“Democracy is not a Spectator Sport” – Whistler Question Column

It’s amazing how time flies.

Just shy of three years ago, in the lead up to the 2011 municipal election, Whistler was abuzz with rabble. In fact, it’s reasonable to say that a good portion of the town was downright pissed. A number of issues were at the forefront, such as pay parking in the day lots, the asphalt plant in Cheakamus and the force field around municipal hall.

Every day was full of meet-and-greets, wine-and-dines and several less-than-civil online pissing matches on Facebook. The all-candidates meetings were packed to standing room only, with CCTV monitors broadcasting to the overflow crowd in the foyer. Candidates and constituents alike were voicing their message loud and clear that change was needed.

Now, three years later and roughly six weeks shy of another election, the volume of the political chatter is noticeably quieter. All the outrage seemed to have gone out the window once the candidates took office. But the three aforementioned issues that worked so many into a frenzy still persist — despite having been paid attention to, the results are not what were promised to us during the last election.

In this case the blame shouldn’t be directed toward the legislators, but rather those who put them there — the Whistler voters. Many feel that their civic duty is done once they leave the polling station, but a healthy democracy requires constant vigilance, and keeping pressure on politicians to do what they said they would do.

The “outside our jurisdiction” response has been used many times, but as citizens, we must keep pressure on our leaders to be creative with finding solutions to the problems we face.
Perhaps it is the lack of issues, or rather lack of discussion and intelligent discourse for candidates to either support or lament that’s responsible for the silence. Have people just resigned to the fact that the current council’s agenda seems to differ from what the public demanded last election? If the top three issues weren’t addressed, what exactly was the focus this whole time?

But that is neither here nor there, really. The time has passed and now the public is presented with our civic duty to elect a board of directors for a multi-million dollar corporation in which we are all shareholders. Whether it’s your name on the cheque or not, the reality is that we all pay the taxes around here. Everyone living here pays it in their rent — you can be sure that the landlord has calculated it in there somewhere. Even the tourist buying a coffee or goggles is helping to pay the large corporate taxes for retail village space — it’s all hidden in the high costs
we all pay to enjoy this amazing place.

Many people lose interest in local government because at the end of the day, it’s just local government. No matter what happens in our little mountain town, there will still be war, and injustice around the world, and we’ve got a pretty comfortable life in our little valley.

But perhaps that in itself is reason enough to get involved. Right now, at this very moment, billions of people on this planet are struggling to survive. And here we are, about to embark on a six-week exercise to decide who will have the right to appropriate millions of dollars to allow one of the wealthiest small communities in Canada to function smoothly.

It is the ultimate act of snobbery to not take advantage of the right to choose your leaders. It is just as heinous to do so and vote purely based on popularity, fear of change, or faith in shallow promises. Democracy should never be a spectator sport, and yet on all levels of government, that is precisely what it is. We complain about a leader’s actions as if they were a hockey game and we are stuck in the stands with no chance of suiting up. What I’m saying is that now and always, you have the opportunity to suit up and get out on the ice. In some respects, your responsibility as a voter is even more important than the role of those you elect.

– See more at: http://www.whistlerquestion.com/election-2014/election/democracy-is-not-a-spectator-sport-1.1399452#sthash.66Q7kAw1.dpuf