In the 2015 Canadian General Election we are witnessing the end of ‘values based’ politics in our country.
As a nation, we’ve somehow made the #1 issue in this election, by far and away: the latest voter preference poll. This is an unprecedented development for a G8 democracy.
Nothing best exposes this more than the recent abandonment of the Green Party by a plethora of prominent environmental entities and activists.
They did this on the eve of the election, with Trudeau headed for a majority government, the NDP campaign flagging nationwide, and the conservatives all but collapsing. This context is made even more interesting by the fact the Greens are surging in support across BC, and challenging in many many ridings.
Apparently the Green message has legs.
One such activist, Ben West, who is publically associated with ‘The Great Climate Race’, and a ‘Tanker-Free BC’, has decided to openly support parties that have no credible plan to address climate change, and who won’t take a clear stand on either pipelines or tankers.
This, even as the Green Party of Canada has produced the most comprehensive environmental platform Canada has ever seen: a platform that states it will ban all new heavy oil pipelines to BC and make a complete reckoning of climate change domestically by 2050.
Why did they do that? Well, the polls told them to do that.
Canadians everywhere are being told to park their values and vote based on the most recent poll.
Polls have now become the fill-in where principles, platforms and issues once reigned.
We’ve become a democracy that no longer cares about these things; we want to know what the score is, rather than be part of the game.
And that, fellow Canadians, spells the end of our ‘values based’ democratic tradition.
It’s not as if there aren’t a great many extremely important issues to form our values around in this election.
It is, after all, the eve of the onset of catastrophic climate change, something that we’ve seen coming for 35 years.
And a time when our entire country has faced unprecedented wildfires, drought, floods, and other climate change related maladies,
When our commodities industries are on the brink of total failure,
When we’re about to enter the most difficult demographic transition in living memory,
When household debt is at an all time high,
When we’re in a technical recession,
When our dollar is on a steady decline,
When we have the lowest interest rates possible, and no growth to report,
When we’re about to hand over our very sovereignty to foreign business interests in the Trans-Pacific Partnership,
When there are over 1200 missing and murdered aboriginal women, and steadily rising.
We’ve now somehow handed our entire political process over to notoriously unreliable voter preference polls, looking to the likes of Dogwood, LeadNow and VoteTogether as our new political intelligentsia.
Even more exceptional, we’ve managed to do this, for months upon months, in an election that has featured between 20-30% undecided voters.
It’s really been amazing to watch this all unfold as both an insider and an informed observer.
Anyone who has been involved in even a few elections knows that the ‘strategic vote’ campaign is now the regular feature of both Liberal and NDP campaigning. They’ve been doing this for years and the pattern is crystal clear.
Both the NDP and Libs are guilty of electioneering of the highest degree, and this is now one of their main tactics. The other chief tactic is refusing to electorally cooperate, which has turned our elections into some sick parallel of the Prometheus story.
On the progressive left, we grow our vital organs back every election, before they are ripped out once more by the unified and ‘value-driven’ Conservatives. I feel your anger: it’s ridiculous to watch this.
What’s been even more amazing is watching the NDP slip from the lead and change, overnight, their tactic from a full-charge strategic vote, to a ‘vote for what you want!’, ‘don’t abandon your values now!’ strategy. It’s worthy of ridicule.
Honestly, if this election was only about strategic voting, we could have saved the $350 million and just handed this contest to Justin in the wake of his Bill C-51 debacle: because that’s the logical outcome of strategic voting if we accept it as our political ‘raison d’etre’.
I’ve been canvassing and campaigning in a variety of locations this election, I still haven’t been able to find even a handful of people that actually want to vote for either the party, platform or the leader they feel strategic voting compels them to.
They’re doing it simply out of fear of the other, and that my friends, is no way to pick a Prime Minister.
But Harper is going to win, right?
How does Harper win, anyways?
Everybody on your social media seems to hate him, so where do all these voters come from at election time?
In a nutshell, Harper panders to the largest ‘value based’ voter base still left in Canada: Conservative Canadians. That seems a very powerful thing to do.
Conservative voters will simply NOT abandon their vote because it’s based in a deep-rooted sense of shared values that have nothing to do with polls.
While on the progressive left we’re rapidly refreshing our poll websites to find out where our vote should go next; Conservatives are charting a 30 year trajectory through the political wilderness, unified by a common destiny.
I can’t begin to tell you how inadequate the ‘progressive’ approach has been in comparison.
We don’t know what philosophy we’re even following anymore; we just know we’re against the other guys.
Are you Green, NDP or Liberal? Can you articulate what the differences are, or what this means for your vote? Do you know what’s in the platforms and do you understand the character of the leaders?
We desperately need to start to understand just how much damage ‘fear politics’ has done to our great nation.
We’ve fallen from global respect and dignity, to the laughing stock of the G8, and worldwide climate villain.
Scroll back to the top, and have a look at the condition we currently find ourselves in: that’s a terrible confluence of factors for any civil society to find itself.
When I visited the Canadian Mission to the UN in 2005, we were the most respected country in the world and held in the very highest regard in the General Assembly.
We had so many people appointed to key global positions that we were characteristically embarrassed about it.
Fast forward to 2015 and we’ve become a pariah in the very same house; exemplified by the vote that saw Canada rejected a seat on the Security Council by our GA partners.
Along the way our politics have become hi-jacked by electioneers, we’ve abandoned our values, and our democratic traditions.
We have only ourselves to blame for this precipitous decline.
As a nation we’ve become obsessed with fear politics and it shows.
7 thoughts on “The death of a ‘value based’ democracy….”
While I can’t comment publicly as I am currently an Election Canada employee, I will proudly say to you that I voted Green with no hesitation. When I have admitted this to friends and/or family, I had to explain why I stepped away from the “strategic voting” plan. I replied that I WAS strategic voting when I voted for the party that most closely represented my own value system. It is unfortunate the voting has become more of a calculation of the odds of winning when we all have so much more to lose in the end. Good one you for writing and circulating this. Much regard, Deb
Even as I thought the Greens couldn’t yet be prime leaders I supported and voted for them because I wan’t them to know that many of us need them to gather and grow and get citizens aware of their efforts to bring back our democracy, fair laws, tended environment next time we vote! Be heard greens, soon more will join your party and understand you truthful interest in a better Canada!
the ndp has done a last minute switch to vote your values rhetoric? where? i only see strategic voting up of the ass of everywhere still….
i wouldn’t say im completely a green supporter but i did vote for my local green party candidate in this election , and i can articulate plenty of differences for you about these parties , which can be summed up as the gpc for the most part isn’t a part of the power structure that the other parties are , and yes i do know much of what’s in the gpc’s platform (it’s like 200 pages big not gonna read the whole thing lol) , i even bought a copy of their condensed platform for this election…..
this article is really good , just wish more strategic voting minded people could see it…..
well would you take a look at that , liberal majority , death of a ‘value based’ democracy indeed….
Well, I somehow missed that blog last year, but I would like to comment it now, as I believe my comment will still be relevent.
First, let me tell you that I don’t associate myself with any political party (although I voted Liberal at the last federal election), and I will tell you why. When I vote for a leader, I don’t look at their values, which can be and often are pretended (look at Trump’s pretended Christian values), but rather at their capacity to “administer” a territory. So, when you write about the “death of a value-based democracy”, I shake my head a bit.
My environmental values are quite high, but I would not vote for the Green Party, simply because it’s an ideological party, just like the other parties, but more so than the others, except maybe the Conservatives. I believe values are personal aspects of life, and they have no business in politics (although I realize not many people believe that). Faith is also a personal value that should have nothing to do in politics (would you vote for a religious party? Many do, and use the same arguments you use to convince us to vote Green, which is “Vote according to your values”).
I believe values are fondamental. However, I believe it’s a mistake to try to impose our personal values to others, and that’s what all political parties do, and that’s what you try to do too in your blogs. I believe that, as a member of the Council, your responsibility is to administer the District as wisely as you can (which sometimes mean to go against your personal values). Up to now, I think you do a great job, and the reason I say this is because I didn’t notice that you were trying to impose your personal values as a Councilor, and this is wise (although sometimes I feel you would like to have more power in order to be able to impose your personal values).
There is another thing that made me shake my head a bit in this blog: you believe that the Canadian federal political system is a “democracy”. I wouldn’t want us to spend hours and hours to argue about this fact. However, you also believe that you are a well informed person. I can understand that, at the municipal level, people believe this is a democracy (because I can communicate with the head of the District, which is the Council, and they will listen to what I say, like you do now), but do you believe this is actually the case at the national level? Even more, do you believe that, at the national level, it’s the will of the people that directs the day-to-day decisions, and not the will of the big corporations? If, as an informed person, you understand that it’s money that talks at the national level, can you still call this system a democracy? Wouldn’t it be more exact to call it an oligarchy, if we understand that a democracy is a territory ruled by the people, while an oligarchy is a territory ruled by the elite?
Sorry for the long comment, Noel, there is so much to discuss when it comes to values in politics. ☺
I’m not sure you caught the main point of this article, which is:
in 2015 polls became the stand in where platforms and values used to reign.
You’ll see it again in the 2017 Provincial election…and the National one after that.
That’s no way to pick a government.
We seem to do it out of fear of the other, and it’s now the regular feature of campaigns Federally, Provincially and even Municipally.
I get your point about the administration being key, I feel the same way…however as the old saying goes, there are many ways to skin a cat,
that’s where the values come in, or at least they used to!
You argue that your main point was a switch from value to polls, and I argue that your main point was to stress the importance of voting according to one’s value. Me think we mean the same thing, don’t we? : )
Whatever your main point was, MY main point was to stress the importance of not voting according to our values, but according to who we think would make a better administrator.
By the way, you seem to like to make strong predictions. One needs to be very careful with that, if one doesn’t want to lose credibility (remember your prediction in the last federal election? 🙂 ). My opinion on the “poll voting”, as you call it, is that when a population feels the strong need to get rid of a bad administrator, the people will tend to vote strategically, which was the case in the last federal election, indeed, and might very well be the case in the next provincial election too. However, unless the actual federal government changes drastically its way to administer the country, I believe that people will get back to a more “personal” approach to voting in the next federal election. We shall see.
Keep on the great work! : )