Opinion

Prelude to Election Day: Demonstrate for Democracy

Let's not have the public discussion entirely dictated by politicians who want nothing from us but our vote on election day.

By Robert Yates
Published September 01, 2015

We are well into one of the longest election campaigns in our history. We mustn't lose this opportunity to speak out and let our dreams for Canada be known rather than passively listen to politicians make repetitive party promises.

The days between now and the election should be claimed as our own. This time can be used to express to our politicians, and to each other, what we want for our country. Let's not have the public discussion entirely dictated by politicians who want nothing from us but our vote on election day.

To bring about the democratic society that we each long for in our most fair and thoughtful moments requires a fundamentally different approach to our life-together. Elected politicians need constant reminding that their primary job is to represent the wishes of their constituents, not to be mouthpieces for their party.

Over the years many crucial issues have been ignored. This neglect has inspired demonstrations, protests, rallies, marches, public meetings, letters to the editor and endless private opinions shared among family and friends. During this long election campaign there is a chance for citizens of a like mind to come together to restate these concerns as forcefully as possible.

It should be standard practice that public demonstrations and protests escalate in number and frequency during every election campaign. We would have a far more robust democracy if it became a Canadian tradition to take to the streets with placards, demands and rallies every time an election is called. This is precisely the time the voice of the people must be heard.

The issues are plenty. Topping the list is the undeniable threat posed by climate change. By now it is clear to every alert citizen that it is urgent that we collectively do something about it. Only opportunistic profiteers or those who wilfully ignore the scientific observations of the experts would have us believe otherwise. A government obsessed with protecting its citizens must see that this is the imminent danger, not terrorism.

Oil and pipeline interests have tried to convince us that the economy that makes them wealthy is more important than a healthy environment. We must show solidarity with the First Nations who consistently promote a wholesome planet over an insane economy designed to benefit the rich. Now is the time for Idle No More demonstrations to go into high gear.

In recent years it has become increasingly clear to everyone that in a democracy the present income gap between the rich and the poor is unacceptable. We have seen factories close and workers laid off while the mother company makes record profits.

We have seen industries fail, then saved with taxpayers' money while workers face unemployment. The Occupy demonstrations of a few years ago articulated our dissatisfaction with the "1% versus 99%" status quo. Now is the time to resume these demonstrations so politicians of all parties can get a better understanding of the people they are to represent.

Now is the time for Peace marches and the call to bring our armed forces home from bombing other lands. The way to fight terrorism is not to become terrorists ourselves. Canada could and should set an example to the world as peace keepers.

Now is the time to make it clear that Bill C-51 and other governmental proposals that invade our freedoms and rights are totally unacceptable.

There could be demonstrations for better health care, dental and prescription coverage, education, pensions, veterans, senate reform, election reform, etc.

Take your pick from all the numerous issues. These are just a few examples. The best way you can take part in this election is to demonstrate in the streets and talk to your fellow citizens. A clear message from Canadians to each other concerning what they feel is best for Canada is as crucial as voting.

A public demonstration is just that; it is a demonstration of the power of democracy, a reminder that the people united and organized can institute change for the better.

We do not want parliamentarians who are afraid of democracy and want to limit or diminish it by treating active citizens as the enemy. The time between now and the election must be claimed for democracy, and in a democracy leadership comes from and is the grassroots.

To the politicians: Before you tell us what your party is going to do, listen to the people.

To the people: Make your voices heard.

Robert Yates is an artist living in Hamilton. His website: robertclarkyates.weebly.com.

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