Send in the Opticians: BC Does the Election Thing Again

Rossland Telegraph
By Rossland Telegraph
April 16th, 2009

Here at the Telegraph, we have a theory about democracy. It goes like this: the further government gets from the local, the worse it works. Why? A number of reasons. Temptations of money, power, and ego are all magnified at the provincial or national levels even as the ability to communicate meaningfully diminishes. Not for no reason did the ancient Greeks, the very inventors of democracy, organize themselves in small, independent city states whose ideal size was as far as one could walk in a single day. There’s not enough cause for corruption in a small town.

Who’d bribe a local councillor? We tried offering one of ours a hundred dollars once to get her support for an easement on the Telegraph’s extensive land holdings, but she slapped the money out of our collective hand because the poor bill wasn’t printed on recycled paper. Clearly hopeless! 

Remember, folks, as we start down the road to election day: voting every four or five years doesn’t necessarily add up to anything approaching a democracy. 

But provincially, there’s more scope for a lot of, as our friend Gollum would say, ‘tricksy-ness’. The higher up candidates get in the scheme of things, the more money they have to plead their cause, the more they speak to the people through filters of prepared statements, slick advertising, and generally staying ‘on message’ while ‘controlling optics’ (by the time you get to global politics, it’s pure barbarism (barbarians have politics, but they don’t have democracy)).

But that’s a story for another time. For today, let’s stick to the provincial scene.

With the race less than two days old, all three contending parties (Green, Liberal, and NDP (in alphabetical order, just to be fair)) have issued platforms and deployed slogans designed to make us swoon and then rally, on faltering feet, to their cause. How will they do this? Why, through optics.

CBC radio is already reporting that the provincial Liberal party’s election bus may be making its stops without making its itinerary public in advance in order thwart protesters who might want to ruin the ‘optics’ of a shiny, happy campaign stop by cluttering up the background of a photo-op with unpleasant signs and angry faces. Viva democracy.

How will this election go? We don’t have a crystal ball, but a quick look at the three parties’ campaign slogans tells a lot.

The BC Liberals’ slogan this time around is ‘Keep BC Strong’. Sounds vaguely eugenic in nature. This slogan brings me back to the late 90s and the divide-by-uniting campaign slogan, ‘One Land, One People’ (BC Reform? BC Liberal? I can’t quite remember) at the height of the First Nations land claims disputes. Dig a little deeper into ‘Keep BC Strong’ and you’ll see that the real message this time around is ‘Don’t let the NDP squander what little we’ve got left!!’. It’s a slogan that says nothing meaningful, or at least nothing your mother wouldn’t have scolded you for saying about your little brother or sister.

For their part, the NDP are offering us the strident, even militant-sounding ‘Take Back Your BC’. I can see a T-shirt with this slogan beneath a picture of ol’ Che Guevara. Viva la revolution. It’s another imperative statement (an order!) but its real message is ‘Give BC back to our party! Right now!’ This from a party that both courts the Green vote and yet somehow manages to rail against BC’s Carbon tax at the same time. I’m already bracing myself for the NDP’s inability to avoid dragging out the ugly old class warfare phrase, ‘ordinary working British Columbians’. Who’s ordinary? Us? You? Well, certainly not us.

We wonder if the NDP have considered what to do if unemployment goes over 50%? Will we all be addressed as ‘ordinary non-working British Columbians’ when that day arrives?

As for the Greens, their slogan is ‘A better plan for British Columbia’. Nice and leafy. At least the Greens aren’t knocking their opponents– just saying that their ideas are better. And the plan is for British Columbia, not British Columbians: a nice distinction given that, environmentally, British Columbians aren’t that great for British Columbia (if you can follow that logic). A little smug, perhaps, but at least the Greens aren’t as vicious as the other two parties. Of course, that’s not surprising: the Greens can afford to take the high road given that there’s no real chance of their forming the next government.

So that’s it, unless we’ve missed any random Marijuana Party, Communist, or Conservative candidates who might be lurking in the shadows beyond the greenish glow of the limelight.

The optical spectacle has come to town! If you feel as dispirited as we do at the prospect, keep your mind focused on the STV issue more than the party platforms. Remember, folks, as we start down the road to election day: voting every four or five years doesn’t necessarily add up to anything approaching a democracy. We encourage you, when making your choice, to try to pick the candidate or party who best represents the idea of participatory democracy. Ask yourself, ‘does this person seem to want to engage people, or is he/she just hoping to be elected member-of-the-dictatorship-for-four-years.

We argue the quality of wanting-to-engage sets any candidate apart from the pack more than their respective parties’ platforms and positions.

Categories: Op/Ed

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