‘POGG’ matters

We can’t leave politics to our political parties.

“Thank you, God, for . . . .”

Thanksgiving services and prayers often add long lists. The pattern is familiar from my years as a worship leader. Food, family, faith and freedom are near the top, followed by church, community and Canada. Things like the healthcare system and good government rarely make it before time is up. I wonder if Thanksgiving 2022 might see some re-ordering of our lists.

Nurses, bus drivers and other essential workers might be closer to top of mind this year. The daily news makes me thankful for “Peace, Order and Good Government” (POGG), which lies at the core of Canada’s history and governance. POGG is modest and community-minded, compared to the brash, individualist “Life, liberty and pursuit of happiness” that drives U.S. society, but it has put Canada near the top of many lists of good places to live. Globally, the war in Ukraine, U.S. polarization and outbreaks of conflict in Palestine, Ethiopia, Sudan and elsewhere are all failures of governance at their core. Many of the droughts, floods and other disasters in the news are partly a result of human choices or failures to act for the common good.

Closer to home, the abuse and growing violence in our public life erodes POGG. It is easy to shrug and dismiss it with “that’s just politics.” I hope we are becoming more aware that Canadians can no longer take for granted the quality of our public policy discussions, public services and public spaces. POGG matters. Gratitude for the way we live together, which is the essence of politics, is more than an item for Thanksgiving prayer. Gratitude, as Margaret Visser reminds us in her opus The Gift of Thanks is a life force, like grace, that shapes all our actions.

Civility matters

Gratitude for POGG means checking our own talk about political leaders and politics in coffee chats, social media posts or public rallies. Ironically, the civility of Queen Elizabeth II is what we are recalling on her death. Civility requires intentional effort and checking its erosion on every occasion.

Giving thanks for POGG also means we can’t leave politics to our political parties, especially in the current context of toxic partisanship and crass manipulations of the electoral system to gain power. In my experience, it is often the advocacy work of non-partisan, citizen groups between and around elections that prods political leaders toward responsible actions and holds them accountable. History shows that there is a direct relationship between a high level of public engagement in society and how well we can live together.

Common Good in Focus

The current focus on recognizing differences and coming to terms with past inequities requires a counter-balance on what binds us together and the common good. Sharing power does not need to be feared in a respectful, pluralistic society. Perhaps it is time to breathe new, real-life content into what we mean by pluralism, a buzz-word in our Reformed heritage. At this point in time, I think gratitude for POGG also means reducing the focus on single issue campaigns, however important each cause may be. Gratitude for POGG will focus more on the common good, what holds society together, and what kind of world we are going to leave for the next generation.


  • Kathy Vandergrift

    Kathy Vandergrift, a public policy analyst, brings experience in government, social justice work and a Master’s Degree in Public Ethics to her reflections.

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