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Kamloops News

LOEWEN: Empty suits and the keys to the kingdom

Image Credit: Contributed/Jeffrey Loewen
October 01, 2014 - 7:47 AM

Sinister and serpentine Prime Minister Stephen Harper and our own plucky pedagogue Premier Christy Clark have been the unwitting tutors of their respective federal and provincial electorates for some time now.

The lesson they have been teaching us all is: It’s time that an activist electorate rises up to hold them accountable.

My thoughts today originate in a conversation I have been having on Facebook with my long-time friend and fellow-armchair-pundit Craig Jones in St. Albert, Alberta. Now Craig is a good guy. Full stop. He has a wife and kids whom he adores and dotes on, when he’s not pursuing a livelihood in the pharmaceutical sector or racing down a ski hill at breakneck speeds.

Like me, Craig enjoys a scotch and smoking big, fine cigars. And on those rare occasions when we are able to get together, it is the puffy blue, luxuriously velvety head-wrapping, fragrant plumes from the cigars that spurs us on to the weighty issues of the world. Somehow the gentle caress of smoke lifts us into the loftier layers of thought and, damn it, we can solve most issues fairly succinctly. It’s in the nature of the ritual (and, as an aside, if you are not cigar smokers, folks: it’s never too late to start).

But in the absence of scotch and cigars, we can both become pretty damn ornery. To wit:

“I am having a hard time finding anything optimistic to say about federal & provincial politics. In both arenas, I am presented with candidates who I would not even choose to have lunch with far less hand the keys to the province / country to. I fear I may soon become part of the majority of non-voting Canadians given the current crop of f*cking meatheads battling for the mandate to embarrass me in legislature & parliament.”

Words of a disaffected friend without a cigar between his teeth. But also the words unspoken by too many of our fellow citizens from coast to coast to coast.

And I empathize with Craig and the rest of you. It’s discouraging when parliamentarians on the government side of the House of Commons refuse to answer legitimate questions raised by the Loyal Opposition.

Last week in our House, we witnessed its befouling by a little man with a bellicose voice named Paul Calandra. In an exchange in the House that went instantly viral between NDP leader Paul Mulcair and parliamentary secretary Paul Calandra, we all saw the contempt in which the government holds the Opposition and, by extension, all Canadians who deserve better from our parliamentarians. We deserve to have government intentions explained to us, especially in times of potential war.

It’s equally discouraging on the provincial front to witness a majority government in the legislature that refuses to spend more than a few days in a year presenting their ideas to the rest of the empty suits in the seats of our provincial parliament. When majority governments can override the values of the rest of a province and earn the keys for the proverbial kingdom with less than 25 per cent support from eligible voters, some pretty weird shite can be dropped at our collective feet.

So what’s the answer?

Craig figures: Pay the buggers way more than they’re currently getting and reduce the number of bums in the seats. His reasoning is that there’s not enough financial incentive to attract truly great quality candidates to the political table.

I don’t agree, of course, as much as I admire my buddy. In my mind, political service is not to be considered a career-move as such. Ideally, a candidate of distinction should be able to make his or her mark in the non-partisan world of the private sector and then, as they mature and grow more civically-minded, cast their lives into the ring to demonstrate their intention to serve the greater good of their province or nation. It’s not ultimately about the money, in other words, it’s about the shaping of the collective political vision for a nation.

We’re both probably naive, of course. We’re both losing sight of the real shapers of governments and their policies: It’s the folks who paid, through their political contributions to the parties and candidates, who call the tunes to which we all must dance. It’s one of the first lessons a candidate learns upon entering the community hall of the politically damned: You dance with the one that brung ya....

So it’s up to you, Joe and Joanna Public. If you want to admire the ‘pokes in parliament, you’ve got to start doing a little digging of your own. Learn all you can about the process; share your views through the social networks; and when the time comes and you feel entitled to have your voice heard: shout it out loud from the rooftops and become an activist for your causes.

Unless parliamentarians and provincial legislators voluntarily move towards a new electoral model called proportional representation (something they’ll never undertake voluntarily), an activist electorate may encourage our political pals to play the game properly and according to the rules. It’s the only hope we have to shape the policies to come.

—  Having lost his 2,500 volume library in the Okanagan Mountain Park Fire, Jeffrey is beginning to fill the void by writing his own. Reach him at jeff.loewen(at)

News from © iNFOnews, 2014

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