Disheartened Canadian Voter: Or Why I Might Stay Home On Election Day
I’m not feeling very excited about voting in this federal election. Yes, I know the arguments about civic responsibility and participation. I’m just not convinced of their applicability to our current system of governance. What do I mean?
Well, I do care passionately about Canadian politics. I’ve worked on various election campaigns for decades.
I believe that decisions made on behalf of our community or country have enormous implications for our everyday lives. And I do want responsible, accountable, transparent and honest governance.
I’m just becoming increasingly disheartened by the superficiality of our current political discourse. A discourse tending increasingly toward farcical polemeics (i.e. bullshit ideological pronouncements).
This superficiality is demonstrated by the concentration by political parties on petty details and provocative “wedge issues” rather than on the key social and administrative problems that underlie them. For example, the elimination of the gun registry, Canadian participation in bombing Libya, and the findings of a government to be in contempt of parliament. These issues speak to the acceptability of violence in our society and about secrecy versus transparency in government.
Gun Registry: This came about following the death of 14 women in Montreal by a deranged man with a military assault weapon. The gun registry is a straightforward concept, perhaps too bureaucratic for some, but an effective way to ensure that firearms do not go unmonitored. Yes, my relatives live in rural Canada and use them for hunting. Fine. But a debate about the gun registry must acknowledge the reality that guns are not just used for hunting, but also for violence against another person. Violence against people. Violence against women, violence within families, violence within our culture.
Libya: I find it interesting that we are prepared to sell arms to countries with horrific human rights records and just as quick to condemn their use. Surprisingly few people are talking about the $1 billion of military sales the EU made to Libya over the past six years. And Canada sells all sorts of arms internationally. Worse, other people’s violence is bad but ours is justified.
Contempt of Parliament: The speaker of the House of Commons found the Harper government in contempt of parliament for withholding information on the real cost of new fighter jets and their proposed crime bills. The Government first refused and then lied about the real costs. And remember, they tried to prorogue parliament both to avoid a parliamentary defeat and to stall any disclosure of their Afghan debacle. It’s a debate about the government’s right to secrets and their own judgment about it. Witness WikiLeaks disclosures on the secret policies that US was pursuing, be it rendition to Eastern Europe, Guantanamo Bay or extra-judicial killing in Pakistan via drones. The real debate there and in Canada should be about the politics of violence and secrecy but instead it is shrouded in a discourse of security and righteousness.
Lastly, I no longer believe in a system of governance where one individual represents a constituency of 100,000 people. The voting of MPs is whipped into party lines, and our only recourse of accountability is to “vote” every few years. That is a shadow of democracy. I refuse to play along with it any longer. This form of representative governance has lost its legitimacy for me. The times demand a fundamentally different type of governance. One that is participatory, open and transparent about power.
In my life, I have voted for each of the parties at different times. I am reaching a point where I don’t want to participate in a system of discourse and governance that seems to be a broken sham. I am keenly aware that, as a result, I will get the government I least like, but I refuse to keep supporting the best of a bad lot in a political system that is in need of vast reform.