I fear that the “robocall” scandal rocking Ottawa will simply cause more voters to walk away from the political system in disgust. The majority of eligible voters has already walked away from the ballot box and young people, for the most part, have not bought into this essential component of our representative democracy.
But, if the shenanigans surrounding the last federal election chase even more voters away, then we’ll simply enable even more radical erosions of our democratic systems.
Unfortunately, the unethical conduct of political parties goes well beyond the current example of their “win at all cost” robocalls. Negative ads are by their very nature unethical; they are thinly disguised character assassinations designed specifically to chase voters away from the ballot box. MPs in the Canadian Parliament voted unanimously in support of a federal NDP motion to give Elections Canada more powers to supervise the federal political parties. This is a good start and, hopefully, the Harper government will ensure these powers are given as soon as possible. I’d like to see Elections BC given more powers as well. For example, the power to oversee candidate nominations and party membership lists, oversight of party leadership contests, and the ability to more fully scrutinize party fundraising and spending activities.
But true oversight rests with citizens. The only way to really address questions of ethics in our system is for more citizens to become more informed and more engaged in the political process. Not just at election time, but every day. After all, democracy is supposed to be “rule by the people.” If “the people” abdicate their responsibilities as citizens by walking away from the ballot box then they have no one to blame but themselves when their democracy is lost.
Bob Simpson is the Independent MLA for Cariboo North.