redefining democracy

When considering my previous post, think about the most recent federal and civic elections in White Rock:

  • Both had very low voter turnout;
  • Both resulted in a mandate to resist change;
  • Both were laden with empty-calorie rhetoric;
  • Both had undercurrent debates about the meaning of democracy;
  • Both illustrated a high degree of ignorance among citizens on how government functions.

low participation
Whether from confusion or ignorance or distrust, or a combination thereof, most people chose to not participate. This, despite a seemingly universal belief that the elections were important and would decide very significant issues.

change to reject change
Although the election messaging was all about change, the winning political parties campaigned on change that was actually more concerned with the rate of change — slowing down or reversing changes that were already happening.

winner takes all
Federally, it seems there is a groundswell of public sentiment that democracy means the winner takes all, even if the winner does not represent the majority of voters — even if they collectively represent the majority of Canadians, the losers are expected to stay out of the way of the winner. And while citizens revile the pettiness of partisan politics, they are reacting with stinging cynicism to an attempt by the NDP and Liberals to cooperate and find points of consensus.

ignoring ignorance
In White Rock, there was much talk of accountability, transparency and listening — the implication being that this was not the practice previously. Countless times, I was told that my responsibility was to do as instructed by the majority of citizens. But that is an argument of convenience. It doesn’t take much thought to start listing decisions in which citizens simply do not understand the problem because they don’t have the interest to learn about the subject, or that samelack of interest translates into the elected representative getting no instruction from citizens — hence the very reason for “representative” government.

polling vs. thinking
Does “democracy” mean nothing matters except the majority opinion and all minority opinions must conform? If that were the case, why have elected representatives at all? Why not just have a polling company running a constant cycle of surveys to advise the City Manager?

For some White Rock citizens to imply that city councillors should not think for themselves is counter-productive to the diverse, independent thought necessary for intelligent public decisions.

dictatorship vs. cooperation
This idea that the majority rules is what was relied upon in White Rock to elect a slate opposed to tall buildings, but what happens when that same principle is applied federally? The opposition parties are the majority. Should they not be provided the opportunity to form government?

If the goal is good governance, it’s counter-productive for people to suggest that it’s anti-democratic for federal political parties to be civil and mature enough to make cooperative decisions.

federal government is formed, not elected
Before anyone writes a comment saying that the NDP and Liberals were not elected as a coalition, please remember, the government itself is not elected, it is formed by the members of parliament. Forming a coalition government is something that happens after an election, not before. The only difference between this coalition and the Conservatives relying on the Bloc support for so many years is that the NDP and Liberals were upfront and open about it — put it in writing — while the Conservatives secured their support in backroom deals.

separatists are a legitimate part of our democracy
And for all those people arguing for democracy then saying that the government of Canada should not be formed with a separatist party… were they not elected democratically? Do they not represent a large proportion of Canadians? Should the representatives of those Canadians be excluded from participating in government? How democratic is that?

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