Monday, October 29, 2007

Saskatchewn election Chapter 2

The Saskatchewan election, 2007, got more interesting when an actual candidate rang my doorbell on Saturday. It was Ron Blocka, running for the NDP, and he gave me his card and asked if I had any questions. I said, “Not really, I’ll check your platform on your website,” and speeded him on his way, assuring him that he had my vote, and, of course, that was really all he wanted to know. In provincial elections, the NDP is my default position, unless strategic voting makes sense, which it seldom does. I live in a rural riding, and rural Saskatchewan tends to be Conservative on election day. I counted ballots in the rural poll in the last federal election and the proportion of the votes was roughly 20 to 7 to 4 (Conservative, NDP, Liberal). Voting Liberal or Green or NDP here reminds one of that old saw: It appears to be the right time for a futile gesture!

Agnes and I will do the hospital poll, which means we’ll sit in the nurses’ room for five hours and accommodate maybe 5 people who would be unable to exercise their franchises without us. Fortunately, I have a few good books on the go right now, one being Where War Lives by photojournalist, Paul Watson. I’ll review that on the other blog ( in a few days.

Last time we did the hospital poll, I came to the conclusion that democracy is a very clumsy, costly and time-wasting affair, what with enumeration school, enumeration, deputy returning officers’ and poll clerks’ school, and then, of course, the election day itself, when numerous people have to be hired again to man the many polls in the province. There are reasons for all the paper work, obviously, most of which have to do with protecting the integrity of the electors’ choice. I can’t argue with that, but I mean to come up with a new system that doesn’t require so much bureaucracy, and if you have any ideas, I’d like to hear them.

A Colombian-Canadian Rosthernite told me the other day that in Colombia, every voter has a card that entitles him/her to vote, and that the card is punched when voting, an act that is mandatory. If you are later asked to show your card and it’s not punched, you are subject to penalty: a fine, I think.

It’s interesting that Ontario’s electorate turned down the idea of a proportional representation electoral process. I doubt that they understood it. It’s not easy to explain in a few minutes, but I believe its time has already come and gone, and still we cling to the archaic old British system as if it were the very definition of democracy.

Meanwhile, in Ottawa, the parties seemed to have shelved the notion that the actual legislation and governance of the country’s affairs is what they’re there for, and the jockeying to determine the most propitious date for another election seems to be uppermost on everyone’s mind. Don’t they ever feel just a little bit silly when they ponder what they’re doing?

I can hardly wait for the leaders’ debate tomorrow at 6:30 on CBC Saskatchewan. Brad Wall against Lorne Calvert with David Karwacki trying really hard to be more than a fifth wheel (third wheel?). Mostly these debates turn out to be almost too embarrassing to watch, with three men spouting platitudes and hurling asinine accusations at each other simultaneously. I hope they regulate the spectacle better than they have in the past.

I have to watch them, though. I think it’s akin to picking at a scab, or running to see a fire. I can’t help myself.

Here’s my prediction of the outcome: Saskatchewan Party 35, NDP 22, Liberal 1.

(P.S. Let me revise that slightly since the Saskatchewan Party has had to fire one of its candidates after the nomination deadline for uttering slurs against certain races, women and others: SP 34, NDP 23, Lib. 1)

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Saskatchewn election

It’s election time in Saskatchewan, and election work here often falls to seniors, retired people who don’t have to punch a clock. In the 2003 election, I took on the enumeration of the electors in the Rosthern Rural Poll, #4, and so I was asked to do that again. I didn’t hesitate. I enjoyed driving through the country and meeting my rural neighbours then, and I enjoyed it last week.

Dogs and muddy roads are the worst hazards. Country folk need dogs for security, to announce the arrival of strangers like me, or escapees from the Prince Albert Penitentiary, or coyotes come to bother the chickens. Only once did I stay in the car for fear of dogs; mostly they were big, fluffy brutes that wagged their tails and beckoned me to alight and scratch behind their ears. A few times I feared that I’d be licked to death, but mostly they lay on the front porches and observed me with mild interest.

The countryside around Rosthern has changed. I’m sure well over half of the occupied homes are now acreages, with dilapidated outbuildings in many cases and tenants who are either retired farm couples renting their land to someone else or people employed in town who have acquired a place in the country because they love the rural scene. I visited only a handful of farms where domestic animals were still kept. In fact, I found few people home during the day because they were at places of employment in Rosthern, Prince Albert or Saskatoon.

The family farm is apparently on its last legs. I recently visited friends in Blaine Lake who live on a pleasant farmstead where she paints and he does what retired teachers do. They told me that the entire township in which they live is now owned by three corporate farms, and as we drove home, we passed a field where four identical combines were parked in a field, waiting for the weather to clear. The future of rural Saskatchewan is being inexorably reshaped; there will be no going back.

Elections have changed as well. It seems nearly all the campaigning is done with posters and flyers, and messages from the leaders on radio and television. One candidate’s campaign manager phoned me with three requests: would I vote for his candidate, would I consider going door to door for him and would I be prepared to post a campaign sign on my lawn. I said no to the latter two requests, partly because I’m not sure support for this candidate is unanimous in my house.

We’re probably going to see a change from the NDP to the Saskatchewan Party this time around. As in much of the west, there’s a decided split between the two major parties around the rural/urban axis, and it looks like there’s too much tiredness in the NDP to inspire their traditional support. The Liberals, I’m afraid, are going to run in the shadows again.

Democracy. One person, one vote. First past the post takes all. I met an elderly lady in the street the other day and we chatted very briefly. She said—with a great deal of conviction, I might add—that it didn’t matter whom we elected; once in office they would be as corrupt as the last guys, and if an honest one should slip through, he’d be driven off the hill in no time! There’s a lot of that kind of cynicism around. It’s obviously not completely earned, but the sentiment is probably strong enough to discourage young people from participating in the process, and like our countryside, our political landscape may be doomed to fall into corporate management hands, characterized by abandoned ideals. A relic. Rickety outbuildings of a barely-remembered past.