We thought only Trump puts democracy under fire
Not so. We have our own version of the fire right here in British Columbia. We are not having a democratic election. We are having a ‘snap’ election and those two things are very different. I think it is profoundly significant that the meaning of snap is to “break or cause to break suddenly and completely”. John Horgan is, indeed, snapping democracy as we believe it should be by calling an election one year before the set date his party previously committed to.
Generally British Columbians believe that democracy has something to do with the will of the people, that elections give leaders a mandate because the public has spoken, that people not only have the right to vote but they are given a reasonable opportunity to vote, that anyone who works hard enough can become an MLA by running an effective campaign and mobilizing the constituency, that political parties stand behind certain beliefs and values…and more.
Not so this time. Snap elections don’t support any of those beliefs. Here’s a few reasons why John Horgan’s snap election has put democracy under fire:
- Politicians can only claim to know the will of the people if they listen. Thirty days during a pandemic makes that extremely difficult.
- Political parties can only claim to have a certain mandate if the issues are clear and the people know what they are voting about. Again a thirty-day campaign in a time when all the normal campaign communication instruments have been disrupted makes a mandate moot—the people don’t have time to know enough about the issues to give a mandate.
- Mail in ballots must be received by Elections BC by October 24 otherwise you are going to the polls in person. Given the short time to notify people and given that most people will just assume they are voting in person like they usually do and given no one knows what COVID restrictions will look like in the next few weeks, this is democracy under fire. I bet Trump would have paid a lot of money and a lot of Russians to have the opportunity to put that little democratic obstruction in place. Oh, and who’s going to want to wait in the sort of in-person line-ups to vote that we’ve got coming up?
- New MLA hopefuls just simply don’t have time to mobilize in 32 days. Even people who have thought about it for awhile. Having worked beside my son in several elections I know what it takes and it takes more than a month. This snap election has broken that possibility.
- I naively thought that one of the most important values of British Columbian political parties was democracy and that they operated under the imperative to promote democratic practices. The NDP has not stood behind that value…not in this snap election.
I have lived most of my life in First Nations community. It is there that I learned a meaning of respect that I have never encountered in mainstream Canada. I can’t put a definition to it. It’s more than my definition. Simply put I have come to know it as a deep relationship with the whole environment in which I exist. But I will say what I believe it is not—a snap election is not respectful.
And one more thing: you might say that people vote on the record of the government and not on elections, that elections are almost unnecessary. On that note it’s the perfect time to snap that little bit of democracy. The record of the NDP—think pipelines, Site C, teachers—has been obscured by COVID and Bonnie Henry. No wonder John Horgan called a snap election.