Canadian Politics on Display: Sometimes You Just Need to Hug it Out

A photo surfaced yesterday showing former federal trade minister Ed Fast and current federal minister of international trade Chrystia Freeland sharing a full-on hug in the House of Commons at Ottawa.

Wait a minute…how can this be?

Fast is a Conservative with the former ruling government. Freeland is with the still-shiny-new current Liberal government. Aren’t they supposed to be blaming each other for piddly little things for several years to come?

Fast had a major role in getting CETA 99 percent of the way completed (as described by Gerry Ritz last week) and Freeland closed the deal on Sunday, October 30, 2016. Freeland’s efforts will be remembered by the way she played hard ball storming out of Europe only a week earlier, describing the chance of a deal with the Europeans as “impossible”.

“This is a historic moment for Canada and I hope all members will put aside partisanship and support this progressive trade agreement,” said Freeland.

I think it is a powerful photo in a time of global political polarization between the right and left across North America.  We live in a time of severe blame, accusation, and extremes. Remember when it was common for Republicans and Democrats to work together? Remember when we viewed the bi-partisan tactics of Ted Kennedy or Lyndon Johnson as political leadership? The U.S. election has showcased Americans having an appetite to place blame on the other side instead of asking, “how can WE fix this together?” Lately, it seems Canadians are not much better in this regard at all.

Now with Huffington Post, Fox News, the Rebel and MSNBC as media sources, we are pushing ourselves deeper into the political polarization abyss. A great example was last week on this site when Ritz blamed the temporary failure of CETA completely on Freeland and the Liberals, and not on the EU region of Wallonia.

In a time where political polarization is on the rise, Freeland and Fast instead decided to celebrate seven years of hard work and mission well accomplished.

According to iPolitics, before the embrace Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau said,

“For seven years, there was an awful lot of work done on a free trade deal with Europe, and I need to credit the members opposite, including the member [Ed Fast] for Abbotsford, for doing a lot of work on that over the years,” he said, acknowledging Fast’s efforts.

“I am very pleased to be able to also credit the Minister of International Trade, who did an extraordinary job on getting the deal signed. We can all be proud that we now have an extraordinary positive deal with Europe,” said Trudeau.

Still, I am sure there are hardcore Conservatives and Liberals that find the photo neither heartwarming or positive. Depending on your political perspectives some people thought each of the huggers had ulterior motives for the embrace.

I say the public showcase of respect and gratitude is something both Canadians and Americans could use more of. Both our countries would be better off with it.

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