Paul Dewar’s message to Parliament: ‘Take off the armour of our political party’

‘Imagine how different it would be if we put our swords down and our shields down for a moment. This is my proposition to you.’

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Lifetime Achievement award winner Paul Dewar shares remarks during the Parliamentarian of the Year awards at the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa, Nov. 5, 2018. (Blair Gable)

UPDATE: Paul Dewar died on Feb. 6, 2019. Here’s what he said three months ago in his message to parliamentarians.

On Monday, Nov. 6, former NDP MP Paul Dewar was awarded the Parliamentarian of the Year Lifetime Achievement award. His acceptance speech was a call for collaboration in a time of extreme partisanship and cynicism, for MPs to “go across the aisle, introduce yourself…Imagine how different it would be if we put our swords and shields down for a moment. This is my proposition to you.”

Here is his full speech:

I will make a promise to you that I will keep. And this promise is that my comments are longer than a question in Question Period but shorter than an Opposition filibuster. [Laughter].

I would like to begin with a request. Hearken back to when you first got interested in politics—including journalists who are here—and interested in serving the public. For some, it was as volunteers that led to becoming professional staffers, and some it was for becoming elected representatives.

Whatever your history, I would like to believe that you got involved to make a difference. Now, I want you to keep this in mind because I have some homework for you. I want you right now, please turn to the person close to you and do the following. Tell them your name and why you got interested in politics. I’ll give you two minutes. Please do that. And maybe some of you don’t know.

[Audience members speaking amongst themselves]

I want you to think about this for a moment. What if the House of Commons could be like this? What if we could go across the aisle, introduce ourselves, and share not only our motivation for entering politics, but hey, you might even agree with a few of the issues, and perhaps even work together. Wouldn’t that be truly radical?

It is not time for some real change, don’t you think? Is it not time to take off the armour of our political party and work together as people representing citizens to build a better country for everyone?

In fact, we welcome people from all over the world. Why not welcome and interact with the people from different political parties? Imagine—imagine how different it would be if we put our swords down and our shields down for a moment. This is my proposition to you.

I entered politics, like many of you, because I wanted to work with all of you and my constituents to make a difference in our community and our country. My most enjoyable and fulfilling moments as an MP include: supporting our constituents; working together on committees; and, representing our country abroad. Remember these moments. Wheels are up, you’re away from this place—remember it’s my home town, and I tell most of you get out of my home town [laughter]—for good reason, to interact with each other.

But one of my proudest moments as an MP was when we reached beyond partisanship and apologized to our Indigenous citizens. It was a moment to behold. In a world steeped in explosive populism that hearkens back to a dangerous time, let us be the outliers and embrace the good that exists all around us.

Canada can be unique, and Canadians can care for each other, regardless of differences. Let us transcend what is to what can be. Let us respect each other and fight cynicism, which only promotes division, fear, and hatred. And acknowledge and honour and continue to build on the strengths of our institutions. Because, my friends, they’re always vulnerable.

Look at who we’re saving and serving and why. We are all in this together. This is our country, the place our children and grandchildren will inherit. Our communities are the place we belong, beautiful places that are our source of strength and wellbeing.

As you know, over the last nine months it has become clear to me that my community is really my source of strength. As I walk this journey of life approaching death, I am reminded of something called ‘the time in between’. This has become a framework for me to move forward with my initiative, Youth Action Now.

Youth Action Now brings together young people from diverse backgrounds to support their collective leadership and increase their impact in making a positive change within their communities. The goal is simple: unleash the power of young people to make a difference and a transformative change in their communities and our country. You can be part of this, of course, by donating time and sharing your talents—and some of your money. So please consider that.

While Youth Action Now has been my project during my time in between, I ask you to think about the time in between elections. Often this time in between is a time when we can actually work together. During the time in between, we should build relationships with each other to make a better country, a better world. Remember—remember, please, your reasons for seeking office. Propose solutions, reject cynicism, respect ideas, collaborate.

Remember we are all in this together, and we are stronger than any of us is alone. When we are given our mandate today for making a better tomorrow, imagine what would happen if we took our inspiration from each other, not by taking down another Member of Parliament’s personality; rather, we lift ourselves up by supporting ideas for a better future. Please embrace the beauty that exists within all of us, and let that be your guide.

Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; and small minds, people. And that’s a mentor of mine in history, and that’s Eleanor Roosevelt. You are all good people. Remember why you’re here. Collaborate, and hopefully continue the conversations you’ve had tonight. Thank you so much. Merci beaucoup.