Op-Ed

Do Trudeau's scandals really matter when compared to Trump' antics? Photo: CC, Gage Skidmore, A.k.fung.

Taking little issues seriously keeps democracy healthy

In the shadow of Donald Trump’s election in the United States, one may be forgiven for dismissing the Canadian media’s coverage of so-called “scandals” as the act of a younger sibling crying out for attention.

With the press now turning to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s vacation plans, it might seem, at first blush, that the word “scandal” means something entirely different in the Great White North.

Are we really expected to care that our prime minister rode in a religious leader’s private helicopter when the leader of the free world is quite possibly starting the first literal Twitter war?

Should we really be complaining about our democracy, especially when Canada is enjoying its time in the sun on the world stage, with some proclaiming it as the last bastion of freedom itself?

Yes.

We should be hanging on every word of reports of our prime minister’s use of vacation time, our senators’ expenses, and a Phoenix that just can’t seem to rise from the ashes.

While the drama south of the border can make these Canadian kerfuffles seem all but insignificant, there’s very little you as a non-American can do about it. You can’t vote for a new government and you don’t have a member of the U.S. congress to complain to. What you can do, however, is pay attention to democracy in your own country.

Trust me, after seeing so many problems unfold, many Americans must long for the chance to quibble over expense reports and the odd helicopter ride.

But we do have to be careful, and see our smaller scandals for what they are. We can’t let Trudeau bumbling into someone at the House of Commons dominate our news cycle over more important issues.

We need to realize that a scandal constitutes more than the personal actions of politicians. It also includes revelations of deeper societal issues, like the terrible conditions found in numerous Aboriginal communities in our nation.

As long as we accord them their proper place in our minds, paying attention to political scandals in Canada will play a central role in keeping our democracy strong.

To even come close to living up to the “last bastion of freedom” moniker, we need to recognize all the problems affecting our society—social, economic, and, yes, political of all sizes. Only then can we make real progress in our society.

Because here’s the thing, American politics is like a slow motion car crash right now—we just can’t seem to look away. But that collision is on the other side of the road, and if we stare for too long we risk veering off course ourselves.