Before the start of the 2015 Canadian election, a poll found that the major issues on voters' minds were jobs and economy, public safety and crime, health care and environmental protection.

Another poll out early in September found social issues were completely overshadowed by Canadians' concerns about the state of the economy. A very bad situation for Stephen Harper and the Conservatives given they had framed themselves as the stewards of the economy, while at the same time Statistics Canada announced that the country was officially in a recession.

That seems like a long time ago now, and in the end a very different issue than the economy took centre stage and held the spotlight. Mid-election (Sept. 15th to be exact) the Federal Court of Appeal released a decision that reinforced its earlier ruling that people have the right to wear a religious face covering like a niqab during the Canadian citizenship ceremony.

Despite the courts shooting down its latest appeal, the Conservative government vowed to put in yet another appeal. And from there the election turned from a healthy debate about the direction of Canada's economy, to an increasingly hurtful and dark place, that in the end proved that Canadians are in fact (if you didn't already know) awesome.

Immediately following the Supreme Court ruling, the Conservative machine shifted from talking about the economy to the niqab.

The "niqab shift" was classic politicking.

It was a purposeful distraction away from a complicated and hard-to-win issue like the economy to one that entrenches the electorate in a terrible us-versus-them dynamic. The idea behind such a shift is to find a "wedge" — an issue that has a simple pro and con argument, that forces voters into one camp or another.

A good wedge issue also falls along perceived ideological lines, so voters can easily identify which party stands where on the issue. A much-used political wedge over past elections in Canada to an extent, and every time in the U.S. (by both the left and right), is abortion.

Abortion is a great wedge issue with entrenched views, a clearly defined set of rationales that allow people to easily decide whether they are for or against it and with political parties tied to one side or the other. Another classic wedge issue is same-sex marriage, one that I experienced in all its hateful glory in the 2006 Canadian federal election.

A good wedge issue also must run deep and be perceived by voters as an issue attached to their core values, making the issue an emotional one. Abortion for instance serves well as a proxy debate for the much deeper issue of a religious versus secular state.

And same-sex marriage had much less to do with the threat to the sanctity of marriage as it did the much larger issue of homophobia. The niqab wedge served well as a stand-in for a much deeper and unspoken debate in this country that runs along racial lines.

Stephen Harper's amplification of the niqab issue stoked the flames started with the mid-election Supreme Court ruling, and the former prime minister's use of the term "old stock" Canadians was not a slip of the tongue, but instead a calculated squeeze of lighter fluid that helped enflame the situation. There are two powerful products in politics that must be handled carefully: fear and hope.

Fear and hope are emotions, not logic, so the results are often potent and always unpredictable. In 2008, President Obama ran on hope and inspired a nation. In 2015, Prime Minister Harper ran on fear.

Specifically, Harper tried to run on the fear of otherness, a human psychological mechanism that history has shown can be used in very powerful ways with devastating and tragic consequences.

And it is on that happy thought where Canadians being awesome comes in! By un-electing Harper, Canadians sent a clear message that we will not be easily herded into an us-versus-them argument.

Canadians (for the most part) refused to be drawn into an debate that pitted Canadians against each other on the level of race and religion. We have proven to be a savvy electorate that wants to have a grown-up conversation about the issues most important to our nation and one that can identify and reject cheap political ploys like wedge-issue politics.

Go figure that it took a 43-year-old Justin Trudeau to set the tone for the adult conversation that Harper did not want to have. And for that Trudeau was rewarded, while Harper was justly punished.

Sadly, there are a lot of fences to mend after this battle.

What Harper and the Conservatives did will have lasting damage that must be repaired. It pains me, and I would suspect most Canadians, to hear stories like Toronto mother Safira Merriman who wears a niqab and says she was blocked and elbowed while out doing errands with her kids last week. This fear and hate amplified for political purposes must be addressed and dealt with quickly for the sake of our country.

But right now, as Harper packs up his clothes at 24 Sussex Drive, I know two things are true: Canadians are awesome and tomorrow is another day.