Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is once again applying to renew his contract with the people of Canada, but there are a handful of other guys that think that they can do the job better. Over here in India I feel connected with all my fellow Canadians as we reflect once again on our electoral process, wondering how it got so ugly. A recent article from the Canadian Baha’i News Service contrasting the partisan political system to the Baha’i electoral model put it very well when it says:
… Although the Canadian political system reflects well fundamental democratic reforms that have served to advance humanity’s ability to govern itself, it is not without its challenges. Cynicism and apathy about the Canadian electoral system seem to have reached a new high, especially among younger voters. Some political scientists have attributed this apathy to a general decline in interest in institutional democracy.
They correlate it to a disconnect between what politicians are saying and doing and the way people, and especially youth, would like to see democracy operate. Ethical scandals, attack ads and the heightened acrimony between parties sour the public’s attitude toward politicians and government.
Such practices are perhaps inevitable characteristics of political systems founded on a competitive, partisan approach. These systems often tend to work in the interest of those with the influence and money required to mount and finance electoral campaigns. The ethic of partisan politics fosters divisiveness and immoderate rhetoric which reinforces the voter’s sense of disillusionment.
That said, I personally don’t think that opting out of the system is going to fix it, but I might be wrong about that. This election I have realized that voting in civic elections is definitely one of the shakiest elements in my conceptual framework for social action. Even if there is a leader on the ballot who doesn’t give you the creeps, how can an free-thinking person approve of all of the positions that leader’s party has preselected, seemingly at random?
As broken as the system is, my inner citizen has never failed to cycle over to the community centre to throw my vote away. No way am I going to miss out this time just because I live on the other side of the planet. At first I thought it would involve an epic, democracy-themed road trip to the nearest Canadian consulate in Mumbai to cast my vote. It turns out that with just enough paperwork I could vote from up here in the remote hill station of Panchgani where I now reside.
If my ballot could talk, it would have quite the travelogue to share. First I needed to download, fill in and fax a form from the Elections Canada website with some ID to Ottawa. They then spent untold taxpayer’s dollars to send me a ballot via international courier company TNT. When I received an email from Elections Canada to that effect, I went to TNT’s main page to find a photo the dude I like to think was the actual guy with the actual facial expression that carried my ballot all the way India.
What they brought was the ballot for me to fill out and place inside a series of envelopes like a Russian doll.
Rather than to mail my ballot directly to Ottawa, I decided to send it to the Canadian Consulate in Mumbai who would then send it to the Canadian High Commission in Delhi who would send it to Ottawa. Once it was ready to go one my colleagues was on his way to town and I asked him to drop my sealed ballot off at the post office. ”The Canadian democracy is in your hands, my friend. My whole country is counting on you to safely deliver this ballot. Do not fail us.”
“Relax, yarr! I will drop your letter and your democracy will be fine, okay?” He said as he threw up his hands and turned around to climb up the hill towards town.