Opinion: Renewing the democratic process begins here at home

JAMIE BROUGHAM

In my opinion, the democratic process here in our community suffers from three problems that can be addressed by encouraging more of our residents to get involved.

The first problem deals with engaging our best and brightest. So many of us in this ward are economically secure, highly educated, and socially advanced.  How can we find better ways to invite our fellow community members to get engaged, because their collective knowledge and value-add is certainly worth harvesting for the common good?

A second problem is a fundamental one – how do we improve our democratic process; how do we enhance the core relationship between all of us constituents and our democratic system? How can we help to instil more accountability within the civil service, and among our elected officials and in relation to the expenditure of our tax dollars?  Whether it be working with developers, or directing civil departments, as a community we can be more vigilant to ensure balance between our three primary environments (economic, social, and natural). When educated and informed citizens agree on common direction, the results are usually clearer goals, a more sustainable community, and a better place to live.

The third problem stems from the erosion of democracy in our society, and the need to identify ways in which to foster a renewal of the democratic process.  Whether it be shareholders standing up for their rights, members of not-for-profits understanding what their combined resources can do for their cause, or people fighting for a more sustainable environment of any kind, we need more effective forums for collective expression. We need to use the unparalleled opportunity that new technology tools make available to us to develop our democratic process, to make it easier to get involved, to produce education for all, and to care more about our communities and our neighbours.

It can be hard to comprehend why we don’t, as a society, collectively respond to the opportunity to be better at those things that threaten to make us worse.  Why, for instance, are we not with a clear vision telling developers and politicians in no uncertain terms that our communities need a balance between our economic, social and natural environments.  If we truly want our neighbourhoods to become more sustainable, happier places to live, we cannot sit idly by and react only to threats when negative change is already upon us?  

In today’s reality, technology is doing more and more of our work for us. Why don’t we have more time for civic engagement?  For one thing, people’s interest in the maintenance of democracy has waned because the process has grown unwelcoming, there are few if any well-developed collective forums to express views and, generally speaking, our individual opinions count for little.  The government is not accountable to me or to you – it is accountable only to all of us collectively, and we are devoid of official platforms for collective expression. Increasingly, education is left to the media, and the traditional lines between information and entertainment have blurred beyond recognition. Important stories appear next to ‘cat stuck in a tree’ stories with little to distinguish between the value of one relative to the other.

Better is attainable. Let’s start with the upcoming local election. Get out and vote for someone who will not merely represent us well but will also take a leadership role on city council in building a better citizen engagement process in all wards. After that, if you really want to make a difference, follow the lead of some of our community’s best and brightest and get involved. The democratic process today is certainly not perfect, but there is no one better than the people in this community to make it the best it can be!

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