May 16, 2011

Conservative MP, Ryan Leef

Member of Parliament for Yukon

Dear Ryan,

Congratulations on your election win, May 2nd. During the election, you expressed a wish to represent all Yukoners regardless of how they voted. I applaud you for that. 

I am an artist/activist living in Whitehorse. Other than a brief membership in the Progressive Conservative Party in Alberta, I’ve never belonged to or actively supported any political party. I am non-partisan and more concerned about the democratic health of our country than in promoting partisan ideology.

You and I have different points of view on matters of public policy. I did not vote for you.

Therefore, I have a proposal for you. I will write you one letter a month for as long as you sit as my Member of Parliament. The purpose of these letters is to create dialogue, to discuss my concerns as a constituent and to help me understand your perspective. I will refrain from emotional rants. In return I ask you to avoid scripted Conservative Party talking points in your replies. The letters will be courteous.  They will also be frank, challenging and, from time to time, uncomfortable. 

I intend to make my letters open to the public and publish them on the Internet as a blog. I will publish your responses only with your permission. 

The subject of the first letter is civility in government. Character assassination, dirty tricks and bullying have become increasingly common in Parliament, the Senate and within government. Efforts to create scapegoats, fear mongering and even hate mongering are seen as smart tools to shape public opinion. Those we elect to represent us at international events embarrass all Canadians by conducting smear and blame campaigns when abroad. Those who speak truth to power now risk not only their livelihoods, but their reputations and their right to privacy. If school children behaved this badly, they would be expelled. 

These behaviours have poisoned the Canadian political landscape. Canadians have become habituated to Republican-style attack ads and behaviours intended to appeal to what is worst in human nature. Some of us have learned to admire bullies. Others have become disillusioned; unable to trust or respect their representatives and therefore no longer participating in the democratic process. It is common to hear people say, “they are all the same,” when talking about politicians. How sad is that? 

Larry Bagnell leaves his office with the respect and affection of many Yukoners. As our representative, he worked extremely hard. He didn’t waste his time on dirty politics. He treated colleagues and opponents alike with courtesy. His concern for the well-being of all Yukoners was sincere. I hope you follow in Larry’s footsteps in these regards. 

I encourage you to ally yourself with Conservative MP Michael Chong who has undertaken the lonely task of restoring civility to the House of Commons.  

Good luck, Ryan. May your time in Ottawa be constructive and may you always walk on the high road. 

Respectfully yours,

Linda Leon

Linda Leon

Linda Leon is an artist and writer living in Whitehorse.