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WAYNE YOUNG: Federal leaders get a timely reminder

Wayne Young
Wayne Young - Contributed

As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ponders how to govern a divided country with his new minority government, he’d do well to take a few minutes to read a new book by a young Island author.

Nathan MacNevin, 12, stripped democracy down to its grassroots in a delightful children’s story that will soon be in Island schools and libraries. It has also been sent to the country’s political leaders and every one of them could take a lesson.

“… democracy is uniting people together to make decisions through a proxy, that’s the leader,” he said in a CBC interview this week as he accepted the first copy of his book. “It’s not the leader making decisions, it’s the community.”

His book, Paws on the Podium, follows a very civil election in an animal kingdom that opted to drop its monarchy and give democracy a try. It should remind political leaders that Canadians don’t appreciate the kind of fractious election campaign that ended last week with a minority Liberal government.

The 42-day campaign was frequently reduced to shouting matches, accusations and personal attacks among the leaders as they shredded the other party’s policies rather than expounding their own.

In Nathan’s story, voters got to hear and question all candidates on their policies and priorities in a respectful process that left everyone – especially the voters – feeling like their voices had been heard. For her thoughtful consideration of animals from all regions, the new prime minister (Beatrice Bear) earned 80 per cent of the popular vote.

In real life, Canadian voters appropriately decided not to reward any of the parties with a majority government after such a divisive campaign. Neither the Liberals nor the runner-up Conservatives could garner more than 35 per cent of the popular vote. Interestingly, had Trudeau kept a promise from the 2015 election to change the way we elect our MPs to proportional representation, the Conservatives would actually have gained more seats than the Liberals.

Nathan wrote his story last spring during a provincial election in P.E.I., one that also produced a minority government. His teacher was so impressed she sent it to Premier Dennis King and he was so “blown away” that he helped get the story published and circulated, including copies to all federal leaders.

If Nathan drew inspiration for his book from what was quite a civil election in P.E.I. last spring, he’d certainly have taken a much different narrative from the recent federal election.

Our leaders would do well to remember their words and tone do matter and that Canadians, among them impressionable 12-year-olds, are reading, watching and listening.

Nathan’s story was shared with a national audience when it was selected by CBC’s flagship newscast, The National, as their “moment” of the day.

“I love precocious, optimistic kids, especially when they’re talking about politics,” co-host Ian Hanomansing mused. “We need more of that.”

We certainly do. Nathan’s book should help youngsters understand our democracy and how it can work most effectively. In accepting his book, he said every child should have a voice and that their voice matters, especially when it comes time to vote.

In his first book, Nathan has certainly found his voice – let’s hope the leaders are listening.

Wayne Young is a freelance writer living in Summerside.

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