Post-election Hangover

It’s been a week since municipal elections were held across Ontario, and many voters were not happy with the results. However, the elections were completely overshadowed by a shocking sex scandal involving CBC’s media darling, Jian Ghomeshi – a scandal that has rocked the country hard from coast to coast with unrelenting aftershocks since it first erupted on October 26th.

But… the dust has begun to settle, sort of… and while sex and politics often seem to go hand in hand, these recent and separate events might as well have happened on two different planets, so I’ll leave the sex part for my next post, and focus on the politics for now.

So… finally emerging from the murk of confusion and shock, small voices from across Ontario have begun to pull us back to where we left off a week ago. The complaints are old and familiar:  Who won the election??? OMG, they’ve chosen to stick with the status quo. Nothing will change. Why is voter turnout so appalling low??? Such apathy! What’s wrong with people?!!

On October 17th, an interesting article by Don Tapscott was published in The Star. I’ve thought a lot about the failings of governments and politics over the years, and Tapscott’s article was right on. He discussed a city, Guelph, “that is well on it’s way to re-imagining the role of local government.” So, to address some of the old, familiar complaints, this is my take on the situation.

Guelph had a 45% voter turnout, which was a significant 11% increase over the 2010 election, while Windsor saw the opposite with a 37.5% turnout for 2014. So they (Guelph) must be doing something right. Right?

Actually, there are numerous, complex factors that have contributed to today’s voter apathy and disengagement, especially within particular age groups. However, one of the biggest reasons in my opinion is that the current model of centralized governance is outdated—from the municipal level, all the way up to the federal level.

Currently, our governments maintain rigid patriarchal structures that, despite their democratic premise and inclusion of women, call on citizens to choose who is going to rule from the head of the table. After that we are as powerless as children. Once in place, most politicians seem intent on following their own agendas. This system is problematic, and no longer aligns with modern 21st century sensibilities shaped by the democratizing effects of the Internet, communal experiences, and global connectivity.

“…Guelph has demonstrated that cities can innovate. Through its fresh approach to problem-solving and open-government principles, Guelph is challenging the traditional industrial-age approach to local government and democracy. Shared ownership, decentralized decision-making, community engagement have the potential to shift the relationship from “us vs. them” to “we’re in this together.” Tapscott.

Healthy and progressive evolution must keep up with the times, but old hierarchies always resist and delay necessary change in order to retain their perceived power. While paradigm shifts in organized societies are always easier to recognize and analyze from a historical perspective, we know enough about our world today to understand that old constructs are no longer working very well.

The backlash against authoritarian and patriarchal societal constructs happened in the 1960s. Why, in 2014, have we not moved forward?

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