So, how are you feeling about the value of your democratic right to vote these days?
As Canadians, we value our democratic system, even as it is being undermined at all levels. Residents of Surrey contend with a bleak electoral landscape at almost every level of government.
At the federal level, the usual insulting MP behaviour has hit new lows. Not only do our "elected representatives" quickly gulp down the party Kool-aid and transform into Ottawa's representatives to us, they do a lousy job of that as well.
Throughout the entire bill C-38 shenanigans - it was the K-Tel of federal legislation: yeah it's about the budget, but wait there's more! - our MPs blindly trundled into Parliament and nodded at just the right times to successfully vote along their respective party lines.
There was a remarkable lack of information forthcoming from the governing party and our two Conservative MPs were not exactly forthcoming on the details.
Russ Hiebert in South Surrey offered zero info on the subject, although, to be fair, it may have been buried among the blizzard of government press releases posted on his website. Lots of Conservative Party boilerplate there but apparently nothing noteworthy has happened since the first week of May.
Our other Conservative ambassador from Ottawa, Nina Grewal, also boasts a website dripping in Tory propaganda but unless the fight against loud TV commercials is your reason for existing, there's not much help there either.
This legislation comes on the heels of revelations about fudging budget numbers on military contracts; a government minister likening Canadians to pedophiles if they cherish computer privacy; another federal minister blowing off a meeting with a provincial representative because the elected rep is, allegedly, a rectal orifice; multi-million dollar photo ops - some even had actual Canadians in the pics! - and private junkets on the taxpayers' dime just to watch a baseball game. And these are the things we know about.
We are so inured to this kind of behaviour that we quickly forget it and move on - until an MP puts a $16 orange juice on her expense account and suddenly she's the poster child for spending excesses by government officials. Did I mention the more than $20 million being spent on a jingoistic campaign to commemorate a British military campaign that took place 50 years before Canada's founding fathers gathered in Charlottetown? That's OK, but overpriced OJ?
Unforgivable - you're gonzo babe.
It doesn't get any better as you climb down the political ladder.
At the provincial level, British Columbia is ruled by a Liberal government that walks in lockstep to the marching orders of Premier Christy Clark, a woman who was not even in politics the last time we went to the polls. Clark is trying to clean up the mess she inherited from her predecessor while fighting off a surge in popularity from the rival NDP.
And what has the NDP done to earn such support? Um, well, nothing. They just aren't Liberals and apparently that's all it takes to be seen as a plausible alternative, even though the socialist party of choice has an abysmal record of its own whenever the voters have given the NDP control of the provincial cheque book.
At the civic level of government, Surrey residents gave Mayor Dianne Watts and her Surrey First party a sweep of city council positions so now there is effectively no voice of opposition on council. There is no way that one party can be all things to all people and even though Surrey First indeed holds all of the votes on council, at least 35 per cent of Surrey residents at any given time do not adhere to the Developer First, I mean, Surrey First agenda.
No matter, their voices have been effectively muted for another 2.5 years until the polls open again.
Finally, there is the school board, an elected body of representatives that, like its more prestigious cousins, has power on paper but still takes its marching orders from on high. We were reminded of this on Sunday - Canada Day no less - when the provincial government fired the entire Cowichan school board and replaced it with Surrey school district superintendent Mike McKay.
And the sin of the duly elected Cowichan nine? The board submitted a deficit budget to the provincial government. Wow, what a great idea: If an elected body can't balance the books, they're out of there. Oh wait, that only applies to school boards - provincial and federal bodies have no limits on their taxpayer-funded credit cards.
OK, I get that the move made in Cowichan was probably designed to provoke just such a response.
The province has canned school boards for similar actions in the past, including a mass firing in Cowichan in 1985, so the precedent was in place. You don't need to look far to find out what political party dominates that neck of the Vancouver Island woods and the predictable knee-jerk reaction by Clark and company ensures the representative from Cowichan in the provincial legislature will be NDP for the foreseeable future.
In the meantime, the voters of Cowichan have been reminded again how valuable their democratic voice really is. The school board is out; McKay will now oversee the necessary budget pruning while one of the largest school districts in the province prepares for the upcoming school year without a full-time school superintendent.
Once again: political logic - doubleplusgood!
Michael Booth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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