Updated: Apr 25, 2022
Rick Peterson with Daniel Veniez
Daniel Veniez served as senior advisor to three cabinet ministers under prime minister Brian Mulroney and was a federal Liberal Party candidate for West Vancouver-Sunshine Coast-Sea to Sky Country in 2011.
Rick Peterson was a Conservative Party of Canada leadership candidate in 2017 and 2020, and is the founder of Centre Ice Conservatives.
One of us votes Liberal and the other votes Conservative. One is a lifelong Habs fan, the other is an Oilers diehard.
Yet, every time we get together to share a beer and argue over hockey, we always find common ground on policy issues and our vision for Canada. The amount of time we find ourselves in agreement with one another profoundly transcends the very few issues on which we may disagree.
We are, to borrow a hockey analogy, in the centre-ice zone of Canadian politics. And we’re not alone. This middle ground – or sensible centre – is where most Canadians live. It’s where majority governments are formed and where big ideas that build the foundation for Canada’s future growth can find support.
We, in this vast and rich middle ground, agree on many things: The importance of the rule of law; fairness; social justice; equal opportunity; tolerance and inclusiveness; and respect for our differences. These are our core beliefs.
Our political parties, however, spend almost no time paying attention to this centre-ice zone. Instead, they patrol the edges of the political rink, the Liberals targeting support on the left while the Conservatives flirt with the right.
Party strategists know how many votes it takes to win and they understand – with remarkable precision in this micro-targeting world – where to get them. In an environment that is increasingly, if not yet structurally, polarized, the votes that can make the critical difference between winning and losing an election are typically found on the extremities.
Wedge politics – finding hot-button issues that divide – is how these votes are locked in. Every single political party is guilty of this, but it’s an approach that does the opposite of informing and uniting Canadians. Instead, it makes people angry, defensive and entrenched.
Our current political culture is a result of wedge politics, amped up on social media steroids, feeding off of division and conflict. This ultimately erodes confidence and respect for the institutions at the very heart of our democracy. It fosters small-minded thinking, timid policy and short-term tactics instead of a broad vision for our country.
As a result, in a world full of perils and challenges, well into a 21st century that should belong to Canada, we have become a country of middle-minded individuals facing constant distraction from the outer edges.
Canada’s voice and influence in the world is not measured by what we say, but by what we do. Getting big things done domestically or on the global stage won’t happen if we have a constant churn of minority governments, dependent on support from the edges to stay in power. We haven’t got time to waste with the number of difficult tasks on Canada’s “to-do” list.
To name just a few: We need to modernize and upgrade our commitment to our armed forces and our allies. Reconciliation with First Nations and Indigenous communities requires meaningful and large-scale action with long-term investments and significant legislative reforms. Stronger federal and provincial partnerships, as well as private-sector initiatives in support of our health care system, are long overdue. Our young families need a national daycare strategy and support for affordable housing.
Private enterprise must also be encouraged, supported and incentivized. The federal government must also be an active partner, champion, advocate, investor and facilitator. We should be setting aggressive targets for immigration in conjunction with heavy investments in our cities, critical infrastructure, education and health care systems.
Canada will not solve the global climate crisis by itself by turning our own oil-producing regions into outcasts and pariahs. The world will continue to need oil for years to come and we should produce all we possibly can to replace the tyrants and despots who hold the world hostage with their oil production. We can do that while investing massively in a transition to clean energy.
The Liberal Party formed a minority government based on only 33 per cent of the people who voted in the last election. Our government just recently moved even further left with a formal confidence-and-supply agreement with the NDP.
Where does that leave the majority of us in the middle? Not in a place that is sustainable for Canada, nor close to the future we deserve if we built it from the sensible centre.