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Thursday, October 16, 2008

If you're looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror.


"Words offer the means to meaning, and for those who will listen, the enunciation of truth."

Of late, this space has been less writing-related and more political. For that, I apologize. However, the simple truth is that for quite a while now, something has been going wrong, terribly wrong in my country.

It started a little more than two years ago, when a gang of religious fundamentalists seized power. It wasn't a military coup that allowed them to gain power, nor was it the result of foreign invasion or domestic revolution. No, far worse, the people of the country actually allowed this travesty to happen.

"Our story begins, as these stories often do, with a young up-and-coming politician. He's a deeply religious man and a member of the conservative party. He is completely single-minded in his convictions and has no regard for the political process."

In 2006, Stephen Harper and his band of like-minded bigots, conservative Christians and corporate cronies rode into power, waiving their ten-gallon hats and whooping and hollering as they won a minority government.

Minority governments are a funny thing...the party with the most votes gets into power, but most of the electorate cast their votes for parties other than the one in power. It's a subtle perversion of the democratic process: although most people who voted voted for someone other than you, because their votes were split two, three or four ways, you win by default.

"He promised you order, he promised you peace, and all he demanded in return was your silent, obedient consent."

A number of scandals involving high-ups in the previous Liberal government's administration caused massive voter disapproval, which opened the door for the Harper Boys to ride in.

From the get-go, Harper and his government began doing everything they could to mimic their American counterparts: accessibility to the government by media dried up; the party closed ranks, Harper keeping a tight, tight reign on his deputies in order to ensure the party stayed on-message. Then, of course, came the legislation: Cut funding for social programmes here, provide corporate welfare to profitable businesses there; accusing civil servants of partisanship for going against Party ambitions here, endangering the public by disregarding the nuclear regulatory experts to reopen an obsolete nuclear power plant there.

Along the way Harper also barred the press from airbases when military coffins were shipped home from overseas, and continues promising to stay the course and keep Canadian forces committed to cleaning up Bush's mess in Afghanistan.

Then there was the dissolution of our civil rights, as detailed here. And of course, the censorship of and funding cuts to our arts, as previously discussed here, and here.

Lest we forget, Christian Conservative Harper and his gang attempted to put legislation into place that would have made it a special crime to assault a pregnant woman, as well as separate legislation designed to allow doctors to refuse patient referrals to women seeking abortions.

Add to that Harper's stated intentions to impose harsher sentences on young offenders, preferring punishment and incarceration to rehabilitation and education. In his own words, Harper said he prefers the opinion of the "Common Man" over the opinion of the EXPERTS.

If you're done letting that pile of anti-intellectual, counter-intuitive and ignorant hubris sink in, we'll continue.

A couple of months back, after the opposition parties balked at continuing to allow Cowboy Stephen and the Circle-C Posse to run roughshod over the governance of Canada, Harper decided to call a snap election, in violation of his own law requiring set terms before elections can be called.

And as of Tuesday, the Harper Conservatives have returned to power once more, when the vote was split between the other three major parties, namely the Liberals, NDP and the Bloc Quebecois.

But how did it happen? How did Harper, despite his unpopularity, win re-election, even if it was once again with a minority government?

"We're oft to blame, and this is too much proved, that with devotion's visage and pious action we do sugar on the devil himself."

This election, something terrible happened. This election, perhaps one of the most undemocratic events took place. No, the Canadian election was not robbed in electoral fraud as we witnessed in 2000 and 2004 in the United States. No, the governing power did not simply disregard the democratic will of the people as happened in Zimbabwe, Pakistan and Burma.

What happened was far, far worse.

For the first time in Canadian history, voter turnout during a Federal election was below 60%.

Only 59,1% of Canadian voters turned up at the polls.

Put another way, that means that of the 23 401 064 eligible voters, only 13 832 972 people bothered to vote.

And, dear readers, mea culpa. I was among those who did not vote. Why? My reasons seemed sound, at the time: I live in a Bloc Quebecois stronghold; a riding that has always voted for the separatist Bloc Quebecois. I believed that it was a waste of time to vote, especially given that the candidates from the other parties running in the riding had little to no visibility, and in more than one case, didn't bother campaigning beyond putting up posters.

"And the truth is, there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn't there?"

The thing is, some nine and a half million other eligible voters across this nation had the same idea. They all stayed away from the polls. Whatever their reasons, the fact of the matter is they, and I turned our backs on the democratic process. We failed the electoral process. We failed our civic duty and we failed our democracy.

Even if those nine and a half million votes had been split between the Liberals and the Bloc, or the Liberals and the NDP, or all three parties, it is entirely possible that the Conservatives would not have returned to power.

The lesson is simple: Not voting does not profit democracy. It does not profit the election. It profits the party you don't want to see return to power. What never occurred to me as I stayed home on Tuesday after work is the fact that if everyone in my riding who didn't vote because it's a "safe" riding for the Bloc had actually cast a ballot, then perhaps the Bloc would not have been returned to Parliament.

And if the 9 568 092 of us from across Canada who did not vote had cast a ballot, then perhaps the Harper Conservatives would not have won re-election.

I can only apologize on my behalf. I'm not certain that the other 9 568 091 failed voters realize their culpability or accept their guilt.

Not voting is treason; the treason of apathy.