“Our dreams don’t fit on your ballots” is a common rallying cry amongst anarchists, anti-globalisation activists, and a whole slew of other lefty-type “radicals.” Despite its provenance, I’m starting to think that it applies readily to just about anybody.
As a white male aged 18-36, I suppose I should feel almost as empowered as the people who actually hold the reigns: the old white boomers. But I don’t, not in the least bit. In what has been a steady slide since I came of age to vote, I have felt less and less involved in Canadian politics. The last year has been especially harsh. To say the least, the system is broken.
Though we have more than two functional federal parties with in this country, there are only two that stand a chance at holding power – and I despise both of them. Despite myself, I voted for the Federal Liberals in the most recent election, because Stéphane Dion’s Green Shift represented the best chance Canada had at getting any sort of climate change policy to speak of. (More on this in another post, perhaps, but suffice to say – I have basically become a single-issue voter. Climate change is the single most important challenge facing the whole of humanity right now. If we don’t act very strongly, and very soon, then we are all well-and-truly Fucked. Period.)
As everyone in Canada knows, the “Green Shaft” (sometimes I hate puns) and its sadly uncharismatic but intelligent architect failed in the polls, sending a bleak wave through Canadian politics. The defeat of Dion’s heavily environmental policy has left all major parties afraid of environmentalism, bolstering Canada’s willing participation in the Global Doom.
This shockwave also passed through provincial politics, an area in which some (very) small inroads have been made for environmentalism and climate policy. The result is that BC’s Provincial NDP party (who correlate more closely to the Federal Liberals) based their major platform plank on an “Axe the Tax” policy. This referred to a miniscule carbon tax put into place last year by the Provincial Liberals (who correlate more closely to the Federal Conservatives… the provincial Conservatives correlate most closely with whichever Federal party is the most batshit insane) and could only be described as political pandering at its worst. This is especially noteworthy since the NDP did actually have a Carbon policy of their own — but they refused to even list it on the bulleted policy list on their website. After writing a letter telling the NDP why I would not be voting for them, I wound up voting Green. (I almost voted for the Liberals in a symbolic single-issue gesture, but I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself.)
The fact is, of course, that it doesn’t matter one lick who I voted for. The NDP were safe in my riding, and won easily. The main reason I bothered to vote at all in the provincial election was because of the referendum on a proposed voting system called Single-Transferrable Vote. A form of proportional representation, this system would have returned a semblance of franchise to disaffected extremists such as myself. I was hopeful that the system would win, given that it got 58% of the vote the last time a referendum was held (it needed 60% to pass). Instead, STV faced a massive scare campaign organized by various vested interests (BC Liberals and BC NDPs included) since STV would have done away with “safe” seats, and would have ensured that representatives would actually have to listen to their constituents or risk getting turfed. As I whined the next day, BC was offered democracy and turned it down.
The only thing that has left me with a glimmer of hope is that Vancouver’s Municipal election in 2008 saw almost entirely “progressive” representatives get elected. The lion’s share went to Vision Vancouver, a liberal/centrist type party. Most of the rest went to COPE and the Municipal Greens. The ruling right-wing NPA was left with a single member on the city council. Good riddance.
What have been the results of this progressive turn in Vancouver? Well, the Burrard Street Bridge now has a dedicated bicycle lane, for one thing. That’s nice. Unfortunately I can’t find a reference at the moment, but sometime over the past couple months I read that Vancouver’s Mayor requested that the Provincial Housing Minister put new rent control laws into place, in order to prevent “renovictions” (kicking tenants out for renovations, and then raising the rent to unaffordable levels) and other kinds of rent increases in the lead up to the Olympics. The result? The Housing Minister refused, claiming that rent-control laws would be “unfair” to landlords. Puke. (If anyone has a reference or can correct any mistakes I might have just made, please comment.)
If the Mayor of Vancouver can’t affect change on something as simple and common sense as rent control, what hope has a lowly animator? Even our political figures are disenfranched. The system is broken, and since nobody in this country (except for a small group of persistent protestors to whom I occasionally add my voice) is willing to make any noise about it, all I can really do is wait for the next political cycle and hope people smarten up a little.
PS. Sorry for the many months of silence. It’s been a hectic summer. Hopefully this rambly mess represents a return to a semblance of consistent posting.