But their interpretation is tricky, and trickier still to say them without adjudication, recrimination, or incarceration.
Do we agree that while we may vote en masse, answer opinion polls as statistical sheep herded and sorted by leading questions, is it possible that any handful of questions can, with any precision, separate us into defined groups when answering a pollster’s call? Is that any different than a news reporter or two peppering a spotlight-seeker candidate shilling for votes?
Despite our generalities and simple bucket-groups that we fit within, don’t we all see things differently?
Or do we see things the same way, but with tiny nuances?
When we hear/read the sound bytes of politicians (I can’t wait for the U.S. mid-terms to be over so the deluge of candidates/pundits/networks beating each other up with every unfortunate statement they’ve ever uttered near a microphone); it would be nice to hear or read a carefully prepared and uninterrupted delivery of rational commentary from each of them saying, “this is what I truly believe” in a fulsome way. What we would find, I believe, are statements most thinking voters can identify with – the thought processes and deep-rooted views of public-minded sincere, truthful fellow citizens (of course, they have opinions, lean left or right or down the middle – and fair-minded people can agree to disagree with tolerance and understanding that our freedom to speak is equal to theirs just the same).
When push comes to shove, I’m less concerned about what someone says on a stage or in a TV studio before an event starts that gets overheard and spun on social media or caught on a hot mike than I am concerned about what they say behind closed doors in a committee room, a caucus meeting, or over a lunch meeting with their colleagues, because those are the conversations that lead to the making of or repealing laws, the discussions that address the nuances of making or fixing regulations and where the exceptions to rules and norms get hashed out – or, as some cynics say, “how the sausage is made” …
Compared to life where the hot spots and despots live, the notion of saying what we think, voting for who we want, and having conversations with lawmakers – be they friends, opponents, or officials – is a privilege we have here in Canada and the United States that we don’t praise and treasure often enough. Look around the world at large populations where that would be a dream, or more likely, a sentence – not measured by the words spoken, but by the number of years incarcerated.
This weekend in Alberta, two major parties held love-ins they call conventions – the scripted and orchestrated building of esprit de corp, election readiness and painting their platform with party colours before their planks are installed, called an Annual General Meeting. These combos of public and behind-closed-doors meetings will give rise to pundits, prediction-folk, political scientists and journalists to show how different their views of Alberta will be, whether the province goes right or left – and they’ll all be a little bit right, and a little bit wrong.
If they wish to get a mandate and govern, both parties (UCP and NDP) will stay a little right or a little left of the center because thoughtful voters may answer pollster questions or post tweets as if they are extremists. When election days come, thoughtful voters cast ballots for candidates and give governments their mandates. At their root, this is about the consent of the governed. And when that consent is lost, parties and leaders are sent to an exit (rhymes with Brexit!).
It is democratic and rarely makes everyone happy, so you could say it’s a rotten system, but it’s the best one the world has ever created.
Our politics are local, and they matter. They matter to us, but they don’t matter so much to anyone anywhere else in this country or the world. Our troubles are small-beer comparisons. But we have importance and value within our imperfect though envied country and our confederation of provinces and territories – so our choices of party and leaders matter. They can blow smoke and rhetoric all day long; we are Canadians – proud and straightforward people who value freedom, fairness, civility, the rule of law, and the decency of our communities.
Our country is enormously rich in resources and land – we have a coastline nobody could police and an undefended border with the United States that keeps friendly countries close and separates us by ideology. We are more the true north, strong and free. So many countries in the world may think of us as powerless or weak on the world stage, but we have a recipe for freedom and taking care of our citizens that so many envy with good reasons. We fight about ideas and principles. We fight over how much or little our governments should run our lives vs. the services they provide us and fight elections over them. We fight over issues and debate policy with words, and ballots. Those are the legalized and protected weapons of a free democratic country. We use them at home and at work. We exercise those rights on street corners, in arenas, at Tim’s and in legislatures across the country – we exercise them online, on picket lines, and across party lines in a country that doesn’t have bread lines. Which is not to say we have a perfect country, but it is perfectly wonderful.
Our laws and regulations that protect our individuals, companies, and provinces, while being a compassionate society that takes care of those unable to care for themselves are far more important at keeping us together than they could ever tear us apart.
This week – on Wednesday night, Hazel and I are going to a concert, Gordon Lightfoot is in town. I attended my first concert at age 17, and I expect this might be my last chance to hear him live; he’s as true a Canadian troubadour as we have – enjoy this!