Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Fragile Flower

The majority of Canadians are currently basking in the promise the new government holds, the promise of openness, transparency, accountability and progressivity, all notably absent from the enshrouded regime of the outgoing dictator. But while we all deserve to feel deep relief from the collective burden the country has borne for the last decade, I think it is also important to understand that this feeling of liberation will likely be quite ephemeral. The real work of democratic restoration has just begun.

Writing shortly before our election, John Izzo offers this view:
Unless the electorate is involved AFTER the election, the status quo will remain intact. Of course we Canadians should be familiar with this problem. When Harper first ran for Prime Minister he talked about creating a more open and accountable government, reforming the Senate, free votes for members of Parliament and so on.

Of course he broke almost all of those promises, created a fortress mentality and a tight run ship where no one stepped out of line and scientists were muzzled.
Izzo suggests we facilitated the process by which Harper so egregiously and quickly violated his commitments:
When Gorden Campbell, former premier of British Columbia, was running for that office the first time I heard him speak to a small group of entrepreneurs in Vancouver. He asked us a rhetorical question: "Why do politicians make promises and then break them?" Going on, he said, "Because you let us. After the election you go dormant and politicians get to do what they want to do or what those who are most interested in maintaining the status quo want them to do."
Izzo cites a powerful American example to illustrate his point. Despite the fact that the majority of citizens want tighter gun control laws, nothing ever changes
... because special interests like the NRA know that who gets elected is not nearly as important as who stays involved all the time holding politicians accountable. Special interests spend as much or more time, money and effort on lobbying and influencing leaders between elections.
There solution entails the hard work of real citizenship:
Getting engaged every four to five years for six to eight weeks is not what it means to be a citizen ....if we want our leaders to do our will on the big issues we face, a far greater majority of us have to stay engaged post-election.

How can we do this? Here are three commitments we can make. First, keep writing and calling our representatives in the days and weeks following the election. Let them know what YOU want and what you WILL hold them accountable to. Second, keep blogging, face-booking, meeting with friends and like minded people, to keep engaged in the process. Third, make it clear to whoever wins, that we know what they promised and we will be watching.
After almost ten years of oppression, we all deserve a respite. But if we want to maximize the chances of a healthy democracy and a responsive government, let's make sure that our hiatus isn't too long. The flower is too fragile to neglect.


  1. in a real democracy
    i would get to vote on issues
    with a voice
    not a one shot 4 year meatsack to be involved for me
    do that
    and post electoral involvement might happen
    a well constructed letter gets a form letter response
    emails are the same
    blogs preach to the converted
    and promises are never kept
    Libya came very close to democracy involving every citizen in citizen Congresses
    essentially every person was a member of parliament with the perks
    and that had to be destroyed
    this current crush promised electoral reform
    thats the only one you need to watch

    1. While the shortcomings of outreach are clear, lungta, sometimes they serve a couple of purposes: occasionally a letter does get answered (the politician to whom I sent my recent complaint about the Wynne government's planned sale of Hydro One was responded to by him in some detail); each effort, whether it be a blog, letter to the editor, etc., increases the amount of political engagement of the one making the effort and may have an effect on how others view any given issue.

      That being said, I agree with the need for electoral reform as another tool to draw more people into civic engagement and influence.

  2. Democracy requires that citizens work hard to maintain it, Lorne.

    1. I hope that after the horror we have all been through, Owen, people are ready to roll up their sleeves.

  3. Excellent post, Lorne. Many thanks. BTW, has put up a petition calling on Justin Trudeau to appoint Elizabeth May to be his environment minister. You called it, pal. Well done.

    1. Thanks, Mound. I have a feeling that the future has some surprises in store for us.