When Jane Philpott and Jody Wilson-Raybould decided to go Independent, a Toronto activist was urging them on

“Like every major party, the irony is the NDP spends two months making this list just to make sure they don’t pull a Liberal on election day — but the Liberals and Conservatives are being pulled anyways with their own lists — and it all ends up being layers and layers of slapstick comedy. And I think the whole thing is a scam. There’s no benefit to this model; it’s an industry, and people make a lot of money on it.”

Dave Meslin says independence from the party system is one of the best ways to disrupt the toxic polarization that now passes for political discourse in Canada.

Meslin’s new book, Teardown: Rebuilding Democracy From The Ground Up, has just crept into the Star’s bestseller list.

As Meslin explains it, the goal is to win Independent seats in Ottawa and prove to Canadians something that is already happening elsewhere — the emergence of independent blocs, or “non-party parties,” in places like the Republic of Ireland.

“I’m not in Ottawa. I don’t travel in those circles. Most of my work on democratic reform has been local in nature and yes, it sometimes involves couch-surfing because there’s no money to waste on hotels,” Meslin said with a laugh.

“But the important thing here is to look beyond Canada and you see this wave all across the western world where traditional parties are being challenged. Yes, some of the winning challengers tend to be vacuous ideologues, whether it’s a comedian in Ukraine or Donald Trump in America.

“But there are other places where people who aren’t ideologues or reality-show stars (are) challenging the major parties. We’re seeing in some countries groups being formed that are non-party parties — Ireland is one example, but there are others — that are sharing in power as loose federation of independent legislators. And rather than being committed to a specific platform or allegiance to a leader, they are committed to a certain type of process — and that process is collaboration, evidence-based deliberative dialogue and no party whip telling them what to say or how to vote.

“In my view, the timing has never been better to make that happen in Canada. We are so ready for something new because so much trust has collapsed. Our major parties have proven themselves so centralized and so incapable of allowing even their own voices to be heard.”

Independence from the party system, Meslin argues, is one of the best ways to disrupt the toxic polarization that now passes for political discourse in Canada.

“All that hostility turns people away because at this point, most MPs don’t have a voice or any role at all, really. Their job is to show up and hit the button they are told to hit. And if someone on your side stands up and says something, you cheer, and if someone on the other side stands up, you jeer.

“It’s so sad — it’s such a mockery of what we’re capable of as a species. Because we know that humans can easily be drawn into divisive fights — it’s in our blood, we thrive on it — but under the right conditions humans can also be incredibly good listeners, they can have empathy, they can be humble, they can compromise. MORE

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