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Elections North and South

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The Canadian federal election drew one of the smallest voter turn outs in its history, cost about $300 million, and accomplished little except a few more seats for the Conservatives and the NDP. Not enough to change anything since the Conservatives are still well short of a majority. Shame on Mr. Harper for ignoring his own election law that established fixed dates for elections and then calling this one early when he still had the confidence of the house.

You can add that $300 million to the billions already being flushed down the toilet in Afghanistan by this government. Canadians should be appalled at the waste of resources this government is committing, particularly in Afghanistan where not only are we throwing away resources, we are spending Canadian lives to do it.

They should also be appalled that they have a government elected by only about 22% of registered voters. About 37% of registered voters voted against the government. Another 41% did not bother to vote at all. The fact that a small minority of voters can determine who rules against the wishes of the many can hardly be considered a rational democracy. Canadians should have better.

Establishing a system of proportional representation is obviously one way to help fix the problem. Fixed election dates help, too, but only if the government is prohibited from not only calling elections in advance, but even from attaching confidence to any bill. No confidence motions should be the exclusive prerogative of the opposing parties. As long as the opposing parties have confidence in the government it should stand, whether or not it can successfully pursue all of its legislative goals. Prohibiting the government from recklessly playing chicken with the electoral system, as Mr. Harper is want to do, would require compromises that would meet the desires of a much larger number of citizens than the few who support a party leading a minority government.

South of the border the US election soap opera continues. There at least the majority of the voters usually decide who forms the government. But that could be in part because they do not have as many relevant choices as Canadians or others with functional multi-party systems.

One interesting aspect of the election there is the undercurrent of anti-intellectualism and a fawning consideration for Joe Six Pack, Hockey Moms, NASCAR Dads, and guys like Joe the Plumber. It is not that these people shouldn't count, but lets face it, government, particularly national government, requires a wide breadth of knowledge and a well honed intellect if it is to be done competently. Excellence is not the lowest common denominator.

I have watched Sarah Palin and those who respond most positively to her, and saw the interview of Joe the Plumber. Hormones and reaction are in control here, not careful thinking based on extensive knowledge. It is the kind of knee jerk reactionism that can have disastrous effects when it used to gain power. We have seen it often in history. In the 1920s and 30s we saw it in Europe. Guys like Joe the Plumber wore brown shirts and were used to put governments in power in Italy and Germany who then proceeded to wreak havoc in the world.

Currently the US government is wreaking havoc in the world, aided, unfortunately, by Canada and a number of other countries. One hopes that with the demise of George Bush this will change, at least to a somewhat more subtle form. That may not happen if it is the Joe Six Pack mentality that drives policy rather than a more intellectual one. We should remember that there is little difference between crowds that shout Sig Heil, and those that shout USA, USA.

 

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Jerry West grew up on a farm in California and is currently Editor and Publisher of THE RECORD newspaper in Gold River, BC. Graduate with Honors and graduate school, UC Berkeley. Member, Phi Beta Kappa. Vietnam veteran and Former Sgt. USMC
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