04 August 2012

An Exercise in Democracy?

So here we go, off to the polls in a provincial election called for September 4. This time around, a few new factors: a background of the student strike that has been a huge and sustained mobilization of people who tend to vote less than other age groups; a "new" party that is looking increasingly like the old party it swallowed in the last few months (oh yeah, except for those members who were just scooped up by the Liberals); a long-awaited inquiry into corruption in the construction industry, with many connections to politics…oh wait, this last thing shouldn't be a factor because our open and honest premier has happened to call the election for a date almost two weeks before the inquiry resumes its hearings in September.

You think I might be cynical about this process? We have a ruling party that has insisted, through months of student demonstrations, that the only place that democracy takes place is at the ballot box. This party then decides to have a short election campaign* during the dog days of summer when fewer people will be interested in politics and voting. Interestingly, the election call also fell on the date of the 100th consecutive night demonstration, prompting a larger than usual turnout, estimated at around 10,000.

There is something interesting about the ideas the parties seem to have about the democratic process. There is some recruiting of "star" candidates, presumably by-passing the usual process of the party members in a particular riding choosing their candidate. This likely explains how mystified the government was during its farcical negotiations with the students in the spring: they just don't understand that the people who have been designated as spokespeople for a movement don't necessarily assume all the power of decision-making. Some democratic structures actually have more participatory procedures for making decisions.

Democracy isn't something distasteful that you sneak by when people are on vacation once every four or five years, it is something that you live every day. I just hope that those who have been demonstrating their point of view on the tarification of government services as exemplified by the proposed tuition increases will also participate in the "once every four or five years" version of democracy by voting and voting against the neoliberal agenda.

*The length of a campaign is spelled out by article 131 of the Loi Électorale: the 5th Monday following a decree issued on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, the 6th Monday following a decree issued on another day; if voting day falls on a statutory holiday, the vote is the following day.

1 comment:

Greer said...

Excellent piece, Ken. You sum up the key issues for your friends abroad (a broad?).