“You gotta stand for something or you’re gonna fall for anything.” — John Cougar Mellencamp.
Everywhere I go on Texada Island, where I live, I see orange yard signs urging me to re-elect Nicholas Simons, our New Democrat MLA. There was a time when I’d have one of those sign in my front yard, too. I’ve voted for him in every provincial election since he first ran in 2005. Not this time, though.
I have great respect and admiration for Simons. He is honest, intelligent, hardworking and doesn’t take himself too seriously. He has occasionally stood up to the leadership of his party. If Simons chose to run as an independent, I would joyfully go out campaigning for him.
But even though he is a truly decent man and has done what he can to support Texadans, this time around I am voting Green.
I guess that puts me in a growing camp, because polls show support for the Green party at more than 20 per cent.
If I’m any example, here is why — disgust with the current partyocracy (my term, but by no means trademarked).
The mainstream BC Liberals and New Democratic Party exemplify partyocracy in action. Their campaign literature focuses on “The Leader.” Their websites are full of photos of Christy Clark and John Horgan in various poses, with “ordinary citizens” as props.
And when they get into power, these parties enforce a strict discipline on their (not our) MLAs, “whipping” them to vote as they are told by leader and cabinet.
This isn’t even close to democracy. It’s rule by a party elite, who in turn are accountable to their financial backers: mainly wealthy individuals, organized professional interests, large corporations and unions. These financial backers can be from anywhere in the world, and donate any amount they choose. It’s legalized bribery.
The two mainstream parties are thus almost identical in how they function: top-down decision-making — dominated by big money — which makes them cautiously pragmatic so as not to offend their financial backers. For example, the NDP is promising a series of increases that will take the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2021.
Why does the NDP want to wait so long? Four years is quite a grind living in poverty if all you’ve got is the minimum wage. How is this behaviour fundamentally different from the BC Liberals?
Or consider another, even more telling example. The BC NDP promises to stop taking union and corporate money — in the future. Why not now, in this election?
Fortunately, there is an exception to mainstream partyocracy. The BC Green Party’s pragmatism focuses on implementing essential details of democratic procedure. The party has low-paid campaign staff funded by small donations rather than high-priced professional political consultants.
The platform was created by citizen volunteers, not slick advertising consultants. As befits a grassroots movement-based party, the Greens seek small donations from lots of “ordinary citizens” and won’t accept donations from professional organizations, corporations or unions.
Crucially, the Greens have not retreated from a 2013 pledge not to “whip” the votes of the party’s MLAs, who are free to speak and vote according to what they think best serves the public interest. Thus, when you elect a Green MLA, that person solely represents you and all the constituents of your riding.
I want my vote to support such a party. The BC Greens are not perfect, but they are a big improvement over the mainstream twins. To those who passionately hate the current government and claim that my vote only helps the BC Liberals, I note that polls show the Green Party gaining support at the expense of both NDP and Liberals. But in any case, I have to vote with my heart and conscience.
There are many great-sounding promises in the NDP platform, but I’m skeptical about them being fulfilled when, not if, the party paymasters raise objections.
The Liberals and the NDP operate essentially on the same model. Both ultimately get their funding and are controlled for the benefit of global corporations, professional organizations, industrial unions linked to global corporations and unionized government bureaucracies. I will no longer vote for any party that’s bought and paid for this way.
So I’m sorry Nicholas. My respect and admiration for you as an individual remains strong, but for me the partyocracy is over.