Only in Canada…


Last week, a federal member of Parliament was removed from the plane he was riding on because he was too drunk to fly. Then the Winnipeg Chief of Police called on Winnipeggers of all faiths to pray for a better and safer city.

Would you like to take a guess at which one got in the most media hot water? Which one was taken to task publicly by an Opposition MP? Hint: it may not be the one you think…

I listened with dismay this morning as Acting Chief Clunis was questioned by CBC reporter Katie Nicholson. But the dismay grew into frustration when ethicist Arthur Schaeffer shared his angry bit about public officials using their functions as a “bully pulpit to proselytize”.

I was Campaign Manager for a candidate in the last Federal Elections. My candidate, who was seeking a third mandate, was very open about his faith and the fact that he was a religious believer. Despite repeated attempts from various political opponents to make hay of his outspoken principles, he was re-elected twice with increasing majorities.
During a 2011 mid-campaign debate organized by local media, a journalist asked the candidates about the separation of Church and State. Three of the four candidates gave answers that brought points I would like to make in response to the CBC interview with Police Chief Clunis and the intolerant – and disappointing given his stature in the academic ethics community – pronouncement by Arthur Schaeffer.

My boss, the incumbent Member of Parliament for the area said: “I have never been shy or deceitful about the Christian values that inform the conduct of my life. This is an integral part of who I am. People tell me they vote for me because I am honest, principled, caring and loyal and my value system is part of what people vote for when they vote for me.”
The NDP candidate agreed that his Christian values also had an important role in shaping his views on social justice and environmental stewardship, but since Church and State are separated in Canada, he didn’t understand the point of the question.

The Liberal candidate simply said: “There is no place for values in politics”.

Oh. Is there really? Why then do people say they are tired of political rhetoric, vacuous speech and meaningless points? Values and principles are the core of public service.

Arthur Schaeffer’s point that public officials should never let odors of religious beliefs emanate from the conduct of their duties shows an infantile understanding of religious beliefs and how intertwined they are in a person’s entire being, physical, emotional and moral. Arthur Schaeffer may as well have said that only atheist and humanist were fit for public office. Chief of Police Clunis cannot park his religious beliefs at the door any more than he can change the colour of his skin: they are an integral part of the rich personal tapestry of life experience that made him the best candidate for the job. A call for prayer is not an obligation to prayer; it is just an appeal to faithful Winnipeggers to put all the chances on their side for their City. If this does nothing for Arthur Schaeffer, nothing compels him to join the effort. As for me, I’ll take a principled Chief of Police over a politically correct doormat at anytime.

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