Friday, 29 February 2008

This is Democracy?

I was speaking with our local Alberta Green Party candidate a few days ago: our conversation was both inspiring and frustrating for me. The inspiring part was speaking with someone who, apart from living an ecologically connected life herself, has the conviction and motivation to bring the principles of ecological wisdom and sustainability into the sphere of public life and run for public office. This isn't easy, especially in our rural riding, which has had largely Conservative representation since 1971. But she is out there, campaigning diligently so that people know they do have a choice to vote for someone who, unlike the Conservative Party, actually knows what it really means to 'conserve.'

Phyllis was talking to me about some of the challenges she has faced while campaigning, and this is where my frustration set in. She spoke about talking to business people who said that while they would like to vote for her, they "couldn't" because if they didn't vote for the party in power, their area wouldn't get any government grants or other favorable financial consideration. She also said that business people were afraid that if it were to become known that they voted Green, people would stop patronizing their business. Think about that: people are afraid to vote for someone other than who is already in power. Afraid that their infrastructure or community grant needs will be turned away if they don't tow the line. Afraid that they will be ostracized.

Does this sound like Canada? Does this sound like a democratic process? NO! No, it does not. It sounds like the tyranny of an arrogant, elitist group of people who think they are entitled to continue ruling this province how they see fit, bullying citizens by partisan disbursements of their own tax money. Maybe they don't go around overtly bullying and intimidating people (just covertly so far), but we all know how bullies operate: through creating an atmosphere of perpetual fear and uncertainty. A bully doesn't have to actually hit you to get your lunch money, a bully just has to have a reputation that makes you afraid enough that you give it up 'willingly' and say thanks for the opportunity. Pretty soon you just get used to handing it over. We've been handing it over for 37 years -- it's time to stop.

So, Albertans, get out and vote! Vote for who you believe in. Vote for who will do the right thing, do right by this generation and the ones to come. Do right by the only planet we have to live on.

Oh, and vote while you still can. Not all Albertans are getting an equal opportunity to vote, because there aren't enough returning officers to go around - just part of the "Alberta Advantage" I guess. Some ridings that had polling stations in the last election will have to go without this time. But apparently The leader of the Conservative party, Mr. Stelmach, doesn't think this is an urgent concern:
"After the election is over we want to make sure that every area has an equal opportunity to cast their ballots," Stelmach said. (emphasis mine)
Ah, democracy: Alberta style.


green with a gun said...

Actually, you mentioned two things that affected their vote - getting grants and subsidies, and fear of people's response to their vote.

So there was greed, and bullying.

I think we should emphasise that bribes are just as destructive of democracy as actual intimidation. Whether the guy at the booth has a gun or a fistful of cash for you, both are bad for democracy.

The only difference is that voters will actually ask for the cash.

For some reason, if the candidate offers me $500 directly, that's bribery and they can be jailed; if they offer me $500 of tax cuts, that's alright. Funny stuff.

People are always going to vote in terms of their self-interest, that's fair enough. What's needed is to consider our long-term interest as well as short term. Is it better for us to get $500 now, or for the government to pay off public debt with that money, or invest in renewable energy, or what?

Theresa said...

Yes, greed is definitely part of the equation. I was thinking along the lines of fear of not getting the grants or subsidies. Bad either way.

Our last premier did pretty much bribe citizens, giving out a $400 cheque to every single person in the province - these were called "Ralph Bucks" after the then-premier, Ralph Klein. Not sure if news of him made it out your way, but he was our kind-hearted premier who went to a homeless shelter one time while he was drunk, and threw change at the homeless people, telling them to get a job. A fine public servant, he was.

Simply Authentic said...

i had every intention of leaving a comment and then google seemed to be having technical difficulties....feels i've been away from the blog world for quite a while now....however i think you have quite the valid point in this posting and that it's disappointing that this is the reality of the world...

Hazel Nut said...

Will be watching the election results with interest tomorrow,

Theresa said...

Chances are the Conservatives will retain power, but we're hoping for a stronger opposition at least. There are two ridings where the Green Party has a shot, so we're really pulling for a breakthrough there!