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BENNS’ BELIEF

RODERICK BENNS, PUBLISHER

Tired of the Party line

What is a political party? I’ve always thought of it as a political framework for shared values. Candidates running for office figure out what party most closely matches their own values and then they run for office accordingly. What I’m increasingly seeing though is that it is an excuse for a lack of independent thinking; party affiliation has become a proxy for meaningful action – especially at the local representative level. You will notice that in this issue we’ve created a two-page election primer to help voters make an informed decision on who to vote for. This month we are tackling social policy; next month we’ll focus on the economy. The local federal Liberal candidate’s campaign manager suggested some of the answers in our chart couldn’t be completed at the time we sent them out because the party had not yet released its platform. I’ve met the Liberal candidate (Judi Forbes) and she seemed bright and personable. Surely she could be entrusted to have her own opinion on these issues? As for the Conservative Party, they declined to participate at all in the chart we constructed because they didn’t want to be restricted to Yes, No, or Too Complicated for their answers. (Yet the Green Party, NDP, Liberals, and People’s Party of Canada all managed to participate.) The power that political parties exercise in Canada was never meant to be this imbalanced. Canada is a constitutional monarchy.The prime minister is just that – the ‘prime’ minister, but one of many ministers in cabinet. The government’s direction, in the end, is beholden to elected representatives we know as MPs. (If only they would exercise that power!) My historian friend, Christopher Moore, sums it up nicely on his blog: “In a constitutional monarchy, prime ministers are merely servants of the crown. In a parliamentary democracy, they exercise powers temporarily delegated to them by the people’s representatives.  It is important that we citizens remember their status as members of the ‘Commons.’” Writing in the National Post, Moore adds: “It is the parliamentary norm that MPs are accountable to the voters who select them, and that leaders are accountable to the MPs who select them.” Not to mention a new study has found that Canadians who hold strong partisan beliefs are more likely to be misinformed about issues than more politically neutral voters. When the party line is the only thing that matters, electoral cynicism follows. When individual MPs or MPPs merely recite party lines and cheap slogans wherever they go, they not only lose a little bit of their souls, they assume voters are idiots.When these same politicians clap their hands and nod their heads like trained seals in adherence to the party whip, I know I’m not the only one wondering where the idiocy really lies.

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Lindsay Advocate - September 2019  

Lindsay Advocate - September 2019  

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