The generation before mine takes democracy a lot more seriously.
It’s likely because that generation fought in a war to maintain it. My generation and the generations that followed are more disengaged in a modern world with all too many distractions. For these generations that followed, it’s been all too easy to cynically accept things that violate democratic principles as “just politics” that we shouldn’t worry about.
Well, a couple stories recently — one federal and one provincial — should remind all of us that the democratic process is sacred and not to be taken lightly.
The first story is the so-called robocalls you are hearing so much about — a story that suddenly is hitting close to home in rural Saskatchewan with the news that Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar is one of the seats involved.
For those unfamiliar, the allegation is that some one or some organization used automatic calling to pretend to be Elections Canada and to direct voters to the wrong polling stations. No one has yet been fingered for the wrongdoing, but that the complaints seemed to all come from supporters of either the NDP or Liberals and occurred in close ridings that the Conservatives are suspicious. (That some Conservatives are busy trying to blame others including the Liberals or even Elections Canada, only further heightens suspicions.)
In fact, the Council of Canadians has now applied to federal court to have the results overturned in seven ridings — including Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar where Conservative MP Kelly Block edged out the NDP’s Nettie Wiebe by 538 votes.
Again, these are just allegations. And that they come from the Council of Canadians headed by Maude Barlow (famous for fighting the Free Trade deals) has been cause enough for some Conservatives to suggest the legal action, itself, is playing politics. Meanwhile, others argue that there are always shenanigans in politics and that these are somehow no worse.
Such justifications are sheer and utter nonsense. It should be investigated. And if the allegations are proven true, those responsible should be charged and jailed. This is the kind of thing we might expect to see in some emerging third-world democracy. The previous generation certainly wouldn’t have stood for it.
In a far less-nefarious development provincially, Premier Brad Wall is proposing three more seats (an increase to 61) after the next election to account for the rising population. Wall would specifically add one rural seat because rural constituencies are becoming too physically large.
Of course, this is a redistribution year and a re-balancing of the seats is needed because of population shifts. (And not just in rural Saskatchewan. Interestingly some of the province’s seats with the smallest population are inner-city urban riding — most of which were won by the NDP last election.)
Moreover, many in rural Saskatchewan would argue it’s valid to add seats — especially in under-populated rural Saskatchewan. Besides, all governments engage in minor gerrymandering to make seats more advantageous to them. (On the last electoral boundaries map, Coronach wound up in Weyburn-Big Muddy while Radville wound up in Estevan — moves advantageous to the NDP hopes of winning Tommy Douglas’s old seat.)
But what’s irksome is that we just went through an election campaign where Wall made no mention of wanting to expand the legislature. If the Sask. Party was so concerned about democratic representation, why did it not mention it to the voters when they an opportunity to cast judgement on the idea?
Admittedly, this is nowhere near as serious as allegations of what may have gone on the federal election. Nevertheless, any political party playing politics with the democratic process in any way, shape or form is something we need to care about.
We should demand better — the most fair and balanced election system possible. The generation before us that fought for our freedoms certainly demanded better.
Murray Mandryk has been covering provincial politics for over 15 years.