In the last few years, I have noticed a shift in the way people across Canada view and react to politicians and politics. There is more volatility, political conversations have become more personal and people have seemed more divided than I’ve ever seen in my lifetime.

The latest example was the verbal harassment Canada’s Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland received just recently, when she made a visit to Grande Prairie, Alberta. For those who don’t know, a video surfaced recently of two people, a man and a woman, cornering Ms. Freeland near an elevator, yelling obscenities at her and telling her to leave Alberta. I don’t care what political party you support, or what policies or measures you believe in, this is unacceptable behaviour and certainly not the compassion and respect Canadians are known for on a larger scale.

Now, as noted in my opening, this is not the first time I’ve noticed the changing culture of politics in Ontario and in Canada. In 2021, a man wielding a knife, who was yelling threats, was arrested in front of Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s home. Then, of course, there was also the alleged gravel throwing incident during the last federal election campaign at a Justin Trudeau campaign stop.

Now, for those of you who think this isn’t happening at a local level, you are wrong. In May, former Oshawa councillor Amy McQuaid-England posted a video online, where she noted she was stalked, harassed, and had received regular death threats and other “vile messages” during her time as a councillor.

More and more I cringe, when political conversations pop up, during holidays or celebrations, mostly because I don’t know how these opinions or thoughts will be handled, or what avenue the conversation will take. In addition, social media is becoming more and more a platform for angry rhetoric.

If we want to attract new ideas, new political candidates, the toxic culture of politics at every level needs to be addressed. I understand being angry or upset at a policy or political party. But thoughts and opinions need to be offered civilly and respectfully to politicians. We all can accomplish a lot more if we work together. There is nothing constructive about trying to tear down a person.

At this time, I think the words from former federal NDP leader Jack Layton’s last letter ring true. “Love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair.”