Vote Saskatchewan 2016

I’m sad.

I’m sad because usually, an election is an exciting time! Elections are basically the dating game for people who don’t want to have to dick around with online profiles, grocery shop introductions, and nightclub hookups. It’s like trying to find someone to spend the rest of your life with, if the rest of your life can be measured in four-year-stints. And trust me, sometimes a four-year-stint feels like the rest of your life.

It’s a weird dating game, though, because the way it’s *supposed* to work is that your parents/guardians get to see the list of potential dates, and they weed out the ones they deem undesirable – no snaggletoothed rednecks for my boy, Mother. Maybe it’s because even though EVERYBODY KNEW there would be an election this spring (that’s what happens when you mandate an election period), it’s like the New Democrats in Saskatchewan were all sitting around in the garage, making glitter glue posters and talking about how cool it would be when they were all in bigger offices, when they ought to have been screening their dates.

But that’s not the worst part (and believe you me, I ABSOLUTELY vote for whoever’s campaign poster has the most glitter). The worst part is that the Saskatchewan Party’s election platform, in its entirety, seems to be “OMGOMG YOU GUYS ARE SO DUMB! YOUR DATING OPTIONS ARE, LIKE, TOTAL FREAKS”.

Last week, the NDP dropped four candidates from its roster because of the stupid things they’d said on social media. Let us all take a moment to reflect on all of the stupid shit we’ve said, in our entire lives, ever, since the beginning of time. You there in the back, I happen to know FOR A FACT that you’ve said stupid shit, so you’d better be reflecting.

Right. All done? Now I want you to pretend you’re a teenager (if you are a teenager, this part should be easy) or a twenty-something (if you are a twenty-something, pretend you’re still a teenager; this part might be easier). I know the reason you use SnapChat is because you think those posts completely disappear after 24 hours. You’re wrong, but it’s cute you think that. If you’d read the Terms of Service, which I know you didn’t do, you’d see that you granted them license to use anything you post through their service for a number of things. That means your content has not disappeared. None of the content you post on the Internet disappears.

None of it. Not ever.

Someone, somewhere has a cache of everything ever posted on the net.

I have a growing sense of unease with the idea that if you ever even think you might want to run for public office, you have to start censoring yourself basically at birth because #Glob forbid you should say something insulting, stupid, or something that challenges social norms, manners, or taboos. Defend yourself at the VERY least. “Sure, I said something that sounded racist, but if you look at the actual context of what I said, you’ll see I was actually lampooning actual racists.”

So there are two problems with the Saskatchewan Party’s campaign plaform: 1) this whole “neener neener you’re running weirdos” isn’t actually telling me anything about what the Sask Party is going to do with my province for the next four years if they win; and 2) The Saskatchewan Party has spent the last EIGHT YEARS blaming the NDP for everything that’s gone wrong in the province with one exception.

Nipplegate.

That is the one exception where the Sask Party admitted that maybe they’d done something wrong (they hadn’t) when they legalized serving alcohol during strip routines. EVERYTHING ELSE that hasn’t gone swimmingly is the NDP’s fault. Why are seniors being abused in health care facilities? That’s the NDP’s fault. Why has there been no increase in educational funding for primary and secondary education (and in fact why is funding being cut)? Because NDP, that’s why.

I had so much more hope for the Sask Party. So much more. Although I’m a pretty hardcore socialist, I haven’t voted NDP since Drain Lingenfelcher roont the party (that right there is why I will never run for political office, my peeps). I don’t remember who I voted for in the last two elections; it might have been the Sask Party at one point. And while the Sask Party *has* made monumentally stupid decisions (axing the film tax credit which was actually a revenue generator for the province; rescinding legislation about drinking and stripping; selling off perfectly good crown properties to money-losing operations; putting all the budget eggs in the non-renewable resources basket…I could go on), I’ve liked some of what they’ve done. Granted, they had it pretty easy – they came in to power when people were starting to move back because oil and potash revenues were skyrocketing. Now that things are tougher, the BEST they can do to campaign is to point fingers at NDP candidates’ Twitter streams and Facebook pages?

The NDP isn’t blameless here; they should’ve screened their candidates, you know, at all. The NDP hasn’t done well to rebuild its party since ol’ Drain busted it up. In fact, I’d say they’ve monumentally failed. The NDP isn’t talking very loudly about instituting a living wage; about providing free housing for the homeless; about how they’re going to repair and enhance the primary and secondary education system given that their party centralized it and underfunded schools (less than the Sask Party has, but still, they did it) and hospitals. They haven’t talked about how they’re going to fix the rotten health care system that’s circling the drain in this province. They haven’t talked about how they’re going to husband our natural resources and increase taxes on them to generate more revenue for the province from corporations who SHOULD pay more. They haven’t talked about how they’re going to continue to support, and how they’ll increase support, for arts and culture. They haven’t really talked about much other than how they’re going to reinstate the film tax credit (which would be awesome) and then do some hand-wavey stuff with Creative Saskatchewan.

So as far as the dating game goes, BOTH of these parties are complete duds right now. The Sask Party *should* be campaigning on their strengths (“the province’s economy grew by X during the time we formed government” [had very little to do with the Sask Party and more to do with commodity prices, but so what? Campaigns aren’t for telling the truth, are they?]; “the province ITSELF grew by Y during the time we formed government” [again, population was increasing because of better and more jobs due to resource revenue but whatevs]; “we increased the personal income tax exemption” [you get where I’m going with this]). Talk about what you DID; don’t talk about what the other guy did EIGHT YEARS AGO, or, worse, what people who’ve never actually been elected before have said on social media. ESPECIALLY when there’s actual VIDEO of some stupid shit the leader of your party did in the 80s.

If I were the Lieutenant Governor, I’d shake my head and shrug and write a letter to whoever the LG writes letters to and ask for better parties. And no, I don’t think the Green party is a viable option; they won’t be until they have more seats (like, any). If people in the province can forgive the Liberal party for how badly they’ve screwed us in the past 100 years (we can’t), we might elect a Liberal in this election, but there isn’t a snowflake’s chance in hell that they’ll form government. And if anyone from the former Progressive Conservative party has managed to avoid prison time, I don’t see them running, so that’s not even a starter.

So we’re down to two truly awful choices: the NDP, whose party is limping along trying to steal votes away from the right (guys. You can’t do that. You are not a right wing party. Fundamentally, those people will NEVER vote for you. Just stop trying; it’s kind of sad. It’s like hoping that the captain of the football team is going to ask you to prom when he’s already asked the middle linebacker); or the Saskatchewan Party, who can’t seem to toot their own horn, which, frankly, is mystifying (this is the captain of the football team *unable* to get a date for prom because he keeps beaking off about how ugly everyone else is).

Sigh. Honestly. This election is like watching a train wreck. Except it’s one of those plastic kids’ wagons and it’s not so much wrecking as it is just kind of slowly tipping over, and all the people (who are much too big to be riding in it ANYWAY) just sort of flop out and crawl away through the mud.

[Go here to the Elections Saskatchewan page to find out where and when to cast your ballot. Just because there are no really good choices for leadership in the province doesn’t mean you shouldn’t voice your opinion.]

 


Also published on Medium.

  14 comments for “Vote Saskatchewan 2016

  1. 17 March 2016 at 8:04 pm

    Yeah, elections are a lot like dating. Internet dating. A victory of desperation and optimism over sense.

    The parties post pictures of ‘themselves’ that are really lifted from models. They say they’re interested in Baudelaire and long walks on the beach when really they like Saturday night football and putting rohypnols in your drink. They say they want something mutual and lasting when they just want to screw you then go back to the long term partner who pays their rent.

    Don’t swipe wrong. Don’t vote. It just encourages them.

    • 17 March 2016 at 9:43 pm

      I really wish we had a “none of the above” option on our ballots.

      • 17 March 2016 at 10:03 pm

        At least you Canucks aren’t forced to vote. I’ve currently got several hundred dollars in outstanding fines for refusing to participate in the farcical rituals that pass for democracy in Australia (which means I’m denied access to several government services, BTW). If I lived in Queensland or Western Australia I’d be looking at a prison sentence.

        Modern elections have nothing to do with ‘the will of the people’. They’re about ensuring that anyone who might gain political power has already hocked his soul to those who funded his campaign and manufactured his public image. Not that political power means much under neo-liberalism anyway. Generations of stooges of the plutocracy have already sold it off to big business. People like pretty-boy Justin are just there to distract your attention (and bile) from those who are really calling the shots.

        In 1996 an Australian was sent to prison for informing the public of a legal way to vote in a manner that ensured our preferential voting system didn’t allocate their ballot to a candidate they despised. Such is the nature of electoral ‘democracy’.

  2. 18 March 2016 at 6:21 pm

    I would actually like to see mandatory voting, but I don’t know about the punishments. I’m a fan of forced democracy. However, I’m not sure that those punishments you’ve listed fit the “crime”. I don’t know much about the Aussie electoral system (a bit; I’ve friends who live there who’ve sent me some information and sources), but there has to be a better way of doing things.

    Thank you for the link about Albert Langer (I remember hearing about “Arthur Dent”, prisoner of conscience, in the 90s and was quite gleeful that he’d taken that moniker). I want to learn more about his suggested reforms. I don’t know what we can do here – the worst feeling is being forced to choose between two (or more) loathsome choices.

    • 18 March 2016 at 8:20 pm

      Interesting attitude.

      So you’d force those in low socio-economic groups to vote even though the opportunity cost to them of voting is much greater than any benefit they could hope to gain from it?

      You’d force the people of the First Nations to vote, thereby implicitly endorsing the system that has stolen their lands and conspires to keep them at the bottom of the heap no matter who is elected?

      You’d free politicians from bothering to develop policies that might actually appeal to voters in order to ‘get out the vote’ and leave them to just try to be fractionally less appalling than their main competitor?

      Tell me, do you also force your kids to drink either Coke or Pepsi? After all, it’s a choice. And choice is freedom.

      • 28 March 2016 at 8:25 pm

        I don’t know what I’d do. But there has to be a way of getting people to understand that until we change or get rid of our system of government it really doesn’t fucking work if 65%+ of eligible citizens don’t vote.

        Democracy doesn’t work, and it doesn’t work for many reasons. But it’s the best we have of a handful of terrible systems of government. And no, I’m not naïve enough to think that mandatory voting will improve voter engagement or government responsibility or any of that. A forced vote won’t make people think about who they’re voting for but it might make them think about what voting means.

        Don’t knew. We’ve never tried it.

        • 28 March 2016 at 9:02 pm

          We’ve tried it. For about 115 years.

          The first thing most commentators note is that it increases the nominally left-of-centre vote. What few talk about is the cost.

          It wasn’t Tony Blair that invented New (neo-liberal) Labor you know. It was pioneered in the early 80s by the Australian Prime Minister and former union leader Bob Hawke along with his Treasurer and later Prime Minister Paul Keating. We’d had a real Labor government in the early 70s under Gough Whitlam but the establishment in the form of big business, the British Crown (which retains the right to dismiss Australian governments) and international military intelligence (the CIA was providing intercepted government communications to the opposition) destabilised and eventually sacked the elected government.

          So Labor reformatted itself as a business and finance friendly party, adopting union busting policies (centralisation, amalgamation and ‘The Accord’) that the Liberal party would never have gotten away with as well as policies that handed control of the Australian economy to the finance sector (mainly in the form of deregulation but also with a huge shift to monetary policy and the near abandonment of fiscal policy).

          Under an optional voting system they couldn’t have gotten away with it. Left of centre voters just wouldn’t have shown up at the polls. But on election day voters were faced with a compulsory choice between a Labor party that wanted to destroy union power in Australia and a Liberal party that wanted to dismantle welfare. So they held their noses and the rest is history. If those who saw no options hadn’t been forced to vote anyway the (New) Labor Party would have been wiped out at the polls and the Liberals would have got another term of government. But the leadership that handed Labor over to big business would have been done for, so the party would have been forced back to providing at least a semblance of a real alternative to the Liberals and the Australian union movement would have remained somewhat effective. Instead, more than thirty years later, we’ve still got nothing but hairstyles to distinguish the two main political parties from each other and the only jobs the unions now protect are those of union officials.

          It was advisors from Australian Labor that engineered UK’s New Labour for Blair (just as advisors from the Australian Liberals re-imaged the Conservatives for Cameron). That plus the pressure from free market think tanks who came in their pants at their success in Australia.

          So compulsory voting didn’t just poison what little democracy existed in Australia. It contributed to its rout internationally as well.

          • 28 March 2016 at 9:05 pm

            How do you think that would look different – or would it look different – if you had more than two parties to choose from?

            • 28 March 2016 at 9:46 pm

              Having more than two majors under electoral democracy is inherently unstable and never lasts. The Canadian New Dems have had an amazing run but my guess is that most Canadians know full well they’re really a semi-exiled faction of the Liberals.

              Third parties have three options.

              One is to focus on a handful of peripheral policies with a solid, albeit small, support base. Autonomy for Quebec for example. Obviously if their policies are ever realised their raison d’etre disappears. If they seek to expand their mandate beyond single issue support – as have the Australian Greens – they move to one of the other options.

              Another is become a power broker between the major parties. Ironically the only way this position can be maintained is if they consistently support the party their electors are most opposed to, otherwise they will be accurately perceived as mere proxies for the other party and will fade into irrelevance. That’s the position the Australian Greens now find themselves in.

              The final option is to either merge with or (if they’re very lucky) replace one of the majors, returning the system to its stable two-party format. That’s what happened to the Australian National Party, which is now just the rural rump of the Liberal-National coalition. For the Australian Greens to survive long term they must eventually replace the Labor Party. I think they’re in with a real chance. But in doing so they’ll become indistinguishable from Labor and – like Labor – eventually indistinguishable from the Liberals.

              For an illustration of the game theory that describes this dynamic see my blogpost Ice cream for suckers.

              • 29 March 2016 at 8:47 pm

                I would be interested to see how it works with some kind of mandatory voting that was much more egalitarian than your experience.

                • 29 March 2016 at 9:10 pm

                  I’m not sure how you’d make forcing people without any real say or stake in the political process pretend to endorse it egalitarian.

                  • 29 March 2016 at 9:11 pm

                    Me neither. But I’m an optimist.

                  • 29 March 2016 at 9:12 pm

                    Like. Maybe make sure people do have a say and a stake in the political process. I don’t know how I’d do that, either.

                    • 29 March 2016 at 9:47 pm

                      I’m an optimist in that I think there are ways to do that. But not with the sort of regionally based electoral representation we have now.

                      The main key is devolution of power as far as possible. For examples of how contemporary prototypes of that sort of thing work you can look to the areas of Chiapas semi-liberated by the Zapatistas or how the Kurdish PYD has reorganised Rojavan. Instead of selecting ‘an equal among many’ as a representative who will inevitably become a member of the elite (who becomes captured by the super-elite) you keep power structures as flat as possible so the decision making is done by the people who are most affected by it.

                      There may have been an argument for regionally based electorates of many thousands of people back in the days when rapid transport was horse-drawn and cutting edge communication technology was tying a note to a pigeon’s leg but now they serve little purpose beyond creating socio-economic ghettos that provide convenient, predictable vote banks. There is no longer any reason decision making needs to be structured geographically or fixed across portfolios without regards to the people it primarily affects.

                      The tricky thing I’m far more pessimistic about is how to get there from here.

                      There’s some hypertrophied power structures with a very strong stake in the status quo, multinational business being the most obvious and probably most powerful. It’s hard to see how they can be made to surrender power without an equally strong opposing structure that would itself become despotically self-protective (a little detail Marx totally failed to grasp). One of the first things that would need to be addressed is the unlimited accumulation of private property, which will always sabotage egalitarian societies in the mid to long term.

                      But I think the even bigger elephant in the room is a deficit in theoretical understanding of how self-perpetuating institutions form, grow and operate and how their ‘goals and motivations’ (not that they’re likely to be sentient) emerge completely independently of those of the people who constitute their expendable components. Game theory seems to offer some rough outlines but is nowhere near adequate for the real complexities of our socio-economic systems. The most intractable thing is that it needs to be a conceptual framework that can be understood by many, not just a technocratic elite. Something you can print on a t-shirt. And it needs to be able to grow and thrive in the face of institutional education, popular culture and mainstream media dominated by the very power structures it must undermine. Not only that, it needs to be in place in time to deal with the looming civilisational crises our exponentially growing power structures are creating and it needs to be able to get there without precipitating those crises in the process.

                      In other words, I think we’re fucked.

i make squee noises when you tell me stuff.

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