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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

i'm feeling alienated.

There have been some predictions that the Liberal-NDP coalition supported by the Bloc Quebecois may spurn a resurgent Western separatism movement, but before we start posting Alberta Sheriffs at the Saskatchewan border, I suggest we take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

If you're an Albertan suffering from Ottawa-alienation, you are probably not as alone as you think -- because it's hard to argue that Canadians living from coast to coast aren't feeling the exact same way -- something deeply reflected in the dropping voter turnout and political engagement levels across the country.

I'm not sure I've ever felt particularly represented by any of the parties in Ottawa, but I don't feel this is because I was born and raised in Alberta. The insulated political bubble in which Ottawa's political culture exists draws in politicians from across regional and party-lines, and it will only change when Canadians from across the country begin to take their responsibilities as citizens seriously. More Canadians need to become active citizens and demand more than political maneuvers and spin from their elected representatives, whether they be Conservative, Liberal, NDP, or BQ.

I support progressive politics in Canada, but truth be told, I have about as much trust in Stephane Dion and Jack Layton as I do in Stephen Harper, and that's not much. As I previously wrote, I hope that the long-term silver lining of this situation will help end of the extreme partisanship and negative politics brought to Ottawa by Harper and Tom Flanagan. By playing politics too fast and too loose, Harper’s Conservatives killed any real chance of forming positive working relationships with the three other parties. By the time the Conservatives backtracked on the more unpopular moves, it had become unreasonable to believe that the other parties in the House of Commons could still work with a political party that publicly held their eradication at the core of its political, and apparently legislative, agenda.

Finally, I thought that Chris Labossiere at A Rich Full Life presented some pretty thoughtful points about his frustrations with Canadian parliamentary culture (and I agree):

“I don't know enough about a Parliamentary Democracy to debate the nuances, but what I do know is that it punishes moderate, progressive thinking. We buy the nonsense that we must vote along party lines. Firstly at our riding level, but our whole system actually chastises MP's & MLA's who deviate from the party line. The whole system is set to punish those who may want to walk their own talk. Unlike the American system, where a party faithful can object to the party line for their constituents, we never let that happen. How can the shining stars ever rise out of the mix to make a name for themselves if they have to pretend to believe that everything their party believes in is gospel. The moderates are lost in the fray. The visionaries threaten the status-quo and for that they must be punished. Most great ones simply don't bother, and continue to be great in their industry, profession or calling."


Anonymous said...

100% agree.

D said...

Well, if Santa Claus thinks it's a bad idea it mustn't be good for the country!

Thanks for the intelligent opinion Edmonton Journal. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the intelligent commentary. I have lived in Nova Scotia, Ontario, and B.C. and can't name a time when I didn't feel alienated from the removed politics of Ottawa.

Anonymous said...

Mall Santa disapproves.

That settles it.

Robert G. Harvie, Q.C. said...

..some excellent points.. but, were we to move to a more American-style representation, we would then run into the rot of "special interests" and each represtative "brokering" their votes on issues to serve their local electorate.. which in many respects is at least as bad.

I don't know the "right" answer.. but I do believe that when you are in an area of relative wealth (Alberta) and you do not have the population to press your interests in a representative democracy, there is very little chance that you aren't going to get "alienated".

I would amost be shocked if it were any different.. why would Quebec and Ontario not "vote themselves largess from the treasury"?

Sucks, that's all I know.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like an argument in favour of creating several smaller countries, ala Europe.

Anonymous said...

Isn't Europe coming together, via the European Union? I was confused by the previous comment (9:25 am).

Anonymous said...

Ah.... well, the EU has equalization payments, too. ;)

Roblaw... I do think that our current system - that is, the plurality (first past the post) system of electing MPs - does lend itself to the regionalism and playing of one province off another that is, frankly, a cancer on our politics. It has allowed for the creation of regional profiles that, when viewed on a map or in Parliament, look politically homogeneous when, in fact, they're not.

We need national parties, with a national presence, if we're going to govern Canada as it's supposed to be. Right now, we don't have any truly national parties and haven't for some time; almost all politics is regional. And in all honesty, each federal party in turn has exploited or made benefit from the respective regional fears to their own gain at election time.

In the East, threats of the domination of those scary, "conservative" Albertans in the government scares up votes for the Liberals or Bloc Quebecois. In Alberta, the mere possibility of an "NEP II" being introduced by the Liberals or NDP is bandied about to scare up votes for the Conservatives.

Neither is good politics - not if we're to continue forward as one country.

Anonymous said...

^^^^ hear, hear!

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Robert G. Harvie, Q.C. said...

Problem is.. "proportional representation" is simply going to assure that there will never be a majority, and that, in turn, seems to encourage more diverse parties, and more defined "special interests". I have a very hard time, short of a federation of independant provinces, understanding how this can get truly resolved as to some degree, the majority of power is going to sit where the majority of the population sits.

And the unfortute reality is that what is important in the GTA is not necessarily important in southern Alberta.. and visa versa..

And for a further certainty, there will always be fiscal imbalance between regions.. oil is not always high, cars aren't always selling, etc., etc...

Marry the two and you have the seeds for permanent dissent.. the solution? Well, perhaps reducing the utility of "equalization payments". Reduce the ability of Ottawa to impose it's will on Provinces.. which, in theory, is why the Reform Party was created and is probably why there is a BQ.

If we are basically taking care of our own - who cares if Quebec wants universal daycare? Who cares if they have gun control in Ontario.. but, and I'm being a little bit prejorative now.. but the big reason I left the Liberal party was that the notion of grand social engineering I think is a huge mistake, financially, and socially..

kenchapman said...

Wow Dave!!! If you are quoting Chris there is hope for the country

Anonymous said...

From the Vancouver Sun:::

"In any event, this East-West claptrap is just that, claptrap. There is no great electoral divide between the West and the Rest of Canada. Regionally, the popular vote broke down like this. In the West, 46.9 per cent voted Conservative but 44.2 per cent voted for the so-called coalition parties, the Liberals and NDP. In Central Canada, 45 per cent voted Liberal/NDP but 30.3 per cent voted Conservative. In the Maritimes, Conservatives won 28.4 per cent of votes while 51.4 per cent voted Liberal/NDP, a wider gap but remember that this region represents only about one quarter of votes cast in the West and one eighth of those cast in Central Canada."