The real news in the 2008 federal election isn’t so much what happened, as how little. With the lowest voter turnout in recent years, 40 per cent of the Canadian electorate decided that none of the major parties deserved their support.
If the four major parties aren’t asking themselves what went wrong, they should be. The pundits have said the American election was more interesting and that the Canadian version boiled down to a popularity contest between the three party leaders.
Voters are more intelligent than that and deserve an election process that allows platforms to be properly debated. What was missing in Election 2008 was one of the oldest platforms in Canadian politics: responsible government.
Canadians that rejected the Liberal administration on the heels of the Ad-scam affair demanded change, and instead have seen more of the same. Legislated election dates were abandoned the first time a poll gives the governing party an advantage. Back-room politics in the Canadian Wheat Board debate left us with gag orders in government and non-government agencies, tampered voters’ lists, misleading plebiscites and a never-ending list of court challenges.
How do we achieve responsible government from an administration that does not respect democracy or basic democratic principles? Fair elections, free speech and respect for the fiduciary responsibilities of corporate directors are basic cornerstones of our democratic society and economic marketing systems. To ignore them is to ignore the basis of responsible government.
Less than three per cent of the electorate are farmers, and the CWB debate really shouldn’t concern the rest. But it would seem the tactics we have seen in that debate have boiled over into daily politics. The cone of silence apparently expanded to include party candidates running for election. With an intent to say nothing and thereby avoid mistakes, our government was elected without even having to explain its platform.
It’s a good thing for the present administration we don’t decide federal governments with the same tactics used in the barley plebiscite. If we assumed everyone that didn’t vote Tory voted against them, then we would have a coalition of three parties running the government today instead of Conservatives.
The same ends-justify-the-means mentality that has permeated the CWB debate has allowed the far right to hijack control of the party.
Some were shocked that Quebec and Ontario didn’t give more support to the Conservatives. The real surprise is that they received any support at all. People who voted Conservative did it because they always had, not because they supported the Alliance party influence within the government.
Canadians have become disenfranchised with the rotating choice between Twiddle-dee and Twiddle-dum.
Anyone trying to sell a carbon tax at a time when consumers are already being gouged by $1-plus per litre gasoline, has lost touch with real people. Anyone who thinks they can sit smugly and say “elect us because we know what’s best for you,” has lost touch with real people. Until these parties do some navel gazing and get back to the grassroots support that put them in office, voter turnout will continue to dwindle and we will have a country run by apathy instead of democracy.
Canadians deserve responsible government. We won’t get it until we demand it.