It’s time that we all started thinking and doing politics differently here in Ontario, and elsewhere.
The way we do politics is old and rusty. Our political systems are snared in a party system in which the parties and their goals are more important than the people and the common good.
Three major parties are contesting the June Ontario election, none of which is fully capable of providing the leadership that people want and need. All three have had their chance to lead in the last 30 years and all three have failed to provide the new ideas and decisiveness critically needed in a wildly changing world.
Democracy has been weakened in Ontario, but it is not the only place. Failing democracies are seen throughout the world.
Democracies flourish when people believe they can improve their lives. They start to fail when people feel their lives are stagnating, and they see a not-so-bright future for their children.
A recent Pew Research Centre study found that many people in advanced democracies like Germany, Sweden, Spain, The Netherlands and Italy are worried about their children’s economic future. In France, the study found, 70 per cent of people said they doubt their children will be better off financially.
In the U.S. some research says that in 1970, a full 90 per cent of 30 year olds were better off than their parents at the same age. By 2010, only 50 per cent of 30 year olds were better off than their parents at the same age.
There is more evidence closer to home. In Ontario 42 per cent of young adults were living with their parents in 2016, an increase of 20 per cent since 2001.
Concerns about the future are one reason why cracks are showing in democracies,
even in countries where democracies have thrived for many decades, or longer.
Freedom House, a freedom and democracy watchdog, reports that in 2017 “political rights and civil liberties around the world deteriorated to their lowest point in more than a decade.”
It adds: “Democracy is under assault and in retreat around the globe, a crisis that has intensified as America's democratic standards erode at an accelerating pace.”
Voters continue to believe in democracy but more and more of them see it not meeting their needs. They are upset by what they see as serious world change – growing inequality, sputtering economies, climate change, an evaporating middle class and unprecedented displacement and immigration that is swamping governments.
Many voters around the world are turning to anti-establishment political movements in hopes they can make things better. Populist nationalistic parties have made impressive showings in a number of European countries, and of course the United States.
So far these movements have brought little that can change the world for the better. They have brought, however, a retreat from common decency, political buffoonery, alternate realities and fake news and a disturbing rise in racism.
The alternatives to what we have now do not lie in these so-called populist movements and their alternate realities. Nor do they lie in the political systems and the political parties from which we have to choose.
The alternatives surely are in the people we choose, not the parties. We need to begin nominating and electing people who understand and believe in true bipartisanship – the
working together for the best solutions for all people.
We need more youth, and more women in politics. More people who spurn tribal thinking and work seriously to develop their own thinking. People who are committed to bipartisan good governance without political party ties.
These will be people who believe that growth should be about meeting and sustaining needs, not growth simply to ratchet up profits and build bigger stock market numbers. People who see that the goal now must be to meet present basic needs without screwing up the ability of future generations to meet theirs.
Attracting and electing people to work independent of political parties may be a pipe dream. But our dreams are the hope of the future.
We need change in how we govern ourselves because the current political party system is corroded and corrupt.