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Setting division aside…for the moment

Puneet Sandhar: We can’t let an election about nothing distract us from all the ‘somethings’ the country needs to tackle.
METAPHOR ALERT: Conservative and Liberal campaign planes parked side by side. (Andrew Bondarchuk/

The federal election has come and gone, and no one could tell you about what it was about. There wasn’t a substantive debate about an idea or issue, just a show about who could get the most viral video – usually driven by petty attacks, bluster, or chauvinism.

This isn’t to say that elections shouldn’t be partisan, or that there won’t be negative attacks – that’s the nature of politics. But it should be about something.

In past elections, we tackled issues of Canadian unity, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, or about our economy. This election was an episode of Seinfeld – a show about nothing.

This decline of politics was a disservice to Canadians, and they responded in kind, leaving no party with a majority. At the same time, they gave an opportunity to politicians on all sides to reset and elevate our politics by finding ways to work together on major issues.

In the next election, Liberals and Conservatives will be understandably focused on  winning a majority. But if the focus remains solely speaking to their support bases and focusing on wedge issues, they will be denied once again.

To win back that trust, both parties will need to show Canadians they can look beyond their base. They need to be bold in finding solutions to universal issues like the economy, affordability, and our rights.

Minority governments in the past have been able to do this. Universal healthcare, labour rights, and our response to the 2009 recession: all tackled in minority governments and we came out stronger.

There’s no shortage of issues we need to tackle, from the ongoing affordability crisis, pipelines, or the attack on human rights in Quebec. Each one risks further dividing Canada.

We need to find some agreement on these issues. To do that, we all need to halt the over-the-top language like western separation, and stop making baseless accusations against each other.

There’s still a space and need for politics, but it can’t come at the expense of Canada. We’ve done this before. Ten years ago, we were able to find agreement on how to respond to the global recession. In the 1960s, we found agreement on universal healthcare. In both cases cooperation didn’t exclude politics because we moved on to the next issue.

We need to do the same.

For all federal parties, the easiest place to cooperate and find agreement is on Quebec’s Bill 21. It’s an afront to our Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the values we hold dear, so no federal leader should have any qualms in standing up against it. This is their opportunity to show Canadians that national issues won’t be lost or ignored in order to serve their politics.

The 2019 election may have been issueless, but it does present an opportunity to turn around our politics, take on issues, find agreement and get things done.

Puneet Sandhar is a lawyer and managing partner of Sanghera Sandhar Law Group based in Surrey, B.C and practices in the area of Real Estate Law and Land Development. She has and continues to serve on boards for numerous organizations including the Surrey Homeless and Housing Society, City of Surrey Board of Variance. She was awarded the Queens Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012 for her volunteerism and work in the community.