Government distrust may affect our democratic rights

BrooksI am not an anarchist. I am not apathetic (most of the time). And, although it would be my top pick, I am not a peace, love and rock n’ roller. But there is a common thread between the archetypes and I: a strong qualm towards “the man,” otherwise known as, well, bureaucracy in general.

I am educated enough to know that if jackets were politics, mine would be a liberal shade of blue with conservative cuffs. Unfortunately, education has its limits – I still couldn’t tell you if liberals or conservatives are left, right, up or down. This may partially explain why, as a 25-year-old woman, I have never voted. Ever.

Reports compiled by the Library of Parliament suggest 61.2 per cent of eligible young voters don’t participate in electoral processes due to a lack of political knowledge, absence of interest — I will dispute this argument, you and your marijuana have my attention, Mr. Trudeau — or a general distrust in the system.

As far as distrust goes, one might ask, why shouldn’t we trust our governments?

 Just distrust

Maybe it’s because the leaders of our peaceful pines seem more concerned with shiny new Rolexes than appropriate allocation of taxpayer dollars. Although I couldn’t tell you what the three Conservative senators spent almost $300,000 on in the recent expense scandal, it seems about enough to shatter Stephen Harper’s credibility and my grandparent’s faith (“If Harper is involved, I shall never trust another politician,” said my grandmother).

But we all know federal government is like a mob movie – it ain’t good without a little corruption.

Perhaps it’s because we live in Calgary, Alta., a city where you don’t expect to find a snake in a fish tank. In April 2013, Global News released secret footage of Cal Wenzel, founder of Shane Homes, articulating a “plan to control city council by backing development-friendly candidates” in a meeting last fall.

Even our beloved Mayor Naheed Nenshi is allegedly under suspicion; mayoral candidate Carter Thomson referred to Nenshi as a “raving liberal,” and said he is worried that Calgary’s “corporate culture is at risk if the trends of the mayor continue.”

“Nenshi has Pembina Institute representatives [or, according to the Calgary Sun, ‘politically slanted think-tanks’] known for lobbying against the oil sands in city hall,” Thomson said. “All that guy has done is built a Twitter following. It’s important to take care of our city and our infrastructure and not leave it to crumble.”

Vote versus don’t

Gripes aside, Thomson vehemently backs the importance of the vote, which he said is “the very fundamental part of democracy.”

“My dad was a veteran who served our country and fought for our freedom. I’ve always told my kids how important it is to vote,” Thomson added.

Special needs teacher Abby Follett said she “always thought she’d be the kind of person who would vote,” but the futility of government commitments left her frustrated enough to lose interest in the process.

Fed up with Alberta Premier Alison Redford’s teeter-totter of promises made and subsequently retracted in regard to fund withdrawal in the education system, Follett said she wondered why she would “waste time and effort engaging in a politician’s plans if it’s just for public pleasure and not an actual passion they hold.”“As far as distrust goes, one might ask, why shouldn’t we trust our governments?”

Anna Brooks, journalist

“At the end of the day, the government is going to do whatever gets them another vote,” Follett explained. “I work at a private school now because there’s no government decisions being made there.”

Like Follett, avoidance is generally my strategy. But my defiance to the electoral system admittedly wavered after speaking with Calgary Board of Education chairwoman Pat Cochrane — despite recent rumours surrounding her decision to step down from her post.

“It’s really sad when you see the percentage of people 18-25 who don’t vote,” Cochrane said. “We are better when all voices come to the table, not just people my age or older. It’s always my hope that young people will get engaged.”

I’m no expert on the nuances of young adults and their decision to vote or not to NenshiAlthough statistics show that young voter turnout (ages 18-24) is up one per cent since the federal election in 2008, only 38 per cent of eligible young voters are participating in the electoral process. This number seems especially low compared to the 75 per cent of voters ages 65-74.

Photo illustration by Anna Brooks/Calgary Journal
vote — and that is the question, isn’t it? And even though I am entitled to my own opinion, I’m still about as politically savvy as a sea cucumber. So I will leave you with what Cochrane left me pondering: “Do we protest by staying at home, or do we protest by using our votes to support the person we think is closest to the way we think?”

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