Pints & Politics – August 2013 Edition

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First off, an apology: I walked in wearing sunglasses last night, and kept them on for a good part of the event. While I recognize this is a douchey thing to do, they are prescription sunglasses. My normal prescription glasses are broken at the moment, hence the need for wearing my sunglasses indoors.

Yesterday’s Pints & Politics was a great affair. While, clearly, there was no consensus made about how to “pull together,” a good discussion got started and, at the very least, we identified some barriers that cause people not to get involved, among them:

  • Political parties themselves
  • How the most engaged members, and even elected leaders, representing political parties behave
  • A lack of understanding about civics among the populace
  • A lack of accountability for most elected positions
  • Facing the wrath of your party should you vote against party policy

These are the types of things preventing people from getting engaged in the first place. It’s not that the party faithful are necessarily part of the problem, but their fervent belief in everything their party does certainly turns many people off. Which leads to what, for me, is one of the biggest problems preventing people from working together: ideology. I’ve written about this before, so I won’t go on and on about it again. Simply put: if you go into an argument believing what you believe, and going in “for the win,” you’ve already lost.

All that said, I came of PnP with a few ideas that would help make it easier for citizens to feel like they can, and should get involved, which I feel is the first step to solving the problem. Among them:

  • Ban negative advertising
    • Yes, ban it. No more. It’s not necessary, and it doesn’t answer the questions the electorate has. Not to mention that the majority of it borders on slander.
  • Stop grouping MPs/MPPs/MLAs along party lines in chamber.
    • This is a symbolic gesture, but it could help dialogue among those in power.
  • Bring in the ability to have a recall.
    • We have seen this play out in California several times, notably in the election that brought in Arnold Schwarzenegger as Governor. We can make the barrier high enough so that the privilege isn’t abused, but it brings in a measure of accountability.
  • Proportional representation.
  • Better education for citizens about how government works.
    • Plain and simple. There are some local initiatives working on this now, but it really needs to be part of schooling. Kids must be taught how government works, how it got that way, how to get and stay involved, etc. at an early age.
  • Ban corporate and union donations.
    • I know a lot of people will be up in arms about this one, but corporate and union donations imply that everyone who works for a corporation, or is represented by a union, believes that X Party represents their best interests. That’s rarely true, so we need to let citizens decide for themselves who to donate to, if they choose to donate at all.

Those are some ideas I’ve had before, and were reinforced last night. What do you think? What types of things should be changed so that the average person feels they can get involved in politics, even if it just means increasing the number of people that vote?

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  • disqus_ItuHamRElq

    Hi Derek
    Thanks for the blog and the ideas you present. I’m never able to make it out to P & P but I appreciate the engagement and dialogue that it fosters.
    Of your 6 suggestions, I agree with 5 (I could quibble about the first two but meh). However, I’ve never been able to get behind recall legislation
    I fear recall campaigns would be dominated by special interest groups (left and right on the spectrum) who are not getting their way. It’d be used as a way of appealing any vote that they don’t like. It would have single issues dominate the agenda. It would encourage short term populism over long term planning (They voted against jobs! Recall!) Too often, voters do not see (or care to see) the whole picture and facts behind a decision. They are overly influenced by sound bites and personalities. The recalls can become a popularity contest where personality is more important than legislative ability (lets vote for a movie star like Arnie instead of that boring Gray guy).
    While I oppose virtually every decision some of our local councillors make, I understand they represent a viewpoint shared by many others and they were democratically elected. For all of Fontana’s problems, Orser’s antics and Henderson’s incompetence, I don’t think any of them are worthy of recall, at least not until the October 2014.
    I offer this in the spirit of conversation. Again, thanks for the blog, and I look forward to hearing why I’m wrong.
    Cheers
    John McCullagh

    • http://dereksilva.ca/ Derek Silva

      That’s a very fair point, John, and I don’t want to see any recall legislation abused. I don’t have all the answers as to how it would be implemented, but I feel that even the threat of a recall would avoid us electing Councillors that boast about NOT reading reports (as they hopefully wouldn’t run in the first place). People like that don’t deserve to be Councillors, elected properly or not, as they are most certainly not upholding the oath they swore to upon being sworn in. It’s things like that that really get me going, and hopeful for recall legislation.

      For what it’s worth, a Green Party member pointed out to me that other Canadian jurisdictions have implemented recall legislation recently. I don’t recall any of it being used yet, but again I think we can safeguard it. I do feel Henderson is more than worthy of a recall, and is something citizens should be able to voice well ahead of time, especially when elections are often won (unfortunately) on tag lines (0% tax increases!).

      It’s a multi-faceted problem. What if we had fewer, full-time councillors? People that could bank on being paid $50,000 or $60,000 for the work, but perhaps only half of the wards London has now (14 is quite a few). Pair that up with the threat of a recall, and I think you would get much higher quality people running for office across the board.

      Either way, thanks for chiming in!

  • Paul

    Great article Derek. Many of my issues are on you list – a couple of my observations if I may.

    I have issues with all the negative advertising and have wondered why it is allowed. If car manufacturers or soft drink bottlers advertised in this manner it would not be tolerated put it seems to be accepted in the political arena. When I see a political ad I want it to tell me why I should be voting for that candidate or party and not why I should not vote for the other guy.

    I am for recall legislation. Politicians are elected by us to do a ob and if that fails we should have some recourse. If I fail in my job, my employer can take a variety of actions yet the politicians we elect can do what they like and face no consequences until the next ballot.

    As for proportional representation, the implemantation is so complex with the different options available. I do feel that it is necessary. When you only have one party on the right, they gat all the right votes but when you get two parties on the other side that spilt the vote it makes for a difficult obstacle to overcome. I feel it is needed even in a two party system. Theoretically you could lose every riding by a single vote and not have a single seat in government. We seek fairness and inclusion in so many areas of society that I feel it is inevitable that proportional representation will be adopted eventually.