Thursday, October 02, 2008

Election blues and some autumn-garden wonders

Election BluesÓ

by George Epp

As a kid, I and a couple or three of my siblings walked to school in the spring and fall: half a mile east, one mile south. Some years, the telephone post at the junction where we turned south was plastered with election posters. Walter Tucker was the Liberal Candidate in our constituency, and I would probably have drawn a mustache on him if he hadn’t already had one.

At the time, the only credible rivals for government in Saskatchewan were the Canadian Commonwealth Federation (CCF) and the Liberals. I clearly remember how most of our neighbours supported the Liberals, but that my father was a staunch follower of Tommy Douglas and his democratic socialism. That meant that perversions of the CCF name—as in “Crazy Cat Farmers” for instance—were taken as personal insults when hurled out as playground taunts.

Elections were serious business and volatile emotional experiences.

I think I still take elections too personally, probably in part as a result of those childhood experiences. The New Democrats have always been my team, like the Saskatchewan Roughriders or the Montreal Canadians; a Grey Cup or Stanley Cup loss for the home team still stings, although less with the passage of time.

Seeing Conservatives in office is like having a sharp stone in my shoe.

Mind you, it’s not just about loyalty to my father and his political allegiances. I’ve become convinced through my courses in university and my years of teaching in the humanities that the cooperative (socialist) model is superior to the competitive (capitalist) model as a way of doing government. The debate on this subject is certainly being reopened by the “Wall Street Crisis” going on in the US at the moment. Capitalism has made such a gigantic blunder that it can’t think of any other way to save itself except to appeal to taxpayers to rescue it. Had the US been governed after the Social Democratic model, government might long since have reined in the excesses of corporate greed and the country would have been spared the spectacle we’re currently watching.

The astounding thing is that many people still believe—apparently—that the “invisible hand” that guides the workings of an unfettered marketplace will also lead us all to the best possible world. Greed should never be allowed to drive the bus; to ride in it maybe, but under a watchful eye. It’s a government’s role to act as guardian of the public interest and to ensure that resources are distributed equitably enough to provide the basics of a reasonable life to everyone. For this, there must be controls on those who would make their living by speculating with and manipulating the economic system in order to become wealthy without actually providing any goods or services for the public.

I may vote strategically this election. My MP is a Conservative who believes that crime can be fought with harsher punishment and that day care centres cause women to go out to work when they should be raising their children. Whichever Candidate comes closest—in my opinion—to being able to deliver a challenge to this kind of thinking may well get my vote, although I may stand in the voting booth for a long time with pencil poised, struggling to look beyond old allegiances and at the big picture.

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