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Canadian Christians appeal to Ottawa for good governance


December 4, 2008
- Dan Dyck

Winnipeg, Man. — The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC), of which Mennonite Church Canada is a member, has written a letter to Canadian parliamentarians appealing to them for wisdom and good governance in the midst of a political crisis.

In the Dec. 3 letter Bruce Clemenger, President of the EFC, makes four pleas, asking Canada’s political leaders to exercise civility, integrity, statesmanship, and grace.

Clemenger cites Romans 13 in which Paul calls government authorities God’s servants for good governance, adding, “… history has shown that government must transcend partisanship to be effective, and this is vital in the context of a minority Parliament.”

He concludes the letter with a challenge: “Good governance produces peace and security in the best of times and the worst of times.”

The entire letter can be found below.

For more information see Evangelical Fellowship of Canada - Current Initiatives

December 3, 2008

Re: Wisdom and Goverance
Open letter to Parliamentarians and Fellow Canadians

In an immediate post election time of economic uncertainty, when political stability, civility and statesmanship are critical, there is a need for Canadians and Parliament to transition from divisive and partisan politics to focused good governance. We need more than rhetoric about civility in the House of Commons. Canada needs a renewed practice of civility where humility, self-control, respect, courtesy, and good manners are practiced.

The political and economic uncertainty in our nation is palpable as we watch recession play out across the world stage. All national party leaders have stated that we are on the verge of a recession, the degree of which is uncertain. Canadians already face this reality. Some have seen their life savings and retirement fund significantly reduced. Some are facing temporary layoffs or the loss of employment. Some who are already unemployed or on fixed incomes will have difficulty in the now projected contraction of the economy.

The Canadian government faces certain limitations on what it can do in the face of global economic turmoil and there is legitimate disagreement among Canadians as well as our political leaders about what course of action the government can and should take. Resolving the course of action needed for this situation requires careful thought and the exploration of many possibilities. Careful thought and exploration requires open dialogue – the willingness to discuss, listen and consider alternatives. Our political institutions and traditions require a common commitment to reason together. It requires wisdom and heeding the simple rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Accordingly, I respectfully appeal to the leaders of our nation, the Members of our House of Commons and Senate and make these requests:

A plea for civility: After expressing the desire for a new level of cooperation and civility in the House of Commons, the rancour, barbs and vitriol among Parliamentarians and their partisan supporters has escalated. All four party leaders and many other prominent Canadians have made calls for a more conciliatory and tempered approach to the nation’s business. The behaviour of the House has not reflected a positive response to these calls. All people of goodwill are encouraged to compel our political leaders to remember their commitment to civility and to personally and collectively take responsibility to treat their colleagues on both sides of the floor of the House with dignity and respect. In fact, we as citizens also need to practice civility and respect in our communication with and about Parliamentarians on this issue, as well as in our conversations around the dinner table, with colleagues and neighbours, in our letters to the editor and calls to talk shows.

A plea for integrity: The language of coup and constitutional crisis may be overstated. There is a need to be disciplined in our rhetoric and choice of words to avoid creating instability and crisis beyond the serious issues already confronting the nation. The rule of law remains and the debate is not about altering the constitution or breaking with Parliamentary traditions, but how these traditions apply in the current context. There are, however, genuine questions of confidence and legitimacy: which party and leader have an agenda that can garner the support of a plurality of the elected representatives? Given the results of the recent election where no party or leader was given a majority, who can exercise power with legitimacy? On these issues there may be and are differences of opinion among people of goodwill. Now is not the time to play into people’s fears, but rather to explore possibilities, articulate principles and search for common ground.

A plea for statesmanship: It is vital that we consider the role of government. In Paul’s letter to the Romans the focus is on the role of the government and government leaders, who are called ministers of God and who are to govern for our good. This is the duty of Parliament and this supersedes partisanship. In the structure and practice of democracy, partisanship is one cornerstone of our Parliamentary system. However, history has shown that government must transcend partisanship to be effective, and this is vital in the context of a minority Parliament. The term statesman, still one of the most complimentary of descriptions one can assign to a politician or civic leader, has historically been reserved for one who is able to transcend partisanship or parochial interests for the greater good.

A plea for grace: In all human interaction the practice of apology, forgiveness and changed patterns of behaviour are integral to living and working with others. Who is beyond fault? Yet an admission of fault or error has come to be considered fatal in politics and politicians are loath to admit fault even if they, in their heart, know otherwise. Will an apology, if offered, be accepted? This too would require politicians to do something they are also not accustomed to – gracefully accepting an apology and not using the admission of failure or error to further discredit the apologizer or resurrect old grievances. Rather, they would extend grace and allow an opportunity for restoration and the hope of integrity in future interactions. Asking forgiveness and forgiving others. Some may argue that this is not how the real world of politics works. Well, perhaps it is time for something different. Sincere apologies extended and forgiveness granted would go a long way.

These disciplines, civility, integrity, statesmanship and extending grace, would be significant steps toward restoring and improving the functionality of Parliament and fostering political cohesion in uncertain times. It would help to restore the faith of citizens in a system intended for our good, and in our elected representatives. Good governance produces peace and security in the best of times and the worst of times.

Bruce J. Clemenger
The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada