Last time I checked we were living in the 21st century. Social media sites, and some mainstream media, abound with cries for systemic change in our political infrastructure. The appearance of an international movement for change imparts the assurance that we are on the cusp of something that is, dare I say, revolutionary. Grassroots democracy appears to be poised to drag governance, kicking and screaming if need be, into the 21st century. As we talk amongst ourselves we become convinced that we are mere moments away from transformation. Lincoln said that with public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed.
And yet, astoundingly, we continue to elect 19th century partisan political parties with, at best, a mid-20th century outlook on governance.
When questions of policy and/or policy implementation are raised, 19th century partisan parties ask themselves two questions, and only two questions.
1. If we do this, will it get the party more votes or fewer votes?
2. If we do nothing, will it get the party more votes or fewer votes?
Regardless of grand electoral promises, platform declarations, and policy documents, it is the will to implement that is always sadly lacking. 19th century partisan parties always check the wind direction before reacting. Often the result is, “We intend to set up a sub-committee to determine if we need to establish a commission to investigate the ramifications of doing something. It shouldn’t take more than five or six years. Until that process is completed, we don’t feel it’s appropriate to comment on the subject.”
And so while I applaud Mr. Trudeau’s call this week for the full legalization of marijuana, a move the media have labelled “gutsy”, I am of an age that I can remember someone of the same name and party persuasion entertaining a similar notion some 43 years back. In those 43 years, Mr. Trudeau’s (choose one) party held power for 26 of those years. Nothing changed. It was not politically expedient to do so.
I sometimes ask myself why they are called leaders when they are almost always at the back of the pack.
I often ask myself why citizens continue to elect 19th century party representatives.
I always ask myself why voters get upset when parties in power do nothing.
Well, they were elected to do nothing. Our system of governance rewards stasis; it is an internal self-governing entity, regardless of who appears to be “in power” at the time. The political class has become the collective whipping boy for our fear of change and our resentment of “entitled elites.” Decrying their action/inaction has become a public sport and guilty indulgence.
Now some readers will undoubtedly reply that their MP, MLA, MHA, MPP, is an honest, hard working, caring person doing a wonderful job, and I won’t dispute that assertion. I most likely know that person and will wholeheartedly agree with your assessment. But something transformative occurs when there is a conflict between the good of the country, the good of the constituencies, and the good of the party. The order of precedence reverses.
It appears that we only desire change if it doesn’t affect us personally. Political parties will always speak of change, but they are almost always referring to the seating plan in their respective legislatures. I equate it with a very large volleyball team rotating players every few years.
As Nova Scotia heads into an election sometime in the next eight months, we would all do well to remember that the three main parties have all been in power before, have all made the same promises, have all opposed the same initiatives, and not much has really changed. Einstein said that you can’t fix a problem with the same thinking that created it. Perhaps it’s time for some 21st century thinking. Real systemic change will be revolutionary. It will affect most segments of our society. Societal shifts are not easy, and will require a collective resolve most likely not seen in this country since the Second World War.
True change will only come about when we are willing to live with the consequences.