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Monday, February 24, 2020
Our View

What kind of change will voters opt for this time around?

Four years ago, we had a federal election in a climate of change, with Justin Trudeau leading the resurgent Liberals against a tired, unloved Conservative Party led by Stephen Harper. The NDP were riding high, not just federally but at the provincial level, particularly with the breakthrough in Alberta. Ontarians, too, were tiring of a increasingly corrupt established government, though it would take a few more years before Kathleen Wynne was dumped in dramatic fashion, the Liberals stripped of party status.

Many of the changes in recent years have been something of a mixed bag, and often short-lived. It remains to be seen what our fickleness does to Trudeau after just four years in power, though it’s clear no one has captured the public imagination in this campaign.

This week’s polls indicate we can expect a minority government, with the Liberals projected to take 143 seats, down from 184 in 2015, and the Conservatives 136, up from 99 the last time around. The NDP, which has had leadership issues since the orange wave of Jack Layton’s tenure, could lose 20 of the 44 seats it won in 2015.

Whatever the latest outcome, it’s encouraging to see the public willing to make changes. Ideally, we need to move away from the status quo, a system of government that grows increasingly undemocratic while fostering a repressive police state. When it comes to a making our lot better, government is often opposed to the public good. It’s important to know the enemy: it is the corporatist state, represented by those who dictate the terms and the politicians in their employ. The chairs we shuffle in legislatures really amount to so much window dressing.

This is systemic. The enemies include politicians who buy into the police state and the entitlement of civil servants, who drain the collective wealth and prosperity of the public in an imitation of their corporate masters.

Politicians will stop at nothing to gain or retain office. It’s power at all costs – the motivation of every government, public good be damned – fear-mongering being a particular favourite, no matter what the consequences and the truth.

Is it any wonder we’re increasingly cynical, but occasionally willing to go out on an electoral limb? Cynicism about politicians, bureaucrats and the system of governance, we’re told, has many of us turning away from politics. Our distaste for how politics is done is partly to blame for falling voter turnout numbers, especially among young people.

Cynicism, in that assessment, breeds disengagement. Many of us barely take notice. When we do, however, it’s usually because the government has done something even more corrupt and egregious than we’ve come to expect. That’s when we become involved enough to build up enough anger to vote the bums out at the next available opportunity.

That was certainly the case in the last federal election, not to mention a slate of provincial votes, including the one that brought Doug Ford into power in Ontario.

While it’s fine to exact some measure of comeuppance on incumbent governments, maybe it’s time to start aiming higher. Well, there’s no maybe about it, actually.

In Canada, where the political direction is counter to our quality of life, it’s especially important to take note of the successes of more progressive, citizen-friendly policies. That’s certainly the case in the Nordic countries.

They are great examples of civil society setting the agenda rather than just focusing on the message of the elites.

Canada may not be moving in the right direction on all fronts, but reports based on objective data help us understand the choices we’re making.

Since we live in a system of our own making, every policy and direction is a choice. Ideally, those choices are made to benefit the average citizen, though that’s often not the case.

So, what would get us moving in the right direction? Focusing on people with structures built by decent people who would not crush their fellow human beings. What we have today is the opposite courtesy of the corporate police state, very much endorsed by Ottawa.

Wishful thinking? Perhaps, given that even mild reforms are doomed to failure.

What’s certain, however, is that we can’t rely on government and their masters to do what’s right. We need a much more activist population. We can’t be apathetic. Getting angry is fine, but the interest it generates in our political system should extend beyond throwing the bums out … not that that isn’t a fine place to start.

Our democracy is already challenged by voter apathy, corporate interference, negative advertising and host of dirty tricks, so a more-positive electorate would be a welcome change. That said, we tend not to vote for things, but against parties, often based on gut feelings, no matter the facts or unfounded sentiments. We vote the bums out, and the new ones continue to bum us out, repeating the cycle.

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