The first in a short, two-part (maybe three-part) series on the divide between the people who set the rules and those of us who have to live with the results.
Oh, this is one of my oldest bugaboos.
If you look at a list of MPs from the 1960s, you'll find a real diversity of people: country doctors, urban journalists, blue-collar dudes (who generally rose through their trade unions), farmers, teachers, civil servants, clergy, retired military, university and college faculty, provincial and municipal figures, and often an artist/author or two in the mix.
If you look at a similar list in the 2020s, you've got... lawyers. Occasionally a consultant, real estate agent or MBA-holding executive, and the NDP/BQ do have a candle in the window for labour leaders and academicians, but that's your lot. The diversity has collapsed, to a point that we might even argue that, even in the NDP and Bloc Quebecois, blue-collar Canadians, civil servants, Canadians who work in the arts, and Canadians who earn less than about $70,000/year (which, unto itself, includes most! Canadians!) no longer have a route into the House of Commons period.
Where I live we just elected the first El Salvadoran probably in Canada. First woman for sure. I’ve talked to her and she’s a lot like me. Grew up in the same neighbourhoods. Single mom. And it sounds like her family has had to work hard since emigrating here. She doesn’t talk like a regular rich person in politics. I like her.
Much appreciated. There's been increasing comment lately, about how journalists used to be those movie-trope inkstained wretches with middle-class incomes, and sympathies for people who work with their hands - but at the upper reaches of journalism, all the TV journalists and large-audience dailies, only have money problems with their Ivy League student loans, and have never done "shift work". Obviously, this isn't applying to young journos at the National Observer and The Tyee I read, I'm thinking TV journalists, and comfortable columnist positions at PostMedia. (And all the Ivy-League grads at the Post and Times.)
My most-recent gripe was the coverage of people who were suddenly having trouble feeding the family and making rent, because of inflation. Canada went from 14% food-insecure, to 16%, and that was the story. But, wait - why were the 14% never the story for all the years they continued? Surely, that's seven times as big a story as the additional 2%. I didn't see one story that mentioned the other 14% were always with us, and we just let that go on and on. That's just normal, and therefore, not news.
I look forward to your thoughts on this under-discussed topic.
I encourage you to look at the recently elected NDP caucus in Alberta -- it's remarkably diverse in every way, and a stark contrast to the UCP govt MLAs.
Winning a nomination in a winnable seat is the hard part in Canada, esp federally; people need deep resources, an extensive network, and the party's sanction.
Hi David, I think your tweet about consequences for local politicians when transit fails points to a better target than digging into the backgrounds of politicians at senior levels of government.
While linking the behaviours of politicians to where they came from will add to the critique and reinforces the case that the current reality is a long way from any ideal democracy, but that might be just ‘piling on’ after the whistle at this point.
Ideology and tribalism drives politics at all levels but human empathy and practical knowledge are more likely to exist at the most basic levels of interaction between citizens and government.
If better democracy is a process that does not presuppose the content of decisions (as you say in the conclusion of Too Dumb For Democracy) then, unfortunately given its condition, the best democracy we have now is what happens at the local level.
For every level above, there is less human empathy and practical knowledge of issues. The gaps are filled with ideology, tribalism, mass marketing and social media campaigns and sophisticated ‘get out the vote’ or ‘e-day’ tactics that are drive higher voter turnouts.
I realize politics at the top of the ‘house’ is gets all the attention. Little attention is paid to the foundations, the interaction between citizens, politicians and governments at the lowest level that establishes the norms and behaviours on which the rest of the structure is built, and a level where experimentation and progress is more likely to happen. Just a thought.
The sentiments are welcome but jeez I hate these writers who are so immersed in their own self indulgent verbosity. There is one paragraph in there that's completely meaningless. The question is (if you read this) can you spot it and do you understand why it's meaningless?