The past four weeks have been incredible on so many levels. The world has effectively shut down the global economy. Travel has stopped. People around the world are staying indoors and social distancing. Thousands and thousands of people are dying. The news is filled with sad stories, big numbers, graphs, and doom and gloom. But in Canada we have found a way to use this time to pull together. And I’m proud of us.
First I will be clear that I live in Ontario, Canada (for those outside the country). The Prime Minister of our country is Justin Trudeau, a Liberal who won his second term as leader of the country in a hotly contested election just last year. Our federal government is currently a minority government meaning that at almost any time the opposition parties could trigger a new election if they disagree with the Liberal agenda.
At the provincial level, our leader (Premier) is Doug Ford, a staunch conservative who has face his own share of criticism since being elected in 2018. The Conservative government in Ontario has a majority, and as such isn’t at risk of having an election called until their 4 year term is over.
Under normal circumstances these two men have very little in common in their policies (and some would say their core values). It is common for them to publicly bicker in the media, criticize the actions of each other, and blame each other for the perceived woes of their government.
But as the world descended into chaos, something very interesting happened here in Canada. We came together.
In the United States we still see partisan bickering at all levels. The President publicly lashes the elected democrats and his potential opponents in the upcoming election using Twitter as a weapon. He also publicly insults and berates the State Governors, using his daily press conferences to highlight their differences. The American political environment appears (to an outsider) to be more polarized than when this all began.
In Canada, however, we have found a way to bridge our differences in the interests of the greater good. Our Liberal Prime Minister is publicly thanking and recognizing the work of our Conservative Premier. Our Conservative Premier is using his press conference to compliment and thank our Liberal Prime Minister.
While people entrench with their party line in the US, dividing with their neighbours over their love or hate of the President or their governor, Canadians as a whole have embraced our leaders, regardless of their traditional political alignment.
Personally I can’t say I have historically been a huge supporter of either our Prime Minister or the Premier. But I can say that I have been incredibly impressed with the way both of them have handled this crisis, made the decisions that needed to be made, provided a calm daily update to the people of Ontario, and worked together to ensure that our health care system doesn’t get overloaded and our health and safety is as protected as possible.
My friends and family have similarly stopped talking about being Liberal or Conservative and are instead supporting our leaders and the work they are doing.
In fact, when inflammatory individuals try to start the partisan dialogue through critical Tweets or Facebook posts, they are quickly quieted by people bringing the conversation back to what matters – each other.
So far we have avoided partisan bickering and instead have turned to each other to provide whatever support each of us needs. People are shopping for those that can’t leave their houses. Community groups are receiving significant donations from those who may not be wealthy, but who are lucky enough to have kept their jobs. We are supporting the small businesses and restaurants who have had to close their doors by shopping locally and doing “curbside pickups”.
Most importantly we have shown that as Canadians that we care. We care about our neighbours. We care about our communities. We care about people from all over the world who are challenged and suffering right now.
And it is at times like this that I am most proud to be a Canadian.
Maybe it’s time for another “Joe Canada” moment…
Tim Empringham, MBA
Tim Empringham is a passionate advocate for Innovation in organizations of all sizes as a mechanism to drive growth, create uncontested market space, create new customer value, and drive efficiency into the internal organization. His focus is on disruption of thinking and markets through integrative thinking, structured Innovation frameworks, and leadership development of Innovation and Change leaders within the organization.