There is an old saying that many have heard over the years, “Use it or lose it”. Now, I have to admit, when I hear that saying what initially comes to my mind in the past was regarding physical activity, and mental acuity. If you don’t work the brain, pushing it, learning something new, then we start to lose the ability to rapidly absorb information and develop new skills. Physical exercise is similar, weight training and my nemesis, cardio.
I had never really considered the dangers that “Democratic Atrophy” could have on our province, or our country until the last several months, with February 14 being the crescendo. When the emergency act (war measures) was so easily invoked, and then later passed in the house of commons, it made me shudder. How could such a heavy piece of legislation suspending rights and freedoms so easily be used, for which it was so obviously never intended.
I find it ironic that we fight for the rights and democratic freedoms of others abroad to have this happen at home because we really don’t use the system that we have in place. We are suffering from Democratic Atrophy, caused by Democratic Complacency.
I decided to jump in 4 years ago now to find out how to be part of the solution, rather than being frustrated by the problems. I found out how the system works and wanted to help by being a voice at the table, rather than shouting outside from across the street. I’ll share with you how you can feel less frustrated, have a more powerful voice, and to have a real impact on the direction that the decision makers are making. If this sounds like a bit of a late night infomercial, it’s for effect, but instead of having the thigh master laying around, you just may have a membership card in your pocket at the end of this article.
Here are the steps, to get your democratic muscle back.
1. Buy a membership to a political party (one at a provincial and federal level to start)
2. Keep informed of what is going on not only in the media but the party. Constituency / Riding associations. Honestly, they can be fun, and we need to make them that way again. It should be about engaging with the community and helping out where we can.
3. Help pick your candidates to run in the next election. Typically, this is a nomination race. If you want your vote to really have an impact, this is the place. Most races are low volumes of overall votes…2000 or less. So, 1/2000 is a big deal compared to 1/50,000 for the provincial election. When you do a good job of picking your candidate’s, then you have a far better chance for Democratic Representation.
4. Take part in leadership reviews, and leadership races. These are the folks in our Canadian system that end up in the top positions of power and are the ones who pick their cabinet ministers to form government. When you realize how few people vote in the leadership races, or leadership reviews, it’s astounding. Small groups of people are choosing who can make the decisions for the province or the country for the next 5 years. Leadership reviews are a big deal, and should be treated as such, but you must play to have a say.
5. Keep engaged, hold your representatives accountable, and offer good advice. When the
system is functioning properly, it is with real engagement. It may make you feel better to
just cast stones from behind the keyboard, but that only really goes so far. As corny as it
sounds, it’s a team effort. When we flex our democratic muscle everyone wins, when we don’t, we end up where we are at today. It’s awfully hard to make a change when somebody else picked the person driving the bus. There are mechanisms along the way however that do allow you to influence, or swap out the driver, but you must
have your ticket, be sitting in the first few rows, to be able to give feedback.
Just imagine if we had picked a different PM as a country, do you really think Stephen Harper as an example would have pulled out the emergency act, rather than talking with the organizers of the convoy, or even had taken us down this path in the first place? What would our energy policy look like, do you think Europe would have been so dependent on Russia right now, or would we as Canada been meeting that need, and have in a peaceful way contributed to mitigating conflict by supplying energy demand.
Your voice and vote matter, you must flex your democratic muscle, and you have to know where and when you can use it to have the most impact. So please, get off the bench, and get into the game, we need each other to make our communities, and our province a better place,