Democracy means government by discussion, but it is only effective if you can stop people talking –Clement Atlee
It’sa beautiful day in BC, because Gordon Campbell says so. You’ll behearing a lot of that sunny weather talk from Liberal candidates in thenext few weeks, regardless of the weather. Because Gordon Campbell andthe Liberal spin doctors say so.
Recently, Sean Holman from the Vancouver Sun wrote thatLiberal political handlers, including Gordon Campbell, told MLAcandidates they need to stop laying out their own thoughts and stick tothe Liberal party’s message of the day during the campaign.
No surprise there, but Campbell reportedly told his 79 candidates
- thatif the daily message of the campaign is “It’s a beautiful day” andsomeone asks what it’s going to be like tomorrow, the response shouldbe “It’s a beautiful day.” And, just to reinforce his advice, thepremier managed to get candidates saying that phrase out loud.
Imagine79 potential MLAs repeating mindlessly that it’s a beautiful day – evenif everyone can look outside and see for themselves that it’s raining.
In other words, Liberal MLA candidates are being ordered to stop speaking their mind.
Andit is not only the Liberals that are straight jacketing theircandidates, rumour has that the NDP is trying to impose similarconstraints on its MLA candidates.
When does party disciplinebecome censorship?. Have the Liberals and NDP become metaphors ortraining camps for the problems with the political process in BC? Isthis not an illustration of how our political process has beendumbed-down and become devoid of content and real meaning? Are we beingbullied into silent complicity in the gutting of democracy?
Peoplein British Columbia, Canada and the US are increasingly being spoon fedonly focus-grouped, poll-friendly, spin doctored pablum during theelection process. The experts may think it works in terms of short-termelectoral outcomes, but at what long-term cost to social values, tocommunities, to democracy?
People are disillusioned withpolitics. Voter turnout levels are dropping. Confidence in politiciansand the political process is at an all time low. Cynicism at an alltime high.
And worst of all, youth, First Nations, immigrantsand people with low incomes – already alienated from the “democratic”process – see their vote as superfluous.
Democracy relies on aninformed and engaged citizenry. It requires debate, the interplay ofideas. Politics, which used to be battles over ideas and policiesfought out on doorsteps and in town halls, with the occasionalwhistle-stop appearance, is now largely clashes of advertising budgetsand public relations consultants.
We seldom hear politiciansspeak the truth. As a result, it feels like the information coming outof our political process has gone through multiple washing cycles andonly arrives at our door sanitized beyond meaning.
Theupcoming provincial election may reach a low point, as policy positionsare replaced by finger pointing and negative campaigning. As H. L.Mencken said many years ago, Under democracy one party alwaysdevotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party isunfit to rule – and both commonly succeed, and are right.
Thelack of specifics in both NDP and Liberal platforms almost ensures thiselection will be about the each party’s past record, not its plan forthe future. This combined with strict message control by the party’smeans that little of substance will likely be discussed in thecampaigns.
Although not a surprise, it is sad and unfortunate for the people of BC.
The people of BC deserve better! But we are not going to get it unless we stand up and demand change.
Meanwhile, enjoy the sunshine. But wear a raincoat.