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Thoughts from Neptune on NL politics

By: | January 23, 2015

Observations on galactic-scale farce

Jon Parsons
Power and Dissent offers a critical take on culture, society and politics in Newfoundland and Labrador

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Photo: NASA/Voyager 2 Team

Either you repeat the same conventional doctrines everybody is saying, or else you say something true, and it will sound like it’s from Neptune.

– Noam Chomsky

Pardon my language, but what a steaming pile of bullshit is NL politics.

We’ve got a whole host of pressing issues that need to be addressed, and what does our political class do? They engage in the pointless and counter-productive exercise of reducing our representation in the House of Assembly.

Premier Paul Davis says it’s to save $2.5 million a year. As we’re facing a budget deficit of something like a billion dollars, it’s sort of like talking about personal finances and saving $1.25 by not having that lunch-hour cup of coffee from Tim’s.

Except it’s not the same as personal finances and a cup of coffee. This is our democratic institution they’re fiddling with. And reports have emerged that Bill 42, the one to reduce the number of seats in the legislature, was worked out between the governing PCs and the Liberals through back-room deals.

NDP MHAs have been the ones pointing out these back-room shenanigans. Here’s what one commenter on the CBC story linked above says about that:

Makes me chuckle at [NDP MHA] Gerry Rogers. Complaining about amendments being negotiated in the corridors. Welcome to politics. This type of deal making has been happening since the Roman Empire. It’s how politics works.

You hear this sort of crap all the time. “This is just the way things are”; “That’s how politics works”; etc. and so on. What kind of attitude is this? You wonder why people don’t have faith in politicians? Why almost half the population couldn’t be bothered to vote?

So here’s a few radical ideas, ideas that might sound like they are from outer space:

  • Instead of having less representation, we should have more. We only get to vote once every four years, and so the greater the number of people in a particular district means each citizen is participating in our democracy that much less.
  • Instead of just voting once every four years, we should be able to have our say on more of the issues that affect us all. I’m not saying we need some kind of utopian direct democracy. But come on, conduct an opinion poll, put extra questions on the ballot, hold a public meeting, get creative and get people involved. What’s so difficult?
  • The Office of Public Engagement should actually engage people. Seriously, since they put this farce in place, do you feel more engaged?

And you know, just because we’ve inherited a pathetic political system doesn’t mean it needs to be that way. Just because there’s a trend of pathetic political systems across the country doesn’t mean we need to follow along.

There’s all kinds of talk from government about democratic reform – I hold a cruel optimism it might happen – and yet they never do it. It’s like they’re actually afraid of democracy, afraid that if everyday people got to have an authentic say it might not work out the way the politicians (and their pals in pinstripe suits) intend.

 Just because we’ve inherited a pathetic political system doesn’t mean it needs to be that way.

Just to be clear, I’m not letting the NDP off the hook here either. Sure, they’re the only party that seems to have a clue what the word democracy means, but they’re still participating, still playing the game according to the rules they apparently find so abhorrent. If the NDP doesn’t like the way the government and official opposition are screwing with the democratic process, they should pack up their papers and walk out the door in protest. At least it would get people talking.

Because you see, what we need in times like these is boldness, gumption, the willingness to take risks and to know, not just believe, that the democratic system can actually be better.

What we need is some political party and some politicians that have a spine. Or is that an idea that really does originate on Neptune?


Editor’s note: If you would like to respond to this or any article on TheIndependent.ca, or if you would like to address an issue we haven’t yet covered, we welcome letters to the editor and consider each of them for publication in our Letters section. You can email yours to: justin at theindependent dot ca. Not all letters will be printed, but all will be read.

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