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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Tuesday 10 June 2014

#VoteON: The Day After E-Day

It's entirely possible that, when what ballots get cast are counted, we'll end up with either a Liberal or Conservative majority government.  In that scenario at least one, but likely both Opposition leaders will be gone and their Parties will focus on laying track and getting fighting ready for the next election. The new Premier, meanwhile, would have the power to pretty much do as they please.

A more likely scenario is that we'll have either a Conservative or Liberal minority government.  In this case, Opposition Parties will have to decide if they want to risk new leaders that could find themselves facing a snap election rather quickly.  The goal of politics, remember, isn't to govern, but to gain and hold power - that's how the system works.

Those with power (the government in theory, the Leader and Office of the Premier of Ontario in practice) will have to decide if they focus on rapidly building towards a next election by picking the right fights quickly or take the minority route for a while, trying to undermine their opponents, score wins and build some credibility with their likely slice of the electorate.  Both scenarios, again, are about building towards a majority.

No matter how this second, more likely scenario shakes out, the reality is that leaders, Parties and stakeholder groups that have essentially vilified each other as corrupt, despotic and incompetent will find themselves back in the same sandbox together facing the same structural problems.  Elections, you see, aren't armistices.

Added to this picture, of course, will be an even more disaffected, frustrated population that will still be agitating for change, but increasingly believing none of the above can solve it.

To paraphrase Colin Powell:

Let's get the blame game out of the way immediately, so we can move on.

It's not the fault of politicians that citizens are tuning out, any more than they can really be blamed for putting partisan wins before shared solutions.  That is, after all, the way our system functions these days - winner takes all and if you don't win, you can't contribute.  For their part, businesses can't really be blamed for trying to maximize their profit - if they weren't doing so, they'd be not-for-profits, and who'd fund those?  

Unions can't be blamed for trying to maximize wins and reduce competition for their members, either - that's the role they are supposed to be playing.

Across the board, we have siloed sectors and organizations doing exactly what they are supposed to do.  That's not the issue.  It's the play, not the players, that's the problem here.

We don't talk with each other - we talk at each other or even worse, we're doing monologues to an audience, ignoring each other entirely.

Which brings us back to politics.  You're not supposed to commit sociology in politics; it tends to conflict with message discipline.  Politics is like a sport this way, which is why we have so many "blood sport" similes - focused teams are supposed to play defined roles, deliver wins and take the cup, i.e. form government.

Where politics varies from sports is that the winning thing is only a prelude to the actual work of governance which, done well, involves listening to and incorporating ideas from other Parties and stakeholders, consultations and a focus on finding efficient, shared solutions by building bridges rather than picking fights.

You see where the challenge lies.  

To the best of my knowledge, politics is the only field where players go out of their way to demonize the very same people they are mandated to work with day in and day out.  Let's say Wynne is returned as Premier - would Horwath or anyone on her team be able to work with someone they've tarred as corrupt without losing their credibility?  

Let's say Hudak wins - is he capable of gaining the confidence of the House?  For her part, could Wynne support any element of Hudak's plan as a trade-off without losing credibility?

This is where the sports analogies wear thin.  Competitive athletes are entertainers, beating each other for the amusement of an audience.  They aren't policy makers.  

In politics, as "the stakes" grow bigger (tougher competition), the more vitriolic partisans become. This creates an escalation of personalized animosity that it's hard to scale down from, especially in a minority situation - and even moreso when the street theatre is the only thing that really seems to get us citizens to pay attention.

Let's reiterate this; when politicians stop bringing the issues in all their complexity to citizens, it's because they've concluded you're not capable of understanding them or simply don't care to bother. Either case is a failure of civic responsibility.

Which is a failure on our part.

Here's one fact I think we can all agree on; the day after E-Day, the world will still be spinning and the challenges we face will be exactly the same as they were before.  No solution brought forward by any Party or stakeholder has a hope in hell of working in complete isolation, because the world isn't top-down; it's integrated.

It's time we quit looking at each other as the enemy and expecting the solutions to our problems to come from someone else.  

There is no one else.  There's no them, either - there's only us.  Like it or not, we do like on common ground - in the same cities, the same province, relying on the same transit, hospitals, schools, etc.  We rely on each other.

And none of us is going anywhere.  The Other Parties aren't going to fall off the map.  Poor people, rich people, urban or rural folk aren't going to pick up and leave, nor should we want them to.

We can't keep doing this; living each man for himself like the world's going to end tomorrow isn't going to work.  

Portraying ourselves as the only ones with a simplistic, back-of-napkin plan to win power isn't going to work.

Wrapping all our woes up and hanging them around the neck of one group or another isn't going to work.

Minority or majority, this E-Day or the next, the inescapable fact is that the only way we can get past these continuous loggerheads we face is to start moving forward together.

And nobody can make us do this; we have to want to do it ourselves.

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