A useful election, a cost-efficient democracy

Posted 04.02.11

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Instead of bombs and rockets, should our jets in Libya be dropping the pundits, media experts, and Conservative politicians who claim this federal election is "useless"? Or onto the crowds of Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Yemen, Oman, Honduras, and China? Those peoples, bloodied and bandaged, would certainly be eager to learn why democratic elections are a big waste of time.

Or how about this same crowd, yelling at us that this election is "much too expensive"?; Did they complain that Mr. Harper's $1 billion-plus for an artificial lake and the militarization of Toronto for the G8 and G20 last summer was "too expensive?" Harper's week of grandstanding in Toronto cost taxpayers much more than the entire election campaign.

Or are these the bright lights who have no problem with Mr. Harper's in-secret decision to spend multi-billions on attack jets, the M-35s? Buying jets is surely more important than holding an election, right? And fighter jets are much more important than a hospital in Aylmer, right?

Speaking of Aylmer's need for doctors and a hospital, isn't it wonderful that these smart people also think Mr. Harper's plan to build multi-million dollar super-prisons is just what Canada needs. No extra money for health care, or for crime prevention, just extra billions to lock people up -- that's a plan worthy of the old Libya!

Frankly, we ordinary people know that democracy is both messy and expensive. We don't always get a well-functioning government, despite our best intentions at the ballot boxes, but is that a reason not to hold elections? Who will tell the Egyptians that they've made a big mistake because they may not end up with a majority government?

This isn't to say our electoral system is not in need of some thorough tuning up. Mr. Harper has introduced Republican-style "continuous campaigning" to Canada, and it's clear why he likes that system: as long as he's in power he can use taxpayers' money to blow his own horn and use his tar-sands' bankroll to hammer anyone who questions his decisions or priorities -- while the opposition, divided and poorly funded, scurries for cover. That's much better than an election, if you happen to have Mr. Harper's millions.

The sort of election we don't need is one where issues are covered up, where past decisions and plans for the future are not discussed or debated. We don't need an election where the candidates are controlled with an iron fist from the PMO's office, afraid to stray from the official line on every single subject. We want to hear what our local candidates will or won't do, not what their party has decided is a winning program.

The next time we hear whining about a "useless" election, think of the Libyan people. They are being killed for their democratic strivings. An "expensive" election? Think about those fighter jets, mega-prisons, and nasty million-dollar attack ads. Do the big shots really think we're this stupid?

Copyright © 2011 Fred Ryan/Log Cabin Chronicles/03.11