Leader’s visit demonstrates changing times

As Prime Minister Stephen Harper makes his very first visit to the Cowichan Valley, we cannot help but reflect on how the times have changed.

We recall a stop by then-Prime Minister Jean Chrétien to a small hamlet in Nova Scotia.

He appeared and spoke briefly at a local park. Where things were really different is that the public was simply allowed to show up and join the crowd.

There were no security checks, or thoughts that someone with camera gear might be trying to hide a bomb or other weapon in the electronic bits and pieces.

When he was finished speaking, Chrétien walked the line of sawhorses that had been set up to give him a path, shaking hands and engaging in brief exchanges with people who crowded around for the chance to see the prime minister.

Regardless of political stripe, people wanted to meet the man who ran the country.

Those were the days when the worst that would happen was that a politician would get a pie to the face if a detractor got around security personnel.

Maybe the miscreant would get put in a Chrétien headlock.

No Canadian prime minister has ever been assassinated.

One of the great things about that is that Canadian prime ministers have seemed pretty approachable for the average person when they did appear in a town near you.

Then again, at that time you could also board a plane carrying a bag full of nail scissors, and a full body scanner wasn’t even a glint in the eye of a security officer.

With the fears about terrorism now so pervasive, it is a shame that our leaders have lost some of that casual approachability.

A question we should ask ourselves is whether these worries are truly grounded in reality, or whether we have allowed fear to shape our behaviours in undesirable ways.

The prime minister has always had security, and always will.

That’s just common sense.

Politics does tend to get folks hot under the collar and there are also the nutbars to contend with, who will latch on to any kind of public figure.

But we’d like to see a return to the days when we weren’t all so afraid of one another.

Caution, not isolation.

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