I've been thinking a lot lately about democracy since I listened to last weeks Ideas show on CBC radio. Hosted my by old Canadian Studies Prof, Paul Kennedy, the show wrestles with the question: is democracy always a good thing? (The second part airs Tuesday night.)
In the meantime, as a resident of Montréal and a citizen of Canada I am soon to be faced with the quandary of having to cast a vote in a civic election where I have a choice of a péquiste warhorse and an scandal ridden incumbent. On the national side, there is Harper (the anti-Canadian), Ignatieff (the born again Canadian) and Layton (the caring Canadian). As for "other category" we have Elizabeth May (Green Canadian) and Gilles Duceppe (visiting head of state and therefore not eligible).
As I believe strongly that one has to exercise their right to vote, not ticking off a ballot is not an option. So what's a citizen to do?
Democracy is hard! So is it worth the effort? What difference does it make if I vote or not? (add your excuse here). Democracy is a worthy ideal, how it works is dependent on the close scrutiny of a state's citizenship and leadership. As I have remarked last year following the proposition 8 debacle in California, democracy is not intended to be "rule of the majority" to the detriment of it's minority. There are protections that have been embedded in constitutions that are there to protect citizens from leaders who may for pragmatic reason, decide to ride a wave of intolerance.
We have seen that in the US when the Right used same sex marriage and family values to re-elect Bush. Now, it's health care. In beaverland, Harper drives the wedge between us and you people; the Tim Horton crowd and the Starbucks fans. Luckily, Canadians seem to hold their Constitution and the Supreme Court that protects it, in higher regard than our American neighbours. I think that ultimately Canadians believe in their "responsible government" and are fair. The idea of taking away rights of people as they have in California and are trying to do in Maine (in the case of same-sex marriage) is aberrant to most of us.
There are many philosophical questions surrounding the definition of democracy but one thing that is certain is that it fails when the very people who benefit from it cease to participate in it.
That is what I'll keep repeating to myself as I gulp down a scotch before I head into the municipal voting booth and cast a vote for whom I believe will do the least harm to the city. And as the Conservatives keep trying to force an election by giving the oppostion a chance to bring them down and force an unwanted election, I will do my best to find out what Ignatieff stands for and having failed that move my vote to the party that will do the least harm to my country. It's not the most inspired way to exercise my civil duty, but until Mister "Hope" comes along, I'll settle for Mister hope for the best.
Happy election season to all.