It’s a common scene on any given Sunday morning: friends gathered around a table loaded with food, digging into a delicious brunch and enjoying a good chat.
Far less common is when the people around the table are former political adversaries.
Last weekend, Eric Duncan, the Conservative MP for Stormont–Dundas–South Glengarry, Heather Megill, his Liberal challenger in the recent federal election, and Sabile Trimm, the former candidate for the People’s Party of Canada, gathered at Trimm’s organic farm in Alfred, Ont.
It was wonderful. It was a lot of laughing and teasing and camaraderie.– Heather Megill, former Liberal candidate
The former NDP candidate, Kelsey Catherine Schmitz, was unable to join them due to a family issue.
“We talked about a whole bunch of things,” Megill told Ottawa Morning’s Robyn Bresnahan. “Climate change, Trump and organic farming. We talked about the leaders of our various parties, and we talked about our hopes and dreams for Canada in general. It was wonderful. It was a lot of laughing and teasing and camaraderie.”
Duncan and Megill have been friends since before the campaign, when they worked together on the board of the United Way. Later, when Megill began running for political office, Duncan worked behind the scenes on an opponent’s campaign.
In a political climate that’s becoming increasingly polarized, meetings like these are a rare thing.
During the campaign, Megill’s image on some of her campaign signs was smeared with black. Someone ran over some of Duncan’s lawn signs with a car, and Schmitz had her tires slashed.
Ironically though, those petty acts of political vandalism seem to have brought the former opponents closer together.
“We’re likely not going to find common ground on the federal budget between Liberals and Conservatives,” Megill acknowledged. “But the way that we talk to each other, the way we communicate can be important, and just being respectful. Several … people in our riding have appreciated the tone that we’ve taken.”
Agreeing to disagree
While there’s plenty to disagree about, they all agree the tone on Parliament Hill needs to change.
“We all visited schools and that was something the young people brought up to us, is how negative it is when people watch Question Period,” Megill said.
Duncan said he’d love to see their brunch meeting become a model for collaboration and collegiality in the House of Commons.
“I’m not naive to think that there [isn’t] partisanship … it’s the nature of our system,” he said. “But I think [collaboration] does happen behind the scenes a lot more than people think, and … in a minority government, even more so.”
The former adversaries say they plan to continue meeting for brunch, and agreeing to respectfully disagree.