Apathy and the end of Democracy


My Google news extract page had a link to an article in the Ottawa Citizen today about attitudes to the new Federal budget. We have already heard the right-wing press praise it for its boldness and willingness to embrace tough issues. But most Canadians seem apathetic about it — even though its provisions are likely to hurt them.

A similar non-response is happening here in Ontario. We have a new budget that has yet to be passed but opposition seems muted and unfocused. And most folks are just ignoring it.

The question ‘why’ seems reasonable — it doesn’t matter what we think, the government is going to do what they want and agreed to do for their business backers in the shadows. Ontario will continue the wildly unpopular FIT program that is sending power prices soaring, businesses fleeing (save those who profit from FIT) and rural communities devastated by the invasion of wind plants. Meanwhile, roads crumble and hospital services keep getting cut back — the priorities are clear.

And as for the FEDs, no one is really surprised that they lied about the F35s and probably a host of other things. And that the F35, touted as the solution for defense of the borders is not well suited for patrolling Canada but much better for foreign adventuring — like Libya. And the government payroll has been swelling — so much for a cost-effective, open and transparent government. And whatever has been said in the budget will probably not be much of a boundary for what they actually do. And the auditor can continue to rant, no one really listens.

I guess one could trace the root of apathy to the lack of responsiveness of governments at the Provincial and Federal levels. One makes these forced choices (best of a bad lot?) when an election is called, or just ignores it. Other than a conversation while campaigning with the political hopeful there is the assurance that once in office the lines of communication will become amazingly one way. Oh, they will communicate with us — we get a form letter with carefully worded questions to respond to. But other than ticking off the large box anything we say is simply ignored. Why should they care? They get a gold-plated pension after an amazingly short tenure, cannot be removed from office by the voters until THEY call the next election. And feel no obligation to communicate the reasons for anything they do beyond a few sound bites with lines that are worthy of the chicken cannon.

So why should anyone get incensed about the budget? Resigned is more like it. The government is there to service the needs of its corporate supporters while playing at being a parliamentary democracy. But without the electorate being listened to in a meaningful way (and not with sham public consultations) this is just a pretense at being a democracy. and the apathetic citizen, conditioned by being gouged by businesses and ignored by the government, will continue to try and get on with their lives. And hope that big brother doesn’t come for them any time soon.

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One thought on “Apathy and the end of Democracy

  1. A a long-term trend this is not surprising. Voter turn-outs are not stellar, nor is intelligent public debate (other than on TVO). Meanwhile, lobbying has become another quasi-civil service institution. The end result is that our guvmints do not see voters as their constituency. They spend their days being courted by commercial interests, domestic or not, and since that’s who they talk to, that’s who they listen to. It’s part and parcel of long-term re-feudalization.

    I see lobbying operating on 2 fronts. It promotes the desires of the lobbying enterprises, and it serves as recruitment. They are feeling out which public servants or elected officials are looking for post-retirement consulting contracts. I am a cynic and believe that grubby pocket-lining is always present.

    A good university business research project (assuming that university business departments have an interest in higher learning and research) would be to track and correlate pro-corporate legislation and subsequent post-retirement job offers for ex-politicians. This could be useful information, assuming that anyone cared. Cynically, I don’t believe that anyone wants this researched or fixed. Nobody wants it fixed, they just want in on the gravy train. The citizen voter has no skin in this game, he/she no longer really counts as anything other than a pro forma legitimizer.

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