Thursday, April 14, 2011

Election time...

I've been around a few elections over the last few years, and they have all been surrounded by passion and excitement.  I was in Latin America for two incredibly important elections.  The first was the United States Presidential race.  I remember sitting in a little restaurant in the mountain city of Quetzaltanengo in Guatemala, the kind local owner and I watching the night unfold on CNN Espanol.  I remember how we both watched with intense interest, and debated with one another in broken Spanish, both of us knowing how much was at stake.  Not long after I was in El Salvador leading up to the Presidential elections where the people were mobilizing to elect a new government.  The right wing party that dominated politics in El Salvador since the end of the war were about to be replaced democratically by the very Marxist Guerilla group that they fought against in the 1980's.  Then there was Honduras, where I was part of a human rights delegation during a more or less staged election put on by a de facto coup d'etat regime.  The former two elections were examples of peoples movements utilizing democracy to bring about significant change, the latter was an example of democracy being manipulated by powerful forces from above.  It is now election time in Canada, and I feel that Canadian democracy lies somewhere in between the examples listed above. 

I often express my indignation towards the establishment in my writing, or even more so when I talk to people.  I frequently criticize the politics of Canada and the Canadian government, I certainly criticize our electoral system.  In fact, I don't believe that what we have here in Canada is actually a democracy, but rather some twisted representation of what a democracy should be.  For these reasons I'm sometimes called a radical, or often a socialist or perhaps a tree hugger (the latter two are apparently synonymous in contemporary ideological groupings).  I will probably reinforce this label by declaring that I will be voting for the Green party this election - the only political party with a sustainable vision for the future.  What is certain is that I am not a radical but a pragmatist.  I believe in democracy and I believe that an organized democracy is the only way to bring about the changes that this country and this world need.  I believe this because I have seen it happen, especially in Latin America.  That is why despite my cynicism, I believe that elections are incredibly important.  There is so much at stake.  The longer that we neglect our duty to vote, the further we move away from a democracy and the harder it will be to salvage democracy when things start to get difficult - which is inevitable the way things are going.

Since this is my personal blog I'll now use this opportunity to push my own strong political views upon my readers.  In the near future I will be writing about the problems with Canadian democracy and why our current system does not work.  In the meantime, I strongly encourage people to vote Green.  For every vote that the Green party receives they gain legitimacy as a party in the public eye, and the only reason they have not gained a strong sense of legitimacy thus far (as was made clear by their exclusion in the leaders debates) is because they raise important issues that the other political parties do not want to address.  The Green party is the only party that will actively work to change our electoral system to make your individual vote worth more, so that there is a government in parliament representative of the entire population of Canada.  And they are the only party that will provide an active voice for the environment, at a time when Canada is becoming known around the world as one of the least-environmentally friendly developed countries.  Anyone who cares about the future of this country and this world should vote Green.


Josh said...

Hey Anthony, it's Josh. Gotta tell ya bud, I really enjoy reading your blog so keep it up, it's always a nice break from studying and your writing continues to improve.

Although I agree with much you have said, I also feel that in a sense, a vote for the Green Party is a vote for a Conservative majority.

As you have accurately described, our country's democratic system is in deep need of reform. Since the area that I reside is divided between Conservative and Liberal voters, if I were to vote for the NDP or the Green Party I would practically be wasting my vote because there is no chance for it to affect the outcome of the election in any form.

For this reason I will be voting for the Liberal canditate in my riding. Although my political views tend to fall much more in line with the Green Party, or even the NDP, my vote for the Liberals is an attempt to prevent a Conservative majority.

The idea of a Conservative majority is deeply frightening to me. With the risk of sounding like Ignattieff, Steven Harper has no respect for democracy or the environment, he is in favour of tax cuts for the wealthy and who knows how far into social services, education and healthcare he will be willing to make cuts in order to balance the government deficit. The Liberals, although far from earning my trust, at least tend to keep the money flowing in these important areas.

Harper is very close to acheiving his majority. Not only has he shown himself a capable leader(who I never agree with), he did very well in the debates and is becoming more and more sly as the years go on.

So although I would love to see the Green Party gain seats this election, the flawed democratic system leaves me with the decision to vote strategically as a means to prevent a Conservative majority.

Anthony William Persaud said...

Hey Josh,

Thanks for your input. I completely agree with you that the prospect of a Harper majority is frightening. I have seen the effects, especially internationally, of a right-wing,neo-liberal policy in Canada. That being said, every election that I can remember since I was a child has called for anyone who opposes the Conservatives to vote Liberal. That is not democracy. As long as we keep voting "strategically" our democracy will be further compromised. I disagree with you when you say your vote will be wasted if you voted Green or NDP, because numbers are telling even in this broken system. If the Green were to receive even 1.5 million votes, even without a seat they would become a force that can no longer be silenced. On the contrary I believe you would be wasting your vote by not voting with your heart.

I do not think the people will put up with much from Harper. Even if he were to gain a majority his power would be checked by voices of the millions who oppose him. I think that those Canadians who now support Harper will soon come to realize that he does not represent Canadian, or human values, in any way, and he will be toppled eventually. I hate to admit it but maybe reckless right-wing governing is exactly the wake up call that Canadians need to start thinking about the important issues and to start to remember what Canada actually stands for. Harper continuously spews about the economy, but the economy becomes irrelevant when the environment is destroyed and our social system degraded. As long as we keep voting "strategically" we will keep having these right of centre Liberal governments or Conservative governments, which have only been taking this country down hill, even before the time of Harper.

Josh said...

You raise an interesting prospect of a reckless right-wing majority waking up Canadians. Yet I wonder if this would really be the case. Many Canadians have shown themselves to be apathetic towards political decisions as long as the majority of them can support their families.

When he prorogued parliament and when he got the senate to turn down the environmental accountability bill which was voted through parliament, few people made noise about it.

As long as the majority of people can support their families with food and a roof over their heads, Harper (especially under a majority) is free to make policies which affect those mostly in need, continue reckless exploitation of our environment and continue to negatively affect Canada's image around the world through neo-liberal policies and war.

I agree with you that strategic voting is not true democracy and you have succeeded in challenging the way I was thinking. Last election I planned on doing the same thing and once I got my ballet I couldn't do it and ended up voting Green. The Liberal candidate won in my area and approved the destruction of a plot of land which had the oldest trees in the community and contained a wetland that served as a breeding ground for red-winged blackbirds every year.

I don't know what it will take for people to realize that business-as-usual needs to change today. I feel like there is much at stake in this election, and the thought of a Conservative majority is enough to make any alternative seem appealing.