3 min

Taking aim at voter apathy

While everyone else obsesses about the US midterm elections, I would instead like to direct your attention to the comments of Robert Fowler over the weekend, who took aim at voter apathy, especially as it manifests in youth. It’s pretty brilliant.

First of all, remember who Robert Fowler is – famed Canadian diplomat, was kidnapped in Africa and held by terrorist forces there, so he’s got a good idea about just what democracy means in a country like ours. One of his strongest statements was that it was “intellectually dishonest” for those who've “collectively ignored their civic responsibilities” to moan about the abysmal standards of political leadership in Canada. And he’s got a very good point.

I’ve said this several times (and it was brought up in my recent feature on lesbians in federal politics), and I’ll keep saying it: one of the biggest problems right now is that people aren’t joining parties and engaging at a grassroots level with their parties. If people actually engaged there, it wouldn’t allow political leaders to amass more power at the centre (see below), and there would actually be dialogue and genuine policy ideas flowing. But because people have disengaged and allowed parties to become nothing more than electoral machines rather than political institutions, our democracy is suffering. And we have nobody to blame but ourselves.

Speaking about the state of Canadian democracy, recently retired Conservative MP Inky Mark is blasting his former party’s undemocratic behaviour at the riding nomination level, where the party would only recognize one nomination candidate, despite attempts by others to run. Because they’re the party that’s all about democracy and accountability.

At a speech in Montreal yesterday, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff spoke about the loss of our seat at the UN Security Council, and what he believes caused it (which, of course, is this government’s lack of a coherent foreign policy). His suggestions? More diplomacy and development rather than just defence, a return to peacekeeping, and a bigger emphasis on poverty reduction, as well as combating climate change – all things this government has ignored.

Back in the House, Question Period yesterday started off with Ralph Goodale once again blasting the government over the potential Potash Corp deal, which Harper denied having made a decision on, and in fact said that he wasn’t making that decision, that it was Tony Clement’s job. Jean-Claude D’Amours followed up by asking after rural broadband and cuts to cultural programming, to which Tony Clement and James Moore respectively boasted that the government increased funding to both.

Gilles Duceppe asked about Newfoundland and Labrador potentially trying to negotiate with the federal government about running power lines through Quebec, and Paule Brunelle asked about those documents concerning oil spills that Christian Paradis was apparently never supposed to see. Jack Layton then returned to the Potash deal.

From there, Bryon Wilfert asked about the F-35 competition, and Kirsty Duncan asked about reports that the New Veterans’ Charter was designed to give veterans less money (Blackburn responded that the Liberals brought it in). Diane Bourgeois asked about the testimony of the men at the centre of the West Block construction contract controversy (side note: police laid 22 murder charges against the former Hell’s Angels business partners of one of those men), and Guy André returned to the issue of veterans’ payments.

From there, questions moved to Omar Khadr, KAIROS funding, the HST, infrastructure spending on First Nations reserves, official languages in the Public Service, Nigel Wright and the proposed changes to laws regarding shop owners detaining shoplifters. (Harper got up on a suck-up question about this to offer support, to which Olivia Chow – who has been advocating for this – applauded loudly, while Liberals pointed to Joe Volpe, who brought his issue up previously.) And rounding this off was a question on poverty among the disabled, to which Diane Finley intimated that the NDP didn’t care about the disabled – a response which got a lot of hisses and even a shouted “How dare you?” while she rattled off platitudes about how well her government has been performing on this file.

Sartorially speaking, it was a pretty blah day overall, but I’ll award snaps to Ralph Goodale for his brilliant purple tie. In terms of a style citation, I’m going to issue it today to Hedy Fry – I wasn’t quite sold on the bulky orange jacket with the brown plaid skirt.

And remember how at the G8 Harper promised that he would eliminate subsidies to our oil companies? Those subsidies total $2.8 billion this year – just in case you were wondering.
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