Dr. Clarke Slemon is the Secretary of Ontario Progressive Conservative Constituency Association of York South-Weston.
Real civic participation
In October, Roy Murray reported in WestonWeb that in the last provincial election the voter turnout was just 45% , the lowest in history. Our riding participation rate was 7% less than the provincial average of 52%. Many citizens doubt how useful voting is, and the evidence is in their favour. As Roy Murray wrote “The winning candidate only seemed to come to life and muster up some fighting spirit for the election and will no doubt slip back into obscurity once the dust settles.” I think a little more than simply casting a vote is needed to resuscitate participatory democracy: more people need to join political parties and help select candidates.
A political party is like a municipal bus
A political party is a lot like a municipal bus—and that can be very frustrating. It doesn’t go as fast as you would like it to. It doesn’t take you by a sensible route. It doesn’t match your personal day-to-day needs. It never seems to get the details right concerning the way things should be run. Nevertheless, sometimes taking such a bus, for some distance, is useful. At other times, one needs to transfer and move in a different direction.
Political parties are not super smart authorities. They are just tools that voters like yourself can use to try to make Ontario, or Canada, or York South-Weston, a little better. Sometimes you may decide that Ontario should be nudged more the way Conservatives promise, sometimes the New Democrats have something to offer, or the Liberals. Without fail, every choice leaves something to be desired on some policy issue. Like the law itself, politics is a blunt instrument. It is likely to feel a lot like trying to perform brain surgery with a wrench and pliers, but it is the only equipment we have to try to keep Ontario, or Canada, or York South-Weston, evolving in the direction we think best.
People say that politics is a dirty business and there is certainly plenty of evidence that this is often true. Yet, have you ever thought that part of that dirtiness might be because most ordinary citizens pay so little attention to the nuts and bolts of democratic participation? As my wife says, “Politics is a bit like laundry; you don’t want to take it up as a profession, but if you don’t do a little bit every week, things get dirty.”
Certainly there aren’t many people who want to devote much time to politics and I don’t suppose you are going to be that exception. Regular folks have lives to live, problems to solve, places to go. So what’s the scoop? Why am I writing this?
An Extended Civic Duty
I would like you to ‘dip your toe’ into politics and buy a one year membership in one of the York South-Weston political party organizations. The cost will be about $10.00. It is important because your once yearly contribution will make you eligible to vote for future delegates to party policy conventions and elegible to vote in the selection of future political candidates in York-South Weston.
In an entire year, this will not take more than a few hours of your time, but I believe that those few hours can incrementally improve the integrity and responsiveness of our governors, federal, provincial and municipal.
After you select a party as your political vehicle, if it fails your expectations, switch—like you change buses when their route veers away from your unique destination. It is your right to direct the politicians. Political parties are just tools for that job. You are empowered to guide public policy. It’s just that some social elitists don’t want to tell you how it is really done. Having a vote within a political party provides more power than a vote in an election ever will.
To join one of the York-South Weston branches of any political party all you need to do is go to the party’s website and by entering your area code, as instructed, you will be directed how to join the York South-Weston Association.
In a few weeks you will receive your membership card in the mail from the provincial office in Toronto. Then you can participate as much, or as little, as you want. What is key though is you will be informed when those few hours arrive and a few key decisions beg your attention: electing delegates to the party convention and choosing the party’s candidate for the election. We may not get all we want but we’ll start to get at least what we need.
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