The middle ground

On the Other Hand

There certainly was quite a flurry this week in Ottawa. Social media was a-buzz and all the major networks were broadcasting the pictures of Prime Minister Trudeau forcibly extracting the Conservative House Leader from a melee of New Democrat MPs in the House of Commons.

From the pictures, it looked like a mad dad (Trudeau) intervening with a few physical tugs and an accidental elbow to try and get his misbehaving children under control.

The press referred to it as the Prime Minister manhandling opposition members in parliament, but it wasn’t until the third day that I caught a broadcast that explained the why behind the dust up.

It seems that in an attempt to compress debate on the controversial right-to-die legislation, the Liberals had passed a rule giving their Ministers special powers to stop debate.

Before I knew the entire facts, I blamed the ND’s for further demeaning the reputation and decorum of the House of Commons by blocking a member’s ability to get to his seat.  But after hearing about the Liberals’ inappropriate rule change, it was apparent the ND’s were attempting a form of civil disobedience—House of Commons style.

Many Canadians are definitely not of the opinion that the right-to-die legislation should be expanded as proposed by the ND’s to allow adolescents or people who cannot speak for themselves the right to die.

However as elected officials representing a good portion of the population, their voice needs to be heard in the House as well.

Cutting the debate short (Liberals) is like a parent (Trudeau) who so frustrates a child (ND) that the child acts out in a way that really tries the parent’s patience and temper. Not realizing that if the parent had handled it differently from the start, the problems would never have happened the way they did.

Trudeau apologized and the Liberals wisely reversed their position so that the invocation of closure continues to require a motion in the House. Trudeau likely learned, again, another life lesson in politics.

The Supreme Court of Canada is also culpable to some degree. Their imposition of an arbitrary date of June 6 put unnecessary pressure on the legislative branch to get the bill passed quickly.

The Supreme Court has the power and responsibility to rule on legislation in terms of whether it is constitutional or not, but they need to be more respectful towards Parliament.  Parliamentarians, not judges, have the direct responsibility to determine public consensus, build public policy and debate a bill properly.

The incident is over.  The opposition has fodder for the next election, the Prime Minister apologized twice, or was it three times, and the offensive rule change was retracted.

But the right-to-die legislation and regulations are important for citizens and the media to continue to follow.  Doctors who do not wish to participate for religious and moral reasons should be able to opt out.  All patients who are under 18, vulnerable or unable to make a clear decision on their own must get the protection they deserve.

We may absolutely despise the current legislation proposed, but democracy is a compromise of competing values of a collection of individuals called Canadians.  Even without the ruling by the Supreme Court, our society is moving in that direction.

My rule of thumb with legislation is that if both extreme positions are highly critical, it usually means the middle ground has been found. That appears to be the case with the proposed right-to die legislation.

And in a democracy, even if we don’t particularly like the outcome, that’s a good thing.

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