Thursday, April 07, 2011

Election Rambling... Arggghhhh!


Here in Canada we're smack in the middle of yet another Federal election, and in the U.S. the war drums are beating for a Presidential election in November. (It falls on my birthday this year, yeah for me!) The bottom-line is that we have non-stop politics. Everywhere we look, everything we read, everything we hear. So I'll add to the noise.

I used to be what you'd call a political animal. I loved policy talk, voting strategy, candidates debates, etc... I've helped to organize "meet and greets" for candidates and, for a time, considered involvement myself. I have to admit I've grown quite cynical lately. There are a number of reasons for that.

The first of those is that I've grown up and realized that the government cannot (should not?) solve all of our problems. From my experience, the more the government gets involved, the more complicated it gets and the less effective it becomes. It's not that the issues we talk about aren't important - they usually are - it's that the nature of government does not lend itself to solutions, but rather bureaucracy. I agree with Charles Colson, who said: "A good society isn’t built by government dictates but by the shared values of what Edmund Burke called the “little platoons” of society-families, churches, civic groups, and other associations." I find his perspective interesting, having followed his fall in Watergate and his ministry since.

Rather than help, in my opinion big government often hinders community development through layers of bureaucracy and red tape. Many of our Federal and Provincial ministries seem to have forgotten why they were created and, therefore, exist only to perpetuate themselves. I recognize that there are many individuals within these departments for whom this is not true, but I believe that, by and large, the system has failed.

Another reason for my cynicism is that party politics and the role of the media have almost destroyed rational debate. Here's a "for instance." Somehow, in the '70's, it was decided that the abortion issue was settled, though there is no law on the books. I hear this all the time from our national media. Every time a candidate dares to express an opinion that the issue should be discussed (or even if their opinion becomes known) they are not only vilified in the press, but usually ostracized by their own party. It's not the only issue. I've watched in amazement as candidates have been demonized because they are evangelical Christians. In some parts of the country, regardless of qualifications, being a believer is enough for a person's candidacy to be a non-starter.

Because of these, and other reasons, many Conservatives, like myself, find ourselves without a political home. In order to be elected, Stephen Harper has seemingly abandoned his right-wing base and muzzled everyone in his party. It may have gotten him elected, but it leaves a sour taste in a lot of people's mouths. Remarkably, some in the media still accuse him of a hidden agenda - to foist his dreaded "right-wing" morality on an unsuspecting public. His agenda is simple, and it's not a secret - to get and hold power. That being said, I still believe his party is better than the electable alternatives. The Liberals, NDP, et al have demonstrated that they are far left of center on most things, certainly on moral issues, and the Conservatives now occupy the middle. I find it morally reprehensible to ever cast a vote for a party that believes it's a "right" to kill an unborn child. Where's Preston Manning when you need him?

Then you have the controversy in my own riding of Simcoe-Grey. Our current MP, Helena Guergis, was elected as a Conservative, but ran afoul of our Prime Minister when her and her husband were accused of wrong-doing. Though vindicated, she was not allowed back into the Conservative caucus. In fact, she was not even granted an opportunity to hear why she was ejected in the first place. She has sat as an Independent Conservative and is running as one. Her votes in parliament have gone with the Conservatives. Now she faces a worthy opponent, the newly nominated Dr. Kellie Leitch.

When I was called recently by the Conservative Party and asked how I would be voting, I replied that I was undecided. I told them they needed to have the Prime Minister clean up the mess he has made in this riding. I also predicted that the Conservative vote would be split between Leitch and Guergis and the Liberal candidate Alex Smardenka would likely waltz right between them to an election victory. the other candidates in Simcoe Grey, as of this writing, are Katy Austin for the NDP, Jace Metherall for the Green Party; and Peter Vander Zaag for the Christian Heritage Party.

Some would say to vote for a fringe party. That's okay for a protest vote, but these have very little chance of winning a seat, nil of forming a government. Personally, I've never been one to throw a protest vote, I try to be strategic. This year I find myself looking very carefully at the options out there and trying to decide where my vote could really make a difference.

It's sad. The issues we face are many, and serious; yet we don't often talk about the issues. Often, it seems, we studiously avoid them. We'd rather attack each other's character than look at why we agree or disagree with "Cap-and-trade," or take a serious look at our Health-care system. I have friends who are NDPers, and Liberals and Green Party members and more. I like them. We don't have to agree on everything to be friends. (Of course, they may not like me after reading this).

As you can tell, my frustration level is rising. However, I will still cast my vote. I'm just not sure for who this time. I will vote because I can, because in Canada I'm allowed to have a say in who makes decisions for me. I'm thankful for that. As Winston Churchill said, "It has been said that Democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."

I long for a return to civil discourse, but I won't hold my breath. If you differ with my position, that's okay. Just don't call me names; tell me why you believe differently. I might even buy you coffee so we can talk about it. And remember, if you don't vote, you really shouldn't complain about who wins or loses. Have your say come election day, a lot of people paid a high price so that you could exercise that right.

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