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

Is it an Election About Nothing?

Brandon Sun, April 24, 2011 - David McConkey

One wag has already dubbed this the “Seinfeld Election,” because it is supposedly about nothing.

But we could be in the midst of a watershed event for our political parties and for our democracy.

For the NDP and the Liberals, this election could result in a major reckoning.

The last time the NDP got as much as 20% of the vote was way back in 1988. That was also the last time that it came in better than fourth place.

And if the Liberals don’t defeat Harper this time and seem stuck in second, then expect more buzz about a Liberal-NDP merger.

For the Green party, this election could be a major breakthrough. Leader Elizabeth May could win a seat in Parliament, and the party could crack the one-million vote barrier.

If the Green party continues to grow the way it has, it could even get as many votes as the Bloc Québécois. Maybe that will finally get us talking seriously about electoral changes like proportional representation.

For the Bloc, this may be the election where we are forced to recognize it as a permanent fixture. (Or a broken “fix,” considering what they want to do to our country.)

And where we, as the “Rest of Canada,” may become more emboldened to raise questions about the deference now given to the Bloc. Like, are we just being too polite?

And what about the governing party? Sure, it is officially the “Conservative” party, but they are just kidding.

Harper’s party is not really a conservative party – under him, the government (and the deficit) have grown bigger than ever.

Actually, this is the first election in a quarter century where no party on the ballot is in favour of smaller government. Ever since the 1988 election, when the Reform party first appeared, there has been such a party.

Likewise, the Reform / Conservative party used to stand for increased democratic participation.

But once in office, Harper has changed that by actually exerting more control over Parliament and MPs. 

“I’ve never seen morale so low or Parliament so dysfunctional,” says outgoing MP Keith Martin in a recent interview in Maclean’s magazine. Martin was first elected as a Reform MP when the original Reformers came to Ottawa after the 1993 election.

“There’s an overwhelming sense of futility, disappointment and sadness among most of the MPs.”

Matched by an overwhelming sense of futility, disappointment and sadness among most of the public. This election could be like the last one, which had the lowest turnout ever.

What steps can we take to revive our democracy?

For one thing, change the party leader TV debates.

Right now, there are separate English and French language debates. But an alternate proposal is to have each debate, with accompanying translation, feature both languages.

All Canadians could then hear the same issues discussed, unlike currently where quite different topics are discussed in the separate language events.

For example, one topic this time in the French debate was “values.” But viewers of the English debate were deprived of that conversation.

Also, having both languages in each debate would reduce the profile the Bloc Québécois leader gets when there is a French-only debate.

But speaking of the Bloc leader in the debates: why is he even there?

As Manitobans, we are not allowed to vote for (or against) his party. Why then do we have to listen to him – in English, or for that matter, en français? 
Why can’t we see the Green leader instead, whose party we can vote for?

Let’s also look at measures once championed by the Reform party: citizen referenda, elected Senate, and freedom for MPs to speak out and vote independently.

And let’s look at other ways to engage the electorate, like voting on the Internet and lowering the voting age to 16.

(For more ideas, check out Let’s make the next election less stupid than this one by blogger Grant Hamilton on the Brandon Sun website.)
A final thought: please not only vote on May 2, but also consider volunteering or making a financial contribution to the campaign of your choice.

* * * *

See also:  

Real Discussions on Tax and Crime are Being Avoided

Issues for the Next Election?

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

Vote Early, Vote Often, and Vary Your Vote

Citizen Active



David McConkey,
Brandon, Manitoba
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