A message that dropped into my in-basket this week provided one of those moments that buoys your hope for humanity. And it was a political message at that. As a member of the Alberta NDP, I have been receiving messages from the various candidates in the current race for leadership of the party. Some seek volunteer time, some seek funds, some discuss their ideas for the party’s future, some just announce events.

It is a cliche, of course, that NDP leadership races are generally civilized affairs, unlike the rough and tumble contests of some other parties. This race is typical. Nonetheless, the missive from candidate Kathleen Ganley was exceptional. Ganley was Minister of Justice and Solicitor General in the Notley government.

She filled the page not with reasons why we should vote for her, but rather with accolades for her competitors. For example, she says about Jodi Calahoo Stonehouse: “smart, passionate and incredibly engaging.” Sarah Hoffman “exemplifies tireless commitment and proven leadership.” And about her major adversary, Naheed Nenshi, he “has done an incredible job of bringing attention to our party .… He has the knack for making people feel welcome within Alberta’s NDP.”

She even waxed generous about the two candidates who have dropped out of the race. She referred to Rakhi Pancholi as “a dynamic and engaging leader that can build a strong team” and about labour leader Gil McGowan she said she would like the party to “bring forward many of Gil’s policy ideas.”

She also said that she would ensure “every one of these amazing people has a prominent place in our party.” A cynic might suggest she is just ensuring herself a prominent place if someone else wins the race, but with her ability she’s a shoo-in for that, no need to pander.

The quality of political discourse has taken a low turn in recent years. In the U.S., Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News almost single-handedly dragged journalism into the sewer. The Internet has not helped. But the major culprit has been the execrable and newly minted felon, Donald Trump.

Trump is contemptuous of the norms that are necessary for maintaining a decent and democratic society. He shamelessly lies, crudely insults anyone who displeases him, including members of his own party, and rejects those democratic institutions such as the courts and the electoral system when they don’t meet his needs. He trashes civility and manifests no basic decency.

At one time if there were even rumours that you had falsified records to cover up sex with a porn actress right after your wife had given birth to your child, you would be too ashamed to run for office. And no political party would want you. But Trump is shameless, and his party worships him.

He contaminates everyone who gets close to him, perhaps even supreme court judges. I fear he may have even contaminated our own Pierre Poilievre. Poilievre is no Trump, but he often appears to be a bit of an apostle—Trump lite you might say—with his incessant insulting of his opponent and his “everything is broken” mantra.

While Kathleen Ganley’s intra-party praise of her opponents is much too much to expect between parties, civility isn’t. It should be the norm.

I am reminded of the time in the House of Commons when Reform Party MP Jan Brown placed a yellow rose on the empty desk of Bloc Québécois party leader Lucien Bouchard who was suffering from a life-threatening illness. Bouchard was a Québécois separatist, a blood enemy of Brown’s party, but that didn’t preclude her from committing one of the most gracious acts the often uncivil House has ever seen.

Politicians such as Ganley and Brown, politicians who can rise above the scrum, are all too rare. Yet rarely have we needed them more.

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