The Argument for Not Voting in the Municipal Elections

voteElections are approaching, and once again I am being told “Bad Politicians are Elected by Good people Who Don’t Vote.”

Nonsense.

Bad politicians are elected by people who hold their nose and vote for bad candidates under the misapprehension that it’s their duty to vote for someone, anyone, no matter how bad, in every election.

In my town the Mayor has been acclaimed, but there are fourteen candidates for six Council positions. Four of those are incumbents.

I actually gave some thought to what I would need to see in order for me to vote for a candidate. At the end of the day there only two candidates that I can support. To vote for another four would force me to give a vote to people who I am not convinced have much to offer our community.

1) I ignore platitudes about community and their love of the town, region, Canada, family, and seniors. Concerns about transportation and density without detailed discussion and proposed solutions. Likewise anything about transparency and honestly in government. If you mention those things I assume you’ll be neither.

2) I ignore candidates who have one, and only one real thing that they care about. If you can’t present yourself as a well rounded candidate I can’t be bothered with you.

3) I ignore candidates who refuse to accept real science and research – like engineering studies of local transportation – in favour of their own wild-eyed opinions. Believe it or not, experts often have what is called “expertise.” You don’t. And if you say “I don’t know.” when asked about an important issue I’ll applaud your honestly, but won’t vote for you.

hillary4) I ignore known party hacks, and people who obviously are using Council only as a stepping stone to higher office.

5) I ignore any candidate whose primary claim is that they’ll cut taxes. Unless they will state unambiguously what services they intend to cut. If you drag out the old canard about “cutting fat” I’ll call you on pure BS.

Once I’ve run through those items I’ll look at who, if anyone, is left, and look for some real opinions on matters of importance. Again, not platitudes, not something vague, but real, well though out ideas that show knowledge and understanding.

At the end of the day there are two candidates that I actually would enjoy voting for, and one further incumbent who at least sounds knowledgeable and didn’t say anything that offended me.

So on election day I’ll happily vote for Lisa Muri and Linda Findlay, but will not waste my remaining votes on people that I don’t really care for.

This is important. The very first step to ridding ourselves of lacklustre candidates is to refuse to vote for them – even when you’re being made to feel guilty if you don’t vote.

And if all of the candidates are of low calibre – then don’t vote for any of them. If you vote for someone that you don’t think is up to the job you’re part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Russell Brand is Right. It’s Mouseland All Over Again.

British comedian Russell Brand has the Twitterverse in an uproar following a BBC interview during which he stated that voting is a pointless exercise because the entire system is set up to to maintain corporations and power-mongers, not to help ordinary folks.

As we speak commentators from every political stripe are piling on to say how wrong he is, how ill-informed he is, and how everyone should, like, just ignore him.

Problem is, he’s right.  The system is fixed, and there’s damn little likelihood that it will change.

There really is almost no difference between the Democrats and Republicans, or the Labour and Tory parties, or in Canada the Conservatives, Liberals, and NDP.  They will all tell you that they are different, but at the end of the day the big, rich guys get richer, the poor get poorer, and ordinary people get shafted.  And it doesn’t matter which one of them you voted for.

 

The root of the whole thing is a system that requires insane amounts of money to be a contender for anything above dog-catcher.  Phones, polls, TV ads, signs, newspaper ads, and volunteers all eat up a lot of cash, and the people who might be inclined to actually change anything aren’t the ones with big fat bank accounts to buy an elected position.

And of course, the Media, all of whom are owned by extremely rich guys, will continue to slant coverage in the ways that support the people that they trust.  That swings enough votes to ensure that there’s no real change.

Or, to put it into a Canadian context:

  • If you vote for a Conservative, Stephen Harper will get re-elected.
  • If you vote for a Liberal,  Stephen Harper will get re-elected.
  • If you vote for an NDP,  Stephen Harper will get re-elected.

Yes – a vote for the Greens is a waste. And spoiling your ballot is about the most pointless thing that you can do.

“Oh, but it’s a protest and will send a message to the people in power!” you say.

Guess what – it doesn’t.  No politician cares in the slightest about spoiled ballots, or about people who don’t vote.

If you’ve ever worked on a campaign you’ll know that the entire population is divided into two groups that matter:

  1. People who you know will vote for you, and who you will work very hard to get to the polls.
  2. People who you know will vote for another party that might defeat you, and who you will work very hard to discourage from getting to the polls.

And that’s it. Anyone else does not matter.

As usual, Tommy Douglas had it right, way back in 1944.

“You see, my friends, the trouble wasn’t with the colour of the cat. The trouble was that they were cats. And because they were cats, they naturally looked after cats instead of mice.”

MOUSELAND – A Political fable told by Tommy Douglas 1944

It’s the story of a place called Mouseland. Mouseland was a place where all the little mice lived and played, were born and died. And they lived much the same as you and I do.

They even had a Parliament. And every four years they had an election. Used to walk to the polls and cast their ballots. Some of them even got a ride to the polls. And got a ride for the next four years afterwards too. Just like you and me. And every time on election day all the little mice used to go to the ballot box and they used to elect a government. A government made up of big, fat, black cats.

Now if you think it strange that mice should elect a government made up of cats, you just look at the history of Canada for last 90 years and maybe you’ll see that they weren’t any stupider than we are.

Now I’m not saying anything against the cats. They were nice fellows. They conducted their government with dignity. They passed good laws–that is, laws that were good for cats. But the laws that were good for cats weren’t very good for mice. One of the laws said that mouseholes had to be big enough so a cat could get his paw in. Another law said that mice could only travel at certain speeds–so that a cat could get his breakfast without too much effort.

All the laws were good laws. For cats. But, oh, they were hard on the mice. And life was getting harder and harder. And when the mice couldn’t put up with it any more, they decided something had to be done about it. So they went en masse to the polls. They voted the black cats out. They put in the white cats.

Now the white cats had put up a terrific campaign. They said: “All that Mouseland needs is more vision.” They said: “The trouble with Mouseland is those round mouseholes we got. If you put us in we’ll establish square mouseholes.” And they did. And the square mouseholes were twice as big as the round mouseholes, and now the cat could get both his paws in. And life was tougher than ever.

And when they couldn’t take that anymore, they voted the white cats out and put the black ones in again. Then they went back to the white cats. Then to the black cats. They even tried half black cats and half white cats. And they called that coalition. They even got one government made up of cats with spots on them: they were cats that tried to make a noise like a mouse but ate like a cat.

You see, my friends, the trouble wasn’t with the colour of the cat. The trouble was that they were cats. And because they were cats, they naturally looked after cats instead of mice.

Presently there came along one little mouse who had an idea. My friends, watch out for the little fellow with an idea. And he said to the other mice, “Look fellows, why do we keep on electing a government made up of cats? Why don’t we elect a government made up of mice?” “Oh,” they said, “he’s a Bolshevik. Lock him up!” So they put him in jail.

But I want to remind you: that you can lock up a mouse or a man but you can’t lock up an idea.

NDP Blames the Victims

Another NDP loss, and another chorus of whines about how that loss is the fault of every living person except the NDP themselves.

  • “Only 44% of the people of this province voted. What the hell is wrong with you people. Its not only your right but your duty and responsibility to vote. It s our only real opportunity to have a say. I am so disgusted with that number.”
  • “It could also be incumbent government propaganda and collaboration with corporate media combined with idealistic unwitting Green party pawn candidates to steer the electorate just enough to re-elect the Thieves, Cons and Liars.”

That’s right – it all comes down to lazy voters; corporate media, and the Greens “stealing” NDP votes.

I’m going to go out on a limb and blame a new culprit; The New Democratic Party of BC.

In order:

1) The NDP has no platform, no soul, and really no reason for being any more.  They don’t like Unions any longer, or at least Union money. They spend far too much time hanging out with Chambers of Commerce and Boards of Trade.  The environment? The Greens do it better. Poverty? The Greens do it better. Having photos taken with union leaders and activists? Hmmm… don’t see much of that.

Next time you meet a card carrying NDPer, ask him or her to tell you exactly what the party stands for. What are the things that are so important that they are untouchable.

They’ll stammer a lot, and eventually come back to “We’re not the Liberals.”  What they won’t be able to do is express anything like a coherent philosophy.

The Liberals don’t have that problem. They exist to further unfettered capitalism, to make rich people richer, and to reduce government to as little as possible.  They know it, business knows it, and the message is an easy sell.

Until the NDP manages to actually have an ideology, they will continue to lose.  You can’t sell “We’re mainly not the same as those guys.”

2) The NDP lives in a My Little Pony environment.  Obvious to everyone except the NDP was the inevitability of Liberal attack ads, their willingness to lie and deceive to reach their ends, and the role of the big media in undermining and attacking the NDP during the last weeks of the campaign.

These things work, and will continue to work. Playing Mr Nice Guy against the Liberals will be exactly as effective as it was against that third grade bully at school.  Unless the NDP is prepared to fight back, and hard, against all of this, they don’t stand a chance.

The problem is that the NDP believes that they deserve to win because they’re not as nasty as the opposition.  Like it or not, that means that they’ll lose.

3) The NDP believes that Greens “steal” votes from them.  In the first place, the Greens takes votes from both major parties, more or less evenly. In the second place, if the NDP had as good an environmental policy as the Greens, lots of those votes might come over.

How’s this for an analysis: Lots of voters are moving to the Greens because they’re unsatisfied with the NDP.

4) The NDP believes that they lost because lazy voters didn’t vote. Guess what NDP: those people aren’t voting because you’re not giving them a reason to do so.

Let me repeat that, in BIG RED LETTERS:

Those people aren’t voting because
you’re not giving them a reason to do so.

One heck of a lot of people fully understand the Liberal party and what they represent, and would never vote for them.  They might vote NDP, except that it’s pretty much impossible to see how they’re different from the Liberals.

Adrian: You cannot spend half of the campaign sucking up to Big Business, and then have us believe that you’re not the same as the Liberals. If photo-ops with corporate leaders outnumber ones with Union leaders, you’ve blown it.

If the NDP hope to ever form another government in BC they have to actually become a party that stands for something.

Since the Liberals and Conservatives pretty much have a lock on the right wing of the spectrum, the NDP will need to – oh heresy! – learn once again how to be Left Wing. Maybe even Socialist.

They’ll need to give up on trying be the slightly more progressive Free Enterprise party, and return to their roots, embracing poor people, working people, unionised people, activists, environmentalists – all of the groups that seem to be seen as an embarrassment instead of the grass roots of the party.

Addendum: Seems the folks at rabble.ca see things the same way that I do.

 

The Aftermath of NDP Failure

Quote of the day, from a commenter elsewhere,

We’ve NEVER been a progressive people. We just had a few progressive leaders for a while, and as long as there was enough cake to go around we didn’t mind “the poors” getting a few crumbs. But we’ll kick them to the kerb the moment we might have to share now that the cake is smaller. It’s easier than seriously questioning why the cake is so small.

Take time now to check out the excellent assessment that led to that comment.

In my lifetime, I have not witnessed the creation of a single truly significant social program of any kind. I almost share a birthday with the Constitution, which I revere, but it’s pretty much downhill from there: the erosion and now open elimination of universal healthcare; the rise of free trade and the consequent devaluation of Canadian citizenship; the selling off of most of the profitable elements of the public sector at both the federal and provincial levels; the beginning of the end of Employment Insurance, public pensions and Old Age Security; the rise of a political culture of naked deceit and overt criminality of a sort not normally tolerated in democratic countries with the rule of law and not seen in Canada for a century; the slashing and burning of public education…

How I Voted for Daniel Smith, Green, in North Vancouver-Seymour

Today was an Advanced Polling day in BC, and I popped into the local polling place to make my vote.

I had intended to vote for the NDP, as usual, but when I walked out of the voting booth I had marked my ballot for our local Green candidate Daniel Smith.  Here’s the primary reason why:

In very simple terms, Jane Sterk is the only leader who has actually stepped up the plate and promised to help, really help, the poor people in this province.  Neither Dix nor Clark seem to be willing to commit anything beyond lip service to addressing poverty, and increasingly I can’t see any difference between the two.

Despite my usually cynical outlook on politics, and despite my usual very strategic voting habits, at the end of the day I felt that I had to support the leader who actually stood for something I believed in, and who did so in an unambiguous fashion.

Yes, in this day and age it is still possible that one impassioned speech can change a voter’s mind.

BC Liberals are Keeping Calm

keepcalm_christyToday I was reading “The Art of the Impossible” Dave Barrett and the NDP in Power, 1972-1975 by Geoff Meggs and Rod Mickleburgh.

Truly a great read, a good reminder that there was a time when BC politicians actually had principles and stood up for socialist values; when even right wing capitalists would nationalize services.  (How do you think we got BC Hydro and BC Ferries? WAC Bennett took them over!)

Anyhow, I was struck how little has changed in BC election campaigning in the last few decades.  Wacky may be gone, but the anti-socialist fearmongering carries on.

So I decided to help out Christy and her rapidly declining band of Liberals with a new slogan, and a new campaign poster. Circulate it freely.

Why I am voting for Jim Hansen in North Vancouver – Seymour

(This was originally posted at the BC Iconoclast blog.

I moved back to BC in 2007 after a couple of decades in Ontario and the US – I left BC after Bill Vanderzalm became Premier. This year marks the first time that I’m really informed enough to discuss how I’ll vote, and why: for Jim Hansen, the NDP Candidate in our riding of North Vancouver-Seymour.

Jim is pretty well respected in this riding, and the incumbent Liberal candidate has been pretty much ineffectual. That’s common on the North Shore it seems – most of the MLAs and MPs seem to be the sort who are along for the ride, and spend their time doing photo-ops, parroting press releases, and little else.  I’m hoping that Jim will actually work for the Constituency instead of just being a cheerleader for the party leader.

And of course, I’m a long time NDP supporter, sometime campaign worker, and sometime contributor.  I wouldn’t have voted for the BC Liberals in any case.

But, and it’s a big but, my vote for Jim winds up being less than enthusiastic.

I’ll only vote for a candidate who’s party has a likelihood of forming the government.  That’s how a Parliamentary democracy works: whoever wins the most seats has the power.

Yes, I think that voting Green, or Communist, or Independent is a waste of a vote unless you see it as a statement of protest.  Over the years I’ve become pretty hard-nosed about this: provincially it is the NDP that can unseat the Liberal government, and voting for anyone else just splits the vote and increases the probability of another Campbell/Clark regime.  Federally I’ll vote Liberal for the same reason – they can form a government and force out the Conservatives – the NDP can’t do that.

My real problem is that I’m really very unhappy with what the NDP has become in BC.  I don’t like all of the time spent courting Chambers of Commerce and the Boards of Trade. I don’t like an NDP that wants to refuse Union donations.  I don’t like it that two-thirds of what I’m hearing from the NDP doesn’t sound all that much different from what I would hear from the Liberal camp.

I am terribly frustrated that I’ve yet to hear a strong statement from the NDP that they will restore all of the worker rights and protections that have been lost over the last couple of decades; that they’ll step in and actively support doctors and nurses and hospitals instead of looking for ways to spend less despite the damage it does; that they’ll restore the education system to something run by educators instead of political hacks; that they’ll actually spend serious money on poverty, and housing, and BC Ferries; that they’ll stop or reverse the privatization of essential government services.

The kind of things that the NDP would have done thirty years ago.

So I’ll support Jim Hansen, and even think he’ll do a pretty good job in government, but, as I think is the case for many people, it won’t be wholehearted support.

Breaking It Down In North Vancouver-Seymour

Below are the statements from the NDP and Liberal candidates in our riding.

The KEY:

Boilerplate background blurb with no real content. Warm and fuzzy stuff.

Environment boilerplate. Green and warm and fuzzy.

Some boilerplate about being a “strong voice.”

Growth! Growth! Growth. Also Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!

Fiscal responsibility boilerplate.  We’re prudent! We’ll balance the budget!

Innovation, children, seniors, and any other buzz-word that fills up space without actually requiring specifics.

Jim Hanson, B.C. New Democratic Party

“I am running as the B.C. NDP candidate in North Vancouver-Seymour because I know that we can do better. We can have a more environmentally sensitive, socially conscious and economically prudent provincial government.

“I was born in Lions Gate Hospital in 1961 and raised in North Vancouver-Seymour. Ruth and I have brought up our two children in Blueridge. My spouse Ruth is a Realtor in North Vancouver. My parents live on the North Shore. I have been a self-employed lawyer for 28 years. I believe my background as a lawyer, as a businessman and as a father have equipped me to make a contribution in government.

“I believe it is imperative that we find the right balance. I remember the natural beauty of the North Shore when I was a child. I do not want anything less for our children or our grandchildren. I oppose any initiative that will transform the Port of Vancouver into a major oil sands export facility. We need to preserve our community and find environmentally sustainable means of growth and prosperity. I look forward to being a strong voice for North Vancouver-Seymour in a new and better provincial government.”

Stuff Jim wasn’t allowed to talk about: Unions; Actually undoing Liberal legislation on stuff like employee rights; anything that might rein in corporations from running roughshod over the land; other candidates’ drunk driving convictions.

Jane Thornthwaite, B.C. Liberals

“I love my job and I want to continue doing my job to help the people of North Vancouver-Seymour.

“I had a career in dietetics for 25 years and I am the proud mother of three children, one of whom is a student is at Windsor secondary. That’s the reason why I initially made my entry into politics – because I’ve always been passionate about my children’s education and I felt I could do more. In 2005, I was elected to the North Van school board. When I wanted to make a greater difference for my community, I decided to enter provincial politics and have been the MLA for North Vancouver-Seymour for the past four years.

“I want to ensure that the economy remains strong, the number of jobs available to our children continues to grow. That is best achieved when taxes remain low, the government’s finances are well-managed and economic development is a high priority. I believe that one of society’s highest responsibilities is to provide a quality education system for our children and we need to ensure they have meaningful employment right here in B.C.

“We need more innovative solutions to protecting our environment in North Vancouver and province-wide.”

Stuff Jane wasn’t allowed to talk about: Vasi/Birk; BC Rail, Gordon Campbell; Christy Clark; HST; anything to do with poor people. Drunk Driving convictions.

Read more: http://www.nsnews.com/news/Thornthwaite+riding+lose/8286616/story.html#ixzz2RX8qcIYP

NDP and the Arts

The_MassesFurther to my last post, our local candidate tweeted (or more likely, retweeted what head office told him to) :

jimhanson_ndp: Great to see the@bcndp maintain its commitment to the arts. @northshoreartcr http://t.co/7lukURqVaf

If you follow that link you’ll see that the NDP is trying to score points by announcing a promise to increase the BC Arts Council budget to “$29 million over the next three years from $24 million.”

Well, big whoop-de-do.

Five piddling million bucks. Over three years.

As it stands now, according to Hill Strategies Research Inc., the acknowledged experts in these things, BC has the lowest per capita Arts funding of all the provinces. And would remain well entrenched at the bottom even after this drop in the bucket.

Provincial spending on culture per capita averaged $90 in 2009-10, with the highest levels in Newfoundland and Labrador ($156), Saskatchewan ($149), Prince Edward Island ($129) and Quebec ($125). Also above-average on this indicator were Manitoba ($117), New Brunswick ($107), Alberta ($102), and Nova Scotia (also $102). The only two provinces below the national average were Ontario ($63) and British Columbia ($54).

Yes, the NDP is promising to increase our per capita arts funding to an amazing $55!

I’ve worked in the cultural sector for a couple of decades, and have always been frustrated by the general lack of interest in Arts and Culture in the NDP.

Sure, they’ll always talk about loving us, but at the end of the day the classic NDP crowd just doesn’t get it, and likely never will. Despite some interesting projects like Hamilton’s Workers’ Arts and Heritage Centre, the NDP still seems to believe that their base supporters, imagined to be lunch bucket workers, although I suspect that’s not really true any longer, don’t really like or trust those artsy-fartsy types.

And yet I’d wager that your average NDP supporter is also pretty darned likely to visit his or her local library, or enroll their kids in piano and dance lessons, or go to summer music festivals.

All of these – in fact every single cultural and arts organization anywhere – depend on government funding to survive. In BC that means that they’re starving to death.

And, to bring it back to politics, the cultural community has generally supported the NDP, and the things that the NDP (traditionally) has stood for.  (although things are not always that simple – check out pianist Stephen Hough’s blog post “Do musicians tend to be socialists?“)

Ordinarily during an election the party faithful (as I tend to be) stick to the party line, and avoid asking embarrassing questions. That’s why candidate Twitter feeds are so dull and uninspiring.

This time though, the Liberals are almost certainly dead in the water, so I feel fine about holding the NDP feet to the fire and asking them to make some REAL commitments to things that I care about.

They’ve been getting a free ride from artists and creators for far too long.