Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
November 15, 2004
Vote for your vision for Albereta
In both the Canadian and American elections this year, fear was a major factor in determining the result. In Canada, the Martin Liberals convinced enough people that the Harper Conservatives were scary Neanderthals who would make Canada a place of social repression. In the United States, the Bush Republicans sold Americans on the belief that the Kerry Democrats were too weak-kneed and gun shy to protect the country from the scourge of terrorism.
The use of fear as a campaign technique is a form of exploitation which calls on voters to make defence of their personal security and current way of life the norm for choosing a government. Contrast it with what Catholics call solidarity - the conviction that the common good is best served when we are most open to the needs of others, especially the weak and needy.
Indeed this openness to the needs of the vulnerable is the most basic sign of a healthy community. A community ruled by fear, however, is a dysfunctional society, one where people not only feel threatened, but become a threat to others. "Fear closes us down; love opens us up," writes Jean Vanier.
This is the root concern Albertans ought to be addressing as we prepare for the Nov. 22 provincial election. Who will open us up to serving others, to being more than what we are right now? Not having more, but being more. And who will close us down by filling us with fear of those who are, in fact, most vulnerable and making us fear those who live outside our borders?
Fear is rooted in the search for security. Sometimes we need to be afraid and to take prudent action to defend our persons and our loved ones. A balance between security and insecurity must be struck. "Too much security and the refusal to evolve, to embrace change, leads to a kind of death," writes Vanier. "Too much insecurity, however, can also mean death."
Yet, if there is any society in recent North American history that should be ready to embrace a high level of change, it is Alberta. We are debt free; we are a young, talented people; our economic prospects look amazingly good.
Despite our prospects, we have a most uncompetitive political environment. We have had only one change of government in the past 69 years. More than that, our opposition parties are perpetually weak, in terms of both numbers of seats in the legislature and financial resources.
This lopsided history can breed arrogance in the governing party, an ever-increasing concentration of power in the government and apathy among the electorate. It can also diminish the ability of opposition parties to attract top-level candidates, further increasing the difficulty of forming an alternative government.
Our politics remain in a state of adolescence where a prime driving force is rebellion against Big Daddy Ottawa. Like the rebelling teenager, some of us want firewalls to keep Daddy away so we can do whatever we please.
Things do not have to be this way. Alberta has loads of creative energy; we would be even more creative if we would grow up and commit ourselves to a confident, adult identity.
Nor does fear have to be the most powerful force in election campaigns. Just to show that politics can be different, in Edmonton, a new mayor was elected last month in no small part because he had a positive vision for the city and a passion for making Edmonton a first-rank Canadian centre - even if it does mean spending more money.
People can be motivated by a vision. And a vision is a lot healthier than a fear.
In the last week before Alberta's election, take a look at the party's platforms. What are their visions for the future?
What sort of Alberta can we become? Should we become?
You probably will not find anything like a perfect choice. But you will find choices that should defeat apathy and help inspire this province to live up to its great potential.
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