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Friday 29 April 2011

We Hate Democracy

The Federal election is literally just around the corner and NL's are set to chose what seven poor souls we will send off into the Upper Canadian wilderness, rarely to be heard from again. It isn't all their fault, 7 out of 308 is a tough ratio. In this province with maybe one or two exceptions most of the seats will likely be very strong, and obvious, victories. The real interesting numbers coming from the vote will be for the voter turnout.

The advance polls tell us we seem to care enough to get off our cushioned backsides to exercise what so many have died for and so few appear to appreciate. But when it comes to election day this video entry from the online version of The Independent indicates that we won't have to do much to improve on past efforts.

First, I have to take umbrage with the fact that The Independent seems to forget that it's Newfoundland AND Labrador. There are multiple references to just the island portion of the province, especially in the graphics. That complaint aside, I appreciate what they're doing here. They are highlighting an issue that I have a personal issue with. NL hates democracy.

OK, maybe hate is a strong word, but we're certainly aren't very fond of it. At least the current generation has good historical evidence to say that it's nothing new. And I'm talking about a long history. From the beginning of European exploitation of the fishery there was never an intent to allow settlement here. In fact settling was illegal and only became allowable because it was too much trouble to get rid of the settlers. Them comes along the days where the Fishing Admirals ruled the sea, and the land as it turned out. They were the local authority in NL for many years and they were sent here just to fish by companies and governments in Europe. Note the lack of democracy thus far.

We finally made to responsible government(AKA Actual democracy) in 1855 but for rural people they may as well have still been under the Fishing Admiral system. The Truck system of bartering goods kept fishermen under the thumb of the local merchant so thoroughly that it can still be felt today. Democracy was here, but it wasn't really understood. Then in 1933 we got tired of this new idea and went backward to having people appointed to make decisions for us during the Commission of Government years.

When we had the chance to really strike out on our own and truly chart our own path we instead decided to let the politicians in Canada do that for us. And in the first referendum vote over 22 thousand people figured that the appointed gentlemen still seemed like the way to go. Eventually we got used to this democracy thing and started slowly moving to the polling booths on election day. Thank goodness there were a few brave souls who understood the power of democracy and fought hard to ensure that their children would have that right. Like these very brave folks.

We are now in an age where we love the idea of democracy, but we're not be fans of having to practice it. Well unless it's over some kind of online vote linked to Hockey.

I remember speaking to bureaucrats in Iceland a few years ago and they were telling me how they were becoming incredibly concerned that their voter turnout was getting down toward 80%. I tried to stifle an outward laugh, while shedding a small inward tear. Unfortunately we are an apathetic bunch. Choosing not to vote as a protest is certainly a valid statement, and believe me when I say I understand that people feel disenfranchised from government and the electoral system. But Voting is the only way to change that.

Democracy is messy, painful and slow, but as Sir Winston Churchill is quoted to have said "Democracy is the worst for of government except for all the others that have been tried." It might not have the flare of a Royal Wedding, but democracy has the power to change your world. On May 2, get your butt out to vote!

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