David McConkey - Columnist, Consultant, Citizen
Columnist. Consultant. Citizen.

Funny Politics?

Brandon Sun, May 13, 2004 - David McConkey

Like many Baby Boomers, I like elections and I like to vote. Why don’t young people? Barely one-half of Canadians voted in the last federal election, with young people the least apt to bother.

Sure, some of the blame should go to schools, the media, and us parents, but the politicians themselves are at fault. Both the Conservatives and Liberals fed public cynicism as they ran up the national debt in the 70s and 80s. And recent sponsorship testimony at the Commons Public Accounts Committee shows that both those parties engaged in shady activities when they were in power.

And yet, the only way to have a say is to get out and vote. It’s really the least any of us can do. People around the world would be honored to live in a democracy like Canada. Is it too much to get off our rears and vote every few years?

Some say that they don’t know enough to make an intelligent decision. So, go ahead and make a dumb decision. It may be a big improvement over what we have now. And, a message to the young generation: don’t let us old fogies make all the decisions.

Closing our eyes and voting for whomever, could be better than not voting at all. Maybe the next time, we might be motivated to find out something about the issues beforehand.

There’s another reason to vote, even if your candidate doesn’t have a hope of actually winning. New federal political financing laws provide money to parties based on their popular vote in the previous election.

We shouldn’t be afraid to vote for different political parties. Some people, and even whole constituencies, make the mistake of thinking that they have the most influence if they vote the same way election after election. Wrong! Don’t get taken for granted. The more we voters change, the more we will get attention. Besides, switching around is much more interesting.

Want Brandon - Souris, Dauphin - Swan River, or Portage - Lisgar to get noticed across Canada? Then elect a MP from, say, the Green party. In just a few years, the Reform party went from nothing to Opposition; why not start something new?

The big guys aren’t shy about shopping around. Both Paul Martin and Stephen Harper have enlisted Quebec separatists to head their efforts in that province. Belinda Stronach’s campaign manager last worked to elect a New Democrat. Former Conservative leader Joe Clark recommends that voters choose the best local candidate, regardless of party.

Politics is becoming more entertaining, and entertainment is becoming more political. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference. Which is why commentators like Rick Mercer, Michael Moore, Bill Maher, Dennis Miller, and Larry Zolf are so interesting.

I’ve heard that more young people learn about public affairs from TV`comedies like The Daily Show with Jon Stewart than the actual news. I think that‘s great, because maybe more will bone up on the issues in order to get the jokes!

Politicians themselves want to be more entertaining. Paul Martin has hired a speech writer who used to write for This Hour has 22 Minutes on CBC and a humor column for the National Post. Maybe Prime Minister Martin will bring back Bono!

Belinda Stronach injected life into the Conservative Party, and that party likely missed an excellent opportunity when it passed her up for leader. She could have been Canada’s Arnold Schwarzenegger. Like Arnold, she is smart and glamorous, with an inspiring family story of a penniless Austrian immigrant who became wildly successful in one generation. They both are socially liberal and fiscally conservative, appealing to the widest range of people.

But don’t assume Stephen Harper and his crew won’t generate excitement. After all, they have had “funny” ideas about governing ever since they were called Social Credit!

Then there’s the NDP’s Jack Layton. Dismissed as a clown by some observers, he has energized his party. He is also one of a new breed of politicians who is adept with the Internet. His “Fly Our Flag” website makes fun of Paul Martin’s avoidance of paying Canadian taxes when Martin was a shipping tycoon. The Liberals have fired back at Jack with volleys from their own website.

The Internet makes politics more interesting and more personal. The Conservative website gleefully notes that Paul Martin’s personal physician owns a chain of private MRI clinics.

These websites also invite one and all to join the party. Couch potatoes can easily sign up from their home computer. Voting by Internet could be an option for elections in the future. If you can file your income tax return from home, why not be able to vote from home?

The next election could be fascinating. The Liberals and Conservatives have new leaders. Even more intriguing; a massive Liberal majority is no longer a forgone conclusion. Jack Layton has invigorated the NDP. The Bloc Quebecois is shooting up. The Internet can illuminate issues, even whole new parties. Everyone is trying for more laughs.

Who knew democracy in Canada could be fun?
* * * *
See also:  

Is it an Election About Nothing?

Issues for the Next Election?

Stephen Harper is the New Pierre Trudeau

Canadian Author Wonders What Harper is Reading

Can’t We Do Better Than This Same Old Political Routine?

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David McConkey,
Brandon, Manitoba
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