Let's trash our simplistic stereotypes
By: Jared Milne
| Posted: Saturday, Jan 19, 2013 06:00 am
Right-wingers are hard-working entrepreneurs who get up early on Saturday to take their kids to hockey practice, and stop at Tim Hortons for coffee on their way to work. Either that, or they’re greedy corporate monsters who don’t care how much the poor or the environment suffer while they line their pockets.
Left-wingers are compassionate and nurturing, interested only in helping the poor and caring for the environment and fighting for social justice. Either that, or they’re snobby elitists and civil servants who look down on people who are different than they are, and love nothing more than spending other peoples’ money on their pet projects.
Those are the stereotypes we as Canadians hear on a regular basis, but just how true are they? In my experience, right-wing Conservatives are just as apt to show concern for the environment, compassion for the poor and support for social justice, while left-wing Liberals and NDPers are just as apt to be the hard-working hockey parents who drink Tim Hortons coffee and show entrepreneurial spirit in owning their own businesses. Some people might adhere to the negative stereotypes that I previously mentioned, but applying them to every single person who happens to vote for a particular political party is just plain stupid.
Take Preston Manning, for example. He’s one of the most prominent conservatives in Canada, and yet he’s gone on record as saying that there should be a “price on carbon,” and bluntly stating that Albertans need a “wake up call” on the environment. Or, for a local example, take city councillor Cam MacKay, who in the 2011 city budget proposed giving disabled AISH recipients a discount on public transit. Such actions don’t exactly mesh with the negative stereotypes that conservatives don’t care about the environment or people in need. Nor do the civil servants I know who can be counted on to vote Conservative come election time – they don’t exactly live up to the stereotype of public servants being snobs who only listen to CBC and love spending other peoples’ money.
And then there are local guys like Bob Russell and Gord Hennigar. Russell works as a paralegal while Hennigar owns his own business. Both men are their own bosses, and they’re both also heavily involved with junior hockey. According to the stereotypes, they should be Conservatives, but in fact they’re devoted Liberals. And this doesn’t even take into account all the various small business owners who’ve run for the Liberals, the NDP or the Greens at the federal or provincial levels. These people risk their own capital and own their own businesses, and yet they support parties that are generally viewed as left-wing.
Different parts of Canada also break with these stereotypes. Alberta is often seen as the right-wing and business-oriented province, yet we have prominent Alberta conservatives like Preston Manning and Peter Lougheed (who called for a slowdown in the development of the oilsands) taking stances that, according to the stereotypes, would only be associated with left-wingers. Conversely, Ontario and Quebec are said to be more left-wing and government-heavy, and yet those provinces have noted high-tech industries. A company like Research In Motion might be in trouble now, but how could a company like that have ever gotten so big in the first place if central Canada didn’t have an entrepreneurial spirit of its own?
Do some people live up to the stereotypes described? Of course they do. The problem, though, is that the positive stereotypes are often used to make one’s own political group look good and make the other political group look bad. This is one of the biggest, albeit overlooked, problems in Canadian politics today – the tendency among some pundits and bloggers to demonize other Canadians for their political beliefs, to the point of making it seem as though other people are less Canadian, less Albertan, or what have you, based on their beliefs. Many Canadians readily identify with Tim Hortons coffee drinkers and hockey parents, for instance, but Tim Hortons drinkers and hockey parents can just as easily vote Liberal or NDP as they can vote Conservative. Similarly, many Canadians identify with helping the poor and caring for the environment, but Conservatives are just as apt to do this as Liberals or NDPers.
Instead of judging entire political groups or even entire regions of Canada, we’d all be much better off if we tried to actually see each others’ points of view and get to know one another as Canadians, instead of judging each other based on stereotypes that often don’t apply.
Jared Milne is a St. Albert resident with a passion for Canadian history and politics.