I was listening in the car today to a CBC phone-in discussing the election. One caller made the following point, which I found very telling:
“I took the CBC Political compass, and came up as Green. I like the Green platform, I agree with the Green party’s policies. But I could never vote for them because it I can’t take the risk of voting for a third party and letting the Conservatives win.”
This represents to me one of the big misunderstandings of our political process. We need to remind ourselves that we do not vote for parties, we vote for people. We are not electing a prime minister, or a party, but a LOCAL representative.
Driving through the city I see lots of boards with peoples names on it. So I know that Patrick Brown is ‘blue’, Colin Wilson is ‘red’, Myrna Clark is ‘orange’ and so on, and I find myself wondering whether a person’s character can really be summed up by a an HTML colour code. Is Patrick Brown more interesting than #00008B Dark Blue? Surely Colin’s family knows that he has more depth of character than #FF0000 Red?
We elect people, not parties. As I’ve said before, and will say again, what matters is the competence and integrity of the individual. I don’t know how I’ll vote yet on may 2nd, but I do know that I’ll make my decision based on my best assessment of the character and abilities of the candidates, not the color of their signs. Anything less is to ignore the humanity of both the candidates and the people they represent.
The first, and so far only, election flyer that I’ve received is from Colin Wilson. It highlights Liberal values, such as “investing in programs that continue to reduce the crime rate, rather than building new prisons”, which I found a welcome contrast to Brown’s ‘tough on crime‘ stance. It also included an invitation to “drop by the office to have a chat with Collin”, so that’s exactly what I did.
My impression? So far, top marks for Colin and his team. Despite having to prepare for a debate this evening, Colin graciously took the time to meet me and answer some of my questions. As I’ve said repeatedly, competence and integrity are two values that are critical for any political candidate. Colin mentioned to me both his 12 years of experience managing project teams in the private sector and his 10 years working in government. He can certainly reasonably claim the experience and competence to be an effective MP.
Colin also has a desire to bring high-tech and green jobs to Barrie. The city certainly needs a concerted effort in this area, and it will be interesting to see what definitive proposals are developed to help the city continue it’s transition from an industrial to a knowledge-based economy.
As the Barrie Examiner pointed out last week, running an election campaign can be an expensive process, but so far it seems that it’s a challenge that Colin and his team are tackling with gusto.
If you want a chance to hear and meet the candidates, the next debate is on the 14th at Barrie City Hall. Democracy only works if the electorate engages actively, so come and let your voice be heard.
As I try to comment on the unfolding election campaign, I’m faced with the challenge that I don’t actually have a clue what messages the party leaders want me to hear. This is probably my fault, because I have intentionally crafted a lifestyle that is as free as from corporate and political communication. I rarely watch television, I switch radio channels as soon as a commercial comes on, I use email spam filtering, and I do this for a reason. I don’t want my mental environment to be dominated by messages that tell me that I’m nothing more than a consumer of goods and services, that my value is directly tied to the amount that I consume, and that the only valuable decisions I can make in life are picking between competing brands.
The flip side of this is that at the moment, I have no idea what Harper, or Ignatieff, or Layton, want me to hear. I’ve so far not seen or heard a political ad, or received a campaign phone call.
In general, I’m happy about this. I’m not inspired by the same-old approach to electioneering; the lawn signs, the commercials, the robo-dialers and the tired game of tightly controlled political ‘messages. I’m not inspired by the so-called ‘debates’ that are more about posturing, scoring points, reassuring the base and spreading fear and doubt about the opposition than about a genuine, honest exchange of ideas.
There seem to be very few politicians that are willing to engage in a real discussion with the electorate; although occasionally I witness a counter-example. A few weeks ago on the popular internet discussion site Reddit.com Anthony Weiner, answered questions in the “Ask Me Anything” section. Instead of getting a staffer to post pre-packaged soundbites, he actually engaged with the argumentative, sometimes rowdy commentators. I think this is a hopeful development, and one I’d like to see more of. Candidates are asking to be allowed to represent the people, and if they choose to present monologues rather than engage in dialogue with the electorate, then they are not worth our support.