A wedge issue is a political or social issue, often of a controversial or divisive nature, which splits apart a demographic or population group
We seem to have been thrust into what has become quite a controversial election season. British Columbia held a province wide vote Saturday (October 20) to renew every municipal government in the province. There will be a ripple effect of that in many areas including the future of the provincial government. Leonard Krog, Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA), won the Mayor’s seat in Nanaimo with only two incumbents of the previous City Council holding their seats.
Having recently left Nanaimo my personal experience was that city needed a good shake-up in their local governance. You know there are issues with local governance when a Mayor applies for a restraining order against the City Manager. To me that speaks volumes to the sad state of a political system. What makes it even sadder was the excitement over a whopping 40% voter turn-out, 7% higher than the 2014 election. That’s not a City Council running a local government, that’s apathy and complacency allowing the unraveling of democracy.
Whether Mr. Krog is the man to right this democratic nightmare or not remains to be seen but now that he has to step out of provincial politics it could have a serious ripple affect. The tedious command the current provincial government enjoys is a minority dependant on a coalition with three Green Party seats. Municipal governments may only be the grassroots of elections but the change for Mr. Krog going to the municipal level does send a message on just how thin the larger democratic process is becoming.
Meanwhile the American mid-terms will quickly be upon them. I don’t fully understand the American system but it was fairly obvious to me from the 2016 elections that it isn’t a system based on one citizen, one vote. This whole Electoral College process is beyond me and the more I look into it the more confusing I found it so I stopped. I do know it goes back to a Constitutional Amendment (12th Amendment, 1804) but I will let you figure it out. I live in Canada so our system is closely aligned with the British Westminster process which is very different. From what I have been able to glean it is much easier to apply voter suppression techniques in the States which really opens the door for a “dollars for votes” process. Voter suppression is a major contributor to who rules which seems to be counter intuitive to a country that professes to be one of the most democratic countries in the world. That may not be reality but what is reality is that American politics affect the entire world. I have little control over the American mid-terms but I can try to encourage all of my American friends to get out and vote.
But the one I am most interested in is the Calgary plebiscite being November 13. The City has decided to measure the local appetite to bid on the 2026 Olympics by holding a city wide plebiscite. Since this is a “non-binding” vote I am not sure what will be accomplished but at the least the City can say they consulted. Although I believe the gesture is appropriate there is also a level of folly to this.
First the history of voter turn-out for plebiscites or referendums is notoriously low which is why the non-binding aspect is important. We have to move past this habit of allowing a 25% voter turn out (not saying that’s what it will be but as an example) be the voice of major issues. Second there is still a considerable lack of detail on which to make an “informed” decision however eight years is a long time away and a lot can change in that period. Let’s figure out how we are going to do this first and stop focusing so much on tax-payer dollars. A bit of creativity, some corporate cooperation and some recognition of the new world economy should play a part in this. Those are figures that can’t be just grabbed out of the air and entered on a spreadsheet.
Sometimes there needs to be a level of faith. As it currently stands we are still using a little over $2 million in local tax money to run the plebiscite while driving an even bigger wedge between an already polarized community. Both the Yes and the No sides are already examples of how one can raise money without dipping into tax dollars.
Calgary hosted the 1988 Winter Olympics and I was here for those. Those games turned volunteerism into a strong sense of civic pride and with the help of over 10,000 volunteer Calgarians created one of the most enviable games in modern day Olympic history. Calgary was creative and tapped into the civic spirit of a much more positive community. We were not the polarized community we see today. We also didn’t have the access to the technology or business concepts that are available today.
Most of the people I know in my generation, who were also involved in the 1988 Olympics as volunteers, are much more excited about bringing the Games back. There have been some major changes since 1988, like the inclusion of the Paralympics plus a heightened awareness of security, but there has also been a much larger option of available funding. From a corporate point of view the opportunity to beta test a wide range of products and technology makes the Olympics a new horizon for industry. This fear-mongering over tax payer monies can be dealt with by tapping into creative corporate sponsorships.
Calgary needs to get on with planning and stop wasting time with worry…I have never known “worry” to accomplish anything. But I have seen creativity and forward thinking accomplish wonders. Lets take the edge out of the wedge and start working as a team of compromise…
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