Manufacturing voter unease and suspicions as a means of getting elected has become the divisive tool of choice for many a politician. And polarizing public opinion has become the favoured weapon for achieving it.
Yet if you look at recent research and polling data, one sees that regardless of our political affiliation, we actually have more in common than some would like us to realize. In fact, with such obvious agreement on the big issues, I began wondering about the beneficiaries of a, ‘them versus us’ mindset.
Surveys, taken over the past year, show that roughly 75 per cent of all voters favour higher taxes for the wealthiest among us. Over 90 per cent want government to negotiate lower drug prices and I suspect similar results when it comes to questions about government intervention on gas prices. And 60 per cent want stronger privacy laws.
This is across the board polling that included voters from all parties and suggests a growing and common concern about economic inequality and the fairness of government and the political system.
More significantly, it brings to question the possibility of political polarization being more myth than reality. When over two thirds of voters agree on basic policy matters, why are politicians ignoring what the majority have said is needed?
People are angry and it appears that many politicians want and encourage the public to focus that anger on each other instead of on them. The public is also encouraged to believe that matters of serious policy, especially economic strategies and programs are beyond our grasp. Too complex, they hint, for the public to grasp let alone participate in.
Off limits to this type of discussion is the influence of industry lobbyists and corporate donors. We can talk about the checks and balances and due diligence of proper legislative processes all we want but until the cheque books of industry, special interest groups and donors are removed from the process, public will, will be ignored. I for one think legislation that has been purchased by friends of government needs to end.
It is indefensible to suggest that two-thirds of the population are wrong when asking for equality in taxation or fairness in pricing. It is inexcusable to suggest we are not smart enough to know what we want. It is unpardonable to blame scapegoats for inaction. And it is unforgivable to play the people against each other in an orchestrated bid to spread distrust, even fear amongst the people you are charged with protecting.
This fall there will be a minimum of four candidates wanting your vote here on the North Island and I think we’re done, maybe even fed up with those broad and patronizing statements about how they are all for the middle class. You need only look to the sport fishery issue to see why broad, mean-nothing statements, are a great way to avoid talking about specifics that are important to us.
In the weeks and months ahead, write, message, comment or even call and let me know what is important to you here on the North Island. I’ll ask candidates for answers to your questions. We’ll cut through the bafflegab, keep notes, remind the eventual winner of their promises and report back on their work.
Bill McQuarrie has lived and worked in BC for over 50 years. A former publisher and more recently an entrepreneur in the science and technology field, Bill retired to Port McNeill where you’ll find him still pursuing his passion as a photo journalist and political opinion writer. You can follow him on Instagram #mcriderbc or reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or maybe even bump into him fly fishing on the many streams in the area.