Monday, 4 December 2017

Can't Someone Else Do It?

Can’t Someone Else Do It?

By: Ryan Young

As the governing Liberals enter campaign mode for 2019, the most common thing I hear and see on social media is: “people can’t be dumb enough to vote them back in again.”

I disagree, because a certain number of hyper partisans will in fact vote either them, or the PC’s back in again, just like they always do. And we all keep letting it happen. In the age of ultimate political apathy, these partisans, who choose and support their political colors the same as they would their favourite sports team (you know, the one dad cheered for) have all of the real power in our so called “democracy.” It is these people, not the politicians, who drive the election machines that come to life every four years to dupe the gullible public into believing that this time things are really going to change. They are the ones who really ensure that things never change in politics, and the rest of us just stand by and try to ignore it all as best as we can.
The people in NL who vote, for the most part, are not voting for policy or good people. They are voting for “their” party. I suspect many would vote for the devil himself if he asked them too, and provided he was wearing the right color button… Blind faith that a party will best represent your needs based on the color of their banner is a very dangerous thing, and it is the single biggest contributor to the current problems we now face in this province. It’s not the politicians who are to blame. We are the ones that keep voting them in after all, and fail to hold them accountable.

But what are we to do? The Liberals and the PCs have both failed over and over to deliver for the people of this province. They have been allowed to get away with so much that nobody even bats an eyelash when it becomes public knowledge that we were lied too. “That’s just politics by.”

Somehow, despite the poor performance of Dwight Ball’s Liberal’s, the NDP are actually losing ground with voters. With Earle McCurdy out as leader they have a golden opportunity to try to rebuild themselves in rural parts of the province, but halfway through this term, they still have not laid the groundwork needed to attract new voters outside of St. John’s. It is hard to imagine them being a serious contender in 2019 unless things change dramatically within the party…and fast.

Many people are calling for all independents to run and get elected but unfortunately those people do not realize that under the current system, a majority of elected independents cannot form government. Only a registered party can form government. So, while the idea of 40 Independent MHAs who only serve their constituents may sound very democratic, it can’t work as a solution under the current framework.

So, where does that leave us? As I see it we have two options. The first one would be to join the Liberals or the PCs and attempt to change the parties from the inside. Doing so would be no easy task and would be met with fierce opposition from insider party loyalists, and I’m not sure that many people would have the stomach for that difficult work. Certainly not the critical mass it would take to be able to have a meaningful impact on policy decisions. The other option would be to start a new party, committed to restoring democracy and real transparency to our political process. Again, this would be no easy task, and it could be several election cycles before any new party was able to gain enough traction to make a real difference. People would need to be in it for the long haul, and other than the partisans, we don’t really have long attention spans when it comes to politics.

And who would lead such a lofty initiative? That’s what people really want to know. Our inherent saviour complex has somehow convinced us that democracy and our own well being are not our responsibility, but that of some mysterious omnipotent overseer called “government.” As long as we have a smooth talker to win us all over and make us feel like everything will be taken care of, we don’t have to become engaged, or even think about politics. We can just live our lives knowing that the folks running the show at Confederation Building are taking care of everything and we don’t have to worry. You know, because look at how good that has worked out for us so far…

Our political culture is one of angry apathy. We like to get mad when things don’t go our way or if we see that someone might get something that we are not getting, but when it comes to actually getting engaged, we just don’t. You don’t need to look much further than the 55% voter turnout for the last election to see the truth of that.

We like to get riled up and moan and complain, but when it comes down to it we are all talk and no action. That’s why we will always need that saviour to come in and quell our fears like the quivering sheep that we are. I know that may sound harsh but it’s the truth. People seem uninterested and unwilling to participate in the democratic process, no matter how many times we keep getting burned. Picture a forest fire burning and all the people that live in the forest are all arguing about who should carry the bucket of water. Meanwhile, the whole place burns down around them. That’s where we are right now, and as many will sadly soon find out, things are likely to get a lot worst before they get better.

We have some big problems here in this province and there are no easy solutions. Each and every one of us is going to have to get used to paying more to do our part to keep the lights on and the roads somewhat paved. We are also going to have to start having real conversations about the future of rural communities, even if they are uncomfortable. What we can’t do, is keep sitting around waiting for someone else to do it.

During a VOCM roundtable last week, some comments made by former Port au Choix mayor Carolyn Lavers really hit home to me. While stressing that rural towns that want to survive must start finding ways to do things for themselves, she reflected that during all of the meetings in her many years on council, that not once did anyone say:” What can we do?” The discussion was always about what could the government do. I think the anecdote sums up our problem nicely. We have been so dependent on the crumbs from government for so long that all we know how to do is fight over who gets the bigger piece when we should be learning how to bake our own bread.

The point of this post is not to be nasty or belittling. I know I will take heat from some who will say that I have it all wrong, but at the end of the day, if we can’t find ways to come together and truly become masters of our own destiny, we are already as good as sunk. We can continue to argue about our favourite teams or we can be the change we want to see. We need to check the anger and try to listen to each other instead of arguing over uninformed opinions because we want to be right. I am sick to death of all of the negativity I see and hear on a daily basis, when we all live in a place that has so much potential. We can either figure it all out together or we can keep arguing until the forest is completely burned down around us. Nobody else is going to do it for us…