutton of Camlachie who works with the non-partisan group Samara which tries to reengage people with politics.  She showed him the pledge she’d come up with and they worked on a plan to spread the word about their campaign.

They set up a webpage – www.civilityinpolitics.ca – and launched an online petition –www.you.leadnow.ca/petitions/return-civility-to-canadian-politics – urging Canadians to return civility to politics saying people are turing away in disgust because of the bullying behaviour.

“We believe that a real root cause of citizen anger and disengagement is the incessant petulance of elected leaders who engage in polarizing and demeaning debate, evading or distorting issues, making comments dripping with sarcasm, and displaying all the classic hallmarks of bullying,” reads the online petition. “Question Period in our House of Commons has often been frankly described as a “gong show” by many Canadians of every political stripe. Ironically, virtually all the school systems in our country have developed sophisticated programs to stop bullying and consequent suicides amongst youth. But we fear that these dedicated efforts are continuously negated by daily behavioural examples in national leadership that are invariably worse than adolescent. As caring citizens we just can’t take the divisiveness and childishness any longer.”

The website adds frustration means most people will turn away from politics, but Orcutt says someone has to do something. “People are turning their backs on democracy…because they can’t stand what’s going on. If people don’t participate in democracy it is not longer democracy.

“It is unacceptable,” she says. “It’s about time somebody did something about it. A lot of people say ‘It’s such a big problem – oh, what can we possibly do about it?’ You can take a step and see what you can do about it.”

Recently, Orcutt says the Quebec legislature changed its rules to encourage civil debate “so there are some efforts to bring civility back into politics.”

While Orcutt and her supporters will contact all the major party leaders and try to reach all the candidates before Oct. 19, she’s urging everyone to ask their politicians to look at the pledge and take it.

She’s also urging them to write letters encouraging politicians to engage only in civil debates.

“It doesn’t have to stop at the election…if we don’t get enough people before the election, we’ll just keep going after.”
THE PLEDGE
Canadians are tired of and disappointed in the lack of respect for others, the ritual of denigration of all who question a party’s ideology in any way and the refusal to actually answer the questions legitimately asked by elected representatives  in Question Periods. We want a return to Civility in our House of Commons and in our Society and we are, therefore asking all candidates to agree to the following pledge

I understand that to maintain a strong democratic process, citizens are demanding conduct that is principled, communication that is substantive, and civility that reflects the dignity of democracy’s spirit. I will guarantee my constituents that my behaviour will reflect Canadian values of respect, fair-mindedness, openness and equality.

I am pledging that if elected, I will not cheer or laugh or applaud a belittling remark toward another member of Government.  I will not cheer denigrating remarks in place of answers to questions from an opposing party. I will not approve the attempted demeaning of anyone inside or outside the House of Commons and I will work diligently to encourage my party cohorts to commit to this pledge.

I understand that all candidates in all 338 ridings are being asked to make the same pledge.

 

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