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Sunny times with storm clouds approaching

A new year and a new prime minister. A moment to be thankful for small mercies.
Michael Atkins, President, Northern Ontario Business,

A new year and a new prime minister. A moment to be thankful for small mercies.

It seems strange to turn one’s country over to the same family more than once in a lifetime, but I must say I have approved in both instances, although I was pleased to see the father go when he did.

In 1968, I was coming of age with a Trudeau that took the country by storm, and in 2016 I am just aging as his son prevails. I’m not complaining. I would have taken an unemployed Ontario Hockey League mascot ahead of the previous regime.

These Trudeaus have a way of producing sounds bites that capture the spirit of the times.

For Pierre, it was: “There’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation,” which explained his government’s move to decriminalize homosexuality and the selling of contraceptives, among other things.

Today, it is Justin’s classic response to the gender-neutral cabinet: “Because it’s 2015.”

We shall see soon enough if our youthful PM has feet of clay (i.e. beginning with a surfeit of nannies), but for the moment let’s not quibble. His cabinet is actually allowed to talk, our scientists are free to speak, and we are back on the A list for cocktails in Europe.

Recently, I did something I have never done before and will likely not do again. I watched the entire first question period of our 42nd Parliament. It was great. It featured the respectful cut and thrust of a democracy in full action and accountability. The questions were good. The answers not bad. The impressive part was the quality of the participants. It made this old fogey proud. Of course, it has nowhere to go but down as tensions grow, new beginnings melt like last year’s snow, and promises of best behaviour succumb to political mischief and bad temper — but we’ll have the video. It was a peaceful transition of power to a new party and a new generation in this extraordinary country of ours. We should all be proud.

Storm clouds threaten the sweetness of our reclamation.

Thankfully, we are out of step with the worst of the xenophobia engulfing our neighbours to the south. It is going to get lonely on this Canuck island of civility and naiveté, in a world where warfare has been disrupted by drones on the one side and “self-radicalizing” jihadists on the other. This unconscionable disregard for the murder of innocent young children and civilians leads to hatred and rage and fear on all sides, which is amplified by social media.

The stupidity of America knows no bounds. It is as if the strategy is to create as many terrorists as possible in the shortest period of time. From George Bush’s invasion of Iraq (the remnants of Saddam’s forces now the backbone of ISIS) to Donald Trump’s calling for the forced registration of millions of Muslims (including naturalized citizens), the discussion is at the level of gang wars in south-central Los Angeles. The public discussion carries the sinister echo of Nazi Germany fuelled by the unfortunate belief that anyone should have the right to own a machine gun to settle their scores, or express their depression or rage, or both, by killing as many innocent people as possible at a movie theatre or shopping mall.

In these times of excess, few politicians are looking for calm and reason. They are looking for revenge. They have no idea what they are unleashing.

We are entering new and dangerous territory. The hope is that we can be one of the beacons of sanity in a world gone mad. This tsunami of religious and ethnic fear and rage has the potential to roll us back to the Dark Ages if we are not careful and lucky and determined.

The importance of Canada is not just what we do, but who we are. We are the world and, more often than not, we make it work.

We are not without our problems, but we did have an election and we made a deliberate choice for less boisterous leadership.

This government on almost every file is a radical change from its predecessor. The test will be to move from sunny to steadfast, from polite to resolute, and from neophytes to veterans in a hurry.

I like the start.