Monday, January 23, 2006

Election Day: Some Thoughts on Political (In)Activity

I encouraged my students to vote. I told them that I don’t care who they vote for, as long as they throw their two cents into the pot. And you know, it’s true: I don’t really care who they vote for. Sure it’s hard to maintain faith in our party system in Alberta with so many votes being cast for the Conservatives, but on the other hand, I didn’t hit the streets and campaign on behalf of any of the alternatives nor did I volunteer my time at a candidate’s constituency office. It’s one thing to complain that the other federal candidates aren’t doing enough to drum up support, it’s another question entirely to wonder who, exactly, is meant to do this. It’s very tempting to sit back and lament the bias of the media and the horrible inevitability of a Conservative sweep in Alberta, but in the end if you want people to change their minds then you’ve got to issue some challenges yourself; I know from experience that if you hit the streets on behalf of a candidate in the capacity of official volunteer there’s a lot of work you can accomplish.

I cheerfully cast my vote for John Chan of the NDP, the party for whom I’ve always voted, the party that employs my mother and father in Winnipeg. I’ve been guilty of decrying the obstinacy of Conservative voters, accusing them of following the tradition of the their families. But I’ve done exactly the same my whole life, and it really doesn’t make any difference that the party in question is the NDP. A dedication to a comfort zone is a dedication to a comfort zone regardless how that zone is furnished.

One of my library colleagues is very thoughtful about the near-certainty of a Conservative victory. She feels that a change in government would be a good thing, because regardless of a perceived lack of an alternative, the Liberals have worn out their welcome. She is also of the opinion that if the Conservatives win the election, they will do so on the strength of a large number of voters who cast their ballot for the Liberal party not so long ago. In other words: they’ll be on a trial run for the first year, if not the first few years of their mandate, especially if they cannot take a majority of the seats in Parliament. This is a new Conservative party, the first time that the remains of the Reform Party will take the helm of Canada, who still, nevertheless, must crawl out from under the shadow of the country’s mass rejection of the Progressive Conservatives in 1993; this shadow has crept back up the lane recently with Peter C Newman’s Mulroney Tapes.

If you’re someone who genuinely and profoundly feels disappointment with the possibility of a Conservative Prime Minister, remember it during the next election, and see if you can work towards a difference in other people’s opinions. I’m not thrilled about the looks of this election, but you know, I’m not going to let it ruin my day. I trust Canada and I trust Canadians.


Blogger Natalie said...

I’m also cringing at the inevitable conservative sweep of Alberta, but I’m encouraged by the fact that only 65% of the voters in Alberta actually voted for the Conservatives. If the number of seats a party has in Parliament actually reflected the votes cast for that party, the Liberals would hold 4 of Alberta’s seats and the NDP would hold 3. That's why I think encouraging people to pressure the federal government to adopt a system of proportional representation is a much more useful activity than promoting any particular party. As long as the NDP holds some kind of sway, I don’t think it really matters whether the government is Conservative or Liberal, since the Liberals act as conservative as they can anyway, and the Conservatives will have to act more liberal than they want to.

10:27 p.m.  

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