Friday, July 4, 2014

Ignored No More

Is this a known demonstration?
For another Canada Day we were able to celebrate all that makes our nation great. But a day later, the frustration with unresponsive political leaders returns.
Recent elections and by-elections prove many Canadians don’t even bother to vote to choose their representatives, apparently either believing undifferentiated, or feeling their vote can’t make anything better. And given that we labour under an electoral system straight out of the 19th century, one can hardly blame them. Would Canadians tolerate 19th century medical, communications, or transportation systems? Would we ride carriages to the polls, keeping the windows shut tight to exclude harmful disease-causing vapours, hearing the pony express arrive with the latest mail from 2 weeks ago on the other coast? 3 of these 4 systems have been updated, only one left to go!
Our system promotes politicians who are disengaged from the public, because getting elected only requires a plurality of core party support, sometimes less than a third of the votes. Despite the efforts of MPs to come across as representing everyone in the riding, woe betide those whose political philosophy differs significantly from that of the party of the elected member.
We see this when we send letters (or nowadays, emails) to our local representative, party leaders, or cabinet ministers. You may see a form response from a staffer, perhaps rubber-stamped by the office-holder; other times, nothing but silence. I regularly email our Prime Minister and leaders of opposition parties about various important issues; the latter usually respond, but I can’t recall the last time I’ve even gotten acknowledgement from the ever-growing office of the PM, staffed with hacks paid from my tax dollars.
Recently, with members of Fair Vote Simcoe, I attended the office of our local MP to discuss the misnamed Fair Elections Act. Our MP mentioned that we were the first people to express to him objections to that bill. This surprised us, as we had, only a few weeks prior, attended his office with a few dozen other citizens to hand-deliver a stack of signed petitions against that bill! Although he was in Ottawa at the time, perhaps the message wasn’t passed on?
But never fear, your actions and words, if undertaken in public, will no longer be ignored by your government. A recent missive from the Government Operations Centre was sent to all federal departments, ordering them to provide information to compile “a listing of all known demonstrations which will occur” so they can be used to build “Situational Awareness”.
So there you go. Get some friends together and bring a sign or a petition to a representative’s office, or a public square, or any other location, really. Post plans for your “demonstration” on Facebook and send an email to the relevant ministry. And then, even if you feel your elected representative is ignoring you, you can take comfort knowing that in a dark office somewhere, an anonymous intelligence analyst in Canada’s internal spying network has noted your action for future reference. Ignored no more!

Published as my Root Issues column in the Barrie Examiner as "Some simple ways to get yourself noticed by government"
Erich Jacoby-Hawkins is a director of Living Green and the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation.

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