This, our first-ever editorial on this site, seeks to counter the pervasive, corrosive negativity which, by turning politics into a bad word, is undermining the long-term life prospects of the majority of Canadians. To paraphrase Al Gore, healthy democracy carries our dreams and hopes for the future. It enables wisdom and creativity to emerge from the interactions of people with different perspectives, predispositions, and life experiences, and gives us a meaningful say in the decisions which will shape our lives. When we permit democracy to be degraded and corrupted, we deprive ourselves and our children of the “last best hope” of finding a sustainable path for humanity through the most disruptive and chaotic changes civilization has ever confronted.
In his latest book, The Future, Mr. Gore compellingly documents six major forces which are reshaping our world at an unprecedented rate. Unless we collectively manage their impact on our lives and communities through democratic decision-making, our futures will be subordinate to the agendas of others. The power to make such decisions is shifting from governments, which are accountable to us, to markets and corporations which are oblivious to our values, needs and aspirations. Secure employment and prospects for at least a decent middle-class lifestyle will increasingly slip out of our children’s reach. As Mr. Gore points out, the primacy of markets is a welcome outcome to those who have accumulated great fortunes from the unrestrained operations of the emerging global machinery. Many of them have used that wealth to advance the idea that there is no such thing as “the public interest” and that we should no longer even try to control our own destinies through democratic decision-making.
The lack of effective controls on political donations in the USA has enabled the neo-conservative movement there to effectively paralyze the ability of their federal government to act in the long-term best interests of the majority of its citizens. Thanks to the former Chrétien government, we do have such controls in Canada, but it hasn’t stopped the Canadian version of that same movement from using every trick in the Republican playbook to discourage Canadians from engaging in democracy. As a result, Mr. Harper won a majority in 2011 despite only 28% of eligible voters having cast ballots for Conservative candidates. The Harper Conservatives have used that majority to effectively render Parliament impotent. Their attack machine actively discourages political participation and rational adult discussion of the big issues facing Canada and Canadians.
That negativity rears its head even here in Kingston. For example, the button to the right recently appeared on the home page of the Kingston and the Islands Conservative Association website, leading to a Ted Hsu page depicting him as a do-nothing MP. While nothing could be further from the truth, truth appears to be irrelevant to attack ad writers. I for one don’t believe that local Conservatives had anything to do with that page. Rather, the fact that from June to the end of August the “About” page of that same website incorrectly named our riding “Kingston and the Thousand Islands” strongly suggests it to be the work of the central Conservative attack machine. Regardless of who in their hierarchy is responsible, the fact that Canada’s governing party continues to employ tactics which are so foreign to Canadian values suggests that our collective future may not be in the best of hands.
So how do we counter all the negativity en route to taking back our future from those who would dispossess us from having any say? By being unfailingly positive while speaking out every time we recognize attempts to undermine participatory democracy, whatever the source. By demonstrating through our words and deeds that democracy matters and that political dialogue is the essence of a free and successful society. I invite you to scan through this website and consider the pages and pages highlighting enthusiastic Liberal volunteers, many of them youth, engaging with their community in positive, constructive ways while championing issues that matter to real people. Compare our website with that of our Conservative counterparts and decide for yourself which party has (in their words) been “missing in action”. If you like what you see, please consider joining our quest to rebuild a Canada which works in the best interests all Canadians and truly reflects Canadian values.
President, Kingston and the Islands Federal Liberal Association