Change is all around us and there’s much more to come
Leadership candidate Kathleen Wynne (L) is congratulated by the runner-up leadership candidate Sandra Pupatello after winning the leadership bid to become the new Premier of Ontario at the Ontario Liberal leadership convention in Toronto January 26, 2013. (REUTERS/Mark Blinch)
By the time this newspaper hits the streets, Ontario will have a new premier-elect, and it’ll represent a big, big change.
The chances are pretty good that the premier-to-be will be a woman for the first time in Ontario’s history.
One of the women is a proud Italian-Canadian, and would be the first premier to come from outside the white, Anglo-Saxon compact that has occupied the office of the premier since Confederation.
Meanwhile, the other frontrunner in the now-concluded Ontario Liberal leadership race was a gay woman.
That, too, represents a pretty big change from the way things have been done in our past.
Women now dominate our provincial politics, with female premiers leading B.C., Alberta, Quebec and Newfoundland.
From the elevated heights of the federal cabinet, right down to the most modest municipal council, there have also been other weighty changes.
More women occupying positions of power. Openly gay leaders found everywhere. Visible minorities winning elections in places no one would have thought possible, just a few years ago.
Elsewhere, of course, the most dramatic example of political change is the young black man who won the U.S. presidency in 2008 — and who, older and grayer, won a big second mandate in 2012.
Who would have imagined, just a few years ago, that a black man with a funny-sounding name could ever become the most powerful person on Earth?
Not our parents. Certainly not our grandparents. They would have laughed, and shaken their heads.
It’s not just the people who are changing, of course. In policy terms, things have happened that none of us ever expected, even in our wildest dreams.
Gay marriage, once condemned by the likes of Stephen Harper, is now the law of the land, and most citizens couldn’t care less.
On the policy front, our prime minister himself embodies this sea change.
Once a proud social conservative — on gay rights, on abortion, on bilingualism — Harper has changed, too. He has refused to reopen the gay marriage debate, he has actively opposed attempts to recriminalize abortion, and he opens every speech he gives with excellent French.
Meanwhile, Harper — the man who once wrote that he would fight any policy that was “designed to radically or suddenly alter the ethnic makeup of Canada” — now presides over the most ethnically diverse caucus in his party’s history.
Political change, however much some may oppose it, is inevitable. It cannot be stopped.
Conservatives, being conservatives, often profess to be opposed to change.
In my new book, Fight The Right, I recall the axiom of the conservative deity, William F. Buckley.
Buckley — the conservative primus inter pares, and the founder of the Right’s house organ, The National Review — did not once dispute the suggestion that conservatives detest change. In fact, he proudly admitted it.
Conservatives, wrote Buckley, “stand athwart history, yelling stop.”
It’s a wonderful bit of imagery and writing — but the fact is that history cannot be stopped. Slowed down, perhaps. Delayed, like a traveller who misses a flight connection. But political change is mostly inexorable, and is happening all around us, all the time. It gets to where it is going.
The tendency to resist change — and to hold on to what is comfortable and familiar — is entirely human, and therefore entirely forgivable.
But political change, mostly, does not wait for us. And it seldom casts a glance in the rearview mirror.
Ask Calgary’s first Muslim mayor. Ask the woman who is now going to be premier of our largest province. Ask the gay men who dominate in the Prime Minister’s Office and his cabinet.
They’ll tell you: Change is upon us, and change is not so bad at all.
In Ontario, this morning, change has been chosen. In the days ahead, and in other places, there’s much more to come.
Are you surprised by the outcome of the Ontario Liberal leadership race?