Democracy finally getting a wake-up call

At last week’s Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) forum in Cranbrook both sides of the issue told the audience that they have a rare chance to participate in democracy as it’s meant to be.

They are right and that’s the sad part.

It takes something like a grassroots uprising to teach the government of the day that they can’t unilaterally ram something down our throats without at least the courtesy of explaining what they’re doing and why they’re doing it.

From what I was taught in school, democracy is defined as a government by the people and all citizens have an equal say in decisions that affect our lives.

Unfortunately that seems to be more of a textbook definition rather than the actual practice.

Now, of course, the government is trying to put its usual spin on things and finally making an effort to educate the people of the purpose of the tax. Unfortunately, their attempt to bribe us with our own money by throwing a couple of hundred dollars into the mix of a revised tax might just be enough to sway those who prefer the immediate reward rather than the long term lesson.

As one letter to the editor last week stated, this is our opportunity to hold our politicians accountable. To rap their knuckles for abusing their power and the trust the citizens handed them in the previous election.

There are two sides to the issue and both present strong arguments but the reason we’re facing a referendum on the tax really has nothing to do with the tax itself. It was the way it was pushed on to the public, the very people who the government supposedly serves.

The fact that public opinion was so against the government’s methods that it forced rethinking the tax is a positive step for democracy.

The sad part is that it took countless volunteer hours and campaigning just to get the government to hear the citizens’ voices.

That doesn’t bode well for our education system. The government cuts back and hands out money like a yo-yo to the weary school boards.

It forces them to make drastic cuts to the system then juggle any newfound cash to keep everyone happy. It’s a lose-lose situation because you simply can’t please everyone.

The government uses its usual spin doctors to tell us what a great job they’re doing. But one has to wonder how stupid do they think we are

I guess if they keep whittling away at our education system that will be an easy question to answer in about 30 years.

We watch as schools close or a threatened to close. We watch as communities are pitted against one another in hopes of keeping their school viable and attracting the few crumbs the government doles out from the very tax dollars they take out of our pockets.

In an era where education is the main road towards prosperity, the ruling party seems to be putting more detours and roadblocks than building highways to a better life.

Politicians always say the right things when they’re vying for a your vote. Since Sir John A Macdonald took office in 1867 they have been promising to do better than the previous government. One has to wonder, with almost 150 years of promising to do better, when are they going to deliver?

Is it going to take another grassroots movement to make politicians understand that education and health care are of the utmost importance to its citizens?

Opening up more casinos and easier online gambling access, hosting Olympics and putting a new roof on a sports stadium all create great photo ops and cash revenue.

But if it isn’t immediately handed back to the citizens in the form of improving life for everyone, then democracy isn’t doing its job.

I applauded Brigette DePape’s on Parliament Hill last week as the page who dared to hold up a sign warning of the perils of a Harper government.

We saw rights abused and tax money squandered during last year’s G20 summit. We see how the voice of experts and citizens alike are ignored on everything from climate change to the census.

We see how a minister can single-handedly change a document and lie about it to a Commons committee without batting an eye. That one was caught but how many aren’t?

I watched in disgust when CBC interviewed DePape and a passer-by admonished her for insulting a parliamentary proceeding. I could only assume that man has never watched the childish behaviours of our politicians in question period.

If there ever is an insult to our parliamentary system, it’s when both sides shout and jeer each other rather than holding civilized discussions.

The last federal election might be a sign that things are changing – albeit slowly. We’re getting tired of the bickering and bullying. New faces elected, especially in Quebec, will hopefully bring new attitudes.

In B.C. the citizens have been heard, at least on the HST point, and maybe that will send a greater message to Victoria.

The next fight looming might be, sadly, the need to properly fund education for our children.

These are fights we shouldn’t have to fight. These are things we elect people to ensure our society is never lacking.

Our chance to speak will come in the next provincial election on the horizon.

The silent message of the page in Parliament may have been the loudest voice so far to remind the government and the citizens that we do have a role in how our country is shaped.

Our duty, since our federal and provincial governments appear blinded by their own agendas, is to use our vocal chords and let message be heard.

Then finally democracy might be everything we believe it should be.