Tag Archives: constituents

Ford Drives Home Reality that We Let Representatives Represent Only Themselves

By Jason Menard

It seems many of our elected representatives forgot what they were elected to do – represent. And, to be honest, it’s our own fault.

Doug Ford provides just the latest example. It seems the non-mayoral-Ford has been participating in Kenney-esque bully politics. The latest tactic is insulting a Canadian literary icon in the battle over Toronto’s libraries.  Continue reading

Home is Where the Opportunity Lies

By Jason Menard

Liberal or local? For constituents in the London North Centre federal riding, that’s a question they may soon have to answer.

With Joe Fontana’s expected announcement that he will vacate his duly-elected seat in Parliament in favour of making a challenge for the mayor’s office, rumours have started floating regarding who would be a replacement candidate in the required by-election. And one name that’s been bandied about? Gerard Kennedy.

You know, Gerard Kennedy, born in La Pas, Manitoba and former Member of Provincial Parliament of Parkdale-High Park, in Toronto, who resigned his seat and his position as Minister of Education in his bid to lead the federal Liberals. In addition, Kennedy also lived in Edmonton and studied in Peterborough.

All of which makes him qualified to represent the good people of London North Centre how? As well travelled as Mr. Kennedy may be in this great land of ours, there is a noticeable lack of residency in the Forest City on his resume. The question is, should that matter?

This isn’t a new aspect of party politics. In fact, parties have long made it a habit of parachuting star candidates into warm ridings in order to get them official representation in the House of Commons – even if it means that a dedicated member of the community has to take one for the team and put aside their political aspirations, at least for the time being.

But whose team are we talking about? Does the Liberal Party – or any party for that sake – matter more than the representation of the people in the riding? Aren’t elected representatives supposed to be just that? The representatives of the people in a specific region or district? So how well represented will the people of London North Centre be if their potential MP has never spent any meaningful time in the riding?

That’s a question the voters have to ask. And they have to balance it with their political leanings. It’s a hard choice to reconcile and it represents the worst of party politics. If you are a tied-in-the-wool Liberal, do you put the needs of your party over your personal aspirations? Does voting in a representative, who by the very fact that they’re not of your riding – or even within the general vicinity of the area — diminish the sound of your voice in parliament? More importantly, does this type of activity not undermine the entire concept of representative government?

Admittedly, how one votes is a debate that is undertaken with each and every election. Do you vote for the person who appears to be most representative of your views and hopes for your riding, or do you choose the person who is a member of the party whose national view you favour? Do you vote for the local candidate with deep roots in the riding, even if you are skeptical about their party affiliation? Or do you roll the dice and support a candidate whose tethers to the riding are as thin as a spider’s web?

It all depends on how much value you place on individual representation. We have long been conditioned to look at the big picture, as opposed to focusing on the individual players. Coverage of elections and politics in general is greatly focused on Ottawa, as opposed to the impact that our Members of Parliament are having in their own ridings. Even election platforms, where local issues should be at the fore, are largely decided by national politicking and strategies.

So, should Kennedy be parachuted in with much fanfare and bluster, the voters in the London North Centre riding may have to decide where their sensibilities lie. Does the appeal of being the quote-unquote home riding of a potential future Prime Minister outweigh the fact that your representative may not even know who or what he’s representing.

Everyone can learn and a candidate can be well-versed on local concerns by his or her support staff, fellow regional MPs, and even a potential mayor. And there’s no questioning Kennedy’s intelligence, capability, and dedication to his cause. As well, this country has been built by those who have come from other places to settle throughout Canada, who eventually grow roots in their community and eventually become a natural part of the landscape. Can that same community entrenchment happen in a matter of months?

The old adage states that home is where the heart is and the constituents of London North Centre may soon have to decide whether they’re willing to accept someone for whom home is merely where the opportunity lies.

2006© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Cookie Cutter Constituents Don’t Exist

By Jason Menard

When will the political parties learn that cookie cutter constituents don’t exist? By overplaying to one particular sensitivity, they run the risk of offending one’s other sensibilities and losing potential votes because of their high school clique mentality.

For example, I’m dying to take the New Democratic Party seriously in this federal election. My left-o’-centre heart is looking for a champion to take a stand on the social issues that I deem important and – on the surface – the NDP looks to share many of my ideals. That is until they open their mouths and drown in rhetoric.

What spews forth isn’t political discourse – it’s nothing more than high-school put-downs and the perpetuation of naïve stereotypes.

Until the NDP’s supporters learn to tone down the propaganda, they’ll never been taken seriously by the majority of Canadian voters. Until that happens, like a despondent surfer they’ll continue to miss being able to ride the wave of discontent that the ruling Liberal Party has left in its wake.

For some reason unbeknownst to me, I receive an NDP e-mail newsletter in my e-mail in-box. I could unsubscribe, but the content is just so amusing that I’m compelled to read each and every missive, right down to the “Yours in Solidarity” ending. Unfortunately, instead of being a reasoned, intellectual discourse, it more often than not reads like a high-school newspaper: filled with rah-rah stories for the home side and “My First Socialist” idealism.

For the NDP to succeed it needs to grow up and stop catering to the wannabe revolutionaries. Too many people view the NDP as a party for the financially challenged and the environmentalists. That’s great if you’re a poor tree, but the key to winning an election is having broad-spectrum appeal.

Possessing that campaign attitude is why the Liberals have been so successful over the years. No matter what you are: fiscally conservative, socially liberal, or anything in between, you’ll find something to appeal to you in their campaign literature. Call it what you want, but this one-size-fits-all platform appeals to a broad cross-section of voters – and the proof is in the results.

Contrast that with the feelings you get when you read a line that drips with sarcasm, such as “The NDP doesn’t receive the $5,000 cheques that the other two parties get from their corporate friends.” Makes you wonder how exactly is the party trying to extend its reach and appeal to a wider demographic?

The fact is, we live in a corporate society and many of us are part of the corporate machine. We want a party that’s going to be inclusionary. Canadians want to be competitive financially, yet remain socially conscious. The NDP’s brand of rhetoric echoes those high school years. You know, the cool kids would shun the Goths and geeks, who would in turn apply wide-sweeping stereotypes to the jocks and rich kids. And the cycle would go on and on!

That type of clique mentality is painful enough in high school – this is the real world of politics. It’s time to stop trying to make everyone fit into one single classification. The fact is, many of the things I believe in are far left. But when it comes to funding and fiscal resources, I lean a little to the right. Where do I fit? Am I a tree-hugging hippie, or a heartless corporate shill? Or am I a little bit of both? Aren’t we all?

We need that type of rapprochement between all the candidates. We no longer live in a world where we all support one party to the exclusion of the others, so it’s time for a Breakfast Club-esque meeting of the minds. The next debate should not be moderated by some TV talking head – we need John Hughes to script it!

Blue, red, yellow, and green – we all share more than we differ. We’re all Canadians and we’re all wanting the same thing: to make this the best country possible and to grow together sensibly, productively, and with compassion.

The party that figures it out. The party that understands that not all voters are going to drink the Kool-Aid and follow blindly with whatever their leader says has the best chance of winning. When they learn to reach out to others, instead of shunning them, their political futures will become far rosier.

It’s not enough for the NDP to paint corporate interests with the same brush. They need to accept the differences and search out the compromises. Once that common ground has been breached, then the NDP will finally be a viable alternative for many Canadians.

Until then, they’re looked at as the idealistic younger brother who needs to grow up and learn that not everything is black and white – there are shades of red, blue, green, and yellow.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Putting New Words in the Electorate’s Mouth

By Jason Menard

Pat O’Brien’s decision to jump ship from the Liberal Party hasn’t silenced the voices of his constituency – his actions have his electorate singing a different tune, and some of his electorate may be choking on the words.

When does one’s obligations to their constituents outweigh the need to satisfy one’s personal beliefs? The line is often blurred when we look at the actions of our politicians. Elected on a specific mandate – usually determined, in large part, by their Party affiliation — our elected representatives convene on Parliament Hill to debate our nation’s future.

However, at times the ideals of an elected official outweigh their mandate to represent their electorate. Or the beliefs of the Party run counter to the representative’s personal opinions. It is with that conflict, based upon his disagreement with the Liberal Party leadership over the issue of gay marriage that London Fanshawe MP Pat O’Brien has chosen to leave the Liberal Party of Canada and sit as an independent.

While I disagree with O’Brien’s politics, I commend him for standing up for his beliefs. However he did not do enough. To be fair to the constituents who elected him as a representative of the Liberal government he must not simply continue his term as an independent, but rather resign his seat and request a by-election.

Our electoral system, however flawed we may feel it is at times, is based in large part on Party representation. An unfortunate number of the electorate couldn’t tell you who their Member of Parliament is, but are well aware of the differences between the various political parties. They vote red, blue, orange, or green – not for individual candidates.

As such, federal representatives like O’Brien and, on the flip side, Belinda Stronach, have deceived a large number of people who cast their ballots based on the belief that party-hopping was not on the agenda. Instead of working to affect change from within, these politicians – and others like them in the past – have flipped sides for their own advantage, not for the benefit of their constituents.

Both O’Brien and Stronach have not just ignored the voices of those who have voted for them in the past – they have bastardized their message and converted it to a cause that may be anathema to their voters’ personal beliefs. A Conservative supporter who voted for Stronach, no matter how centre-left she appeared to be, has every expectation that their vote for the Conservative candidate will be just that – and it won’t eventually evolve into support for the opposition!

The voice of the electorate has not just been muted – it’s been completely changed and words have been force-fed into the mouths of the voters. To make sure the right message is heard, it is imperative that the electorate in these particular ridings are allowed to opportunity to participate in a by-election.

That way, those who voted for Mr. O’Brien – the man, would be able to do so again, either as an independent candidate or, more likely, under the guise as the Conservative candidate he’s always appeared to be and seems destined to become. And those who voted for Mr. O’Brien – the Liberal, need to have the right to continue to support their party with their votes, as they believed they had during the last election.

Both Belinda Stronach and Mr. O’Brien need to do the right thing and step down. If they truly represent the will of the people, they will be duly elected by their constituency and can then – in good conscience – govern with the mandate of the people.

Both of these candidates made their respective jumps because they felt the need to stand up for what they believe in. But we did not vote these people in to act as freelance contractors, jumping from side to side depending on which way the political breeze is blowing. O’Brien and Stronach have forgotten that they are elected representatives – and that they represent voters who made their choices based upon now-flawed logic and expectations.

If these candidates are truly so high-minded in their belief of doing the right thing, then surely being fair to their constituents should not be too much to ask?

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved