Letters to the Editor: May 29

Beauty and the Beast; Money, democracy and citizenship

Beauty and the Beast

I just finished two weeks of rehearsals and shows with a talented group of young people.  Selkirk schools Beauty and the Beast was an incredible display of talent, dedication, humour, fun and commitment from kids aged 9 – 17.  It was an hounour for me to be a part of it.

So imagine my dismay when on opening night an audience member walked out declaring our production ‘disgusting’.  I learned the next day that this individual took offense to a female actress , who played a male character, feminizing the role.  Coming from the UK I am used to gender roles being switched in theatre.  It is a long time tradition, as well as interpretive license often used in Shakespeare plays.

With Ireland (a most Catholic of countries!) now embracing gay marriage, and my 10 years olds take on Beauty and the Beast being “a modern twist on a classic tale” I was shocked and saddened.  The Kimberley I know loves diversity, embraces change and new ideas.  I’ve lived in Kimberley for 26 years and last week I was ashamed to live in a narrow minded small town.

Rebecca White/Kimberley

Money, democracy and citizenship

Pre-election spending by federal political parties is at the highest level in Canadian history.  The biggest spender of unaccountable money to buy your electoral favour is the Conservative Party, but they are not alone in this subversion of the spirit of Elections Canada spending regulations.  Why does this matter?  In Canada, money is not supposed to be the determinant of political influence – that’s why the Chief Electoral Officer and Elections Canada are supposed to regulate party spending.  But by spending before the election is called – when the “writ is dropped” – parties are able to avoid being accountable to Elections Canada.

“This makes the period before the election a money-spending free-for-all for the manipulation of voters,” said Robert MacDermid, a political scientist at York University in Toronto who specializes in political party financing”  (Fekete, National Post online at http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/canadian-politics/orgy-of-spending-expected-in-lead-up-to-federal-election-as-political-parties-stockpile-tens-of-millions, November 10, 2014).

Once the election is called, partisan spending is regulated.  In theory, democracy is not for sale.

But in practice, maybe it is, when parties and the fixed election law combine to put us into a permanent electoral campaign.  The price is a loss of democratic integrity.  Elected politicians are less likely to attend to citizen concerns, preoccupied as they are with the perpetual campaign.  MPs are also closely disciplined by their parties – they are unable or unwilling to defend positions contrary to those taken by their leaders, much less represent the diversity of interests in the ridings.  Talk about trained seals.

Meanwhile, citizens are tuning out in droves, tired of the incessant ads which are often negative, manipulative, and devoid of solid information.  Along with our crappy plurality electoral system and its unrepresentative outcomes, this undermines democratic engagement.  Fewer voters mean less democratic legitimacy for our governments.  It also means fewer citizens give a damn – which is the death knell for a democratic system of government.

Finally, citizen apathy leaves politics open to abuse of power, even to tyranny.  Revitalizing democracy means citizens have to take responsibility for knowing the issues well and speaking out about important matters that affect all of us.  Democracy takes effort.

It’s time for citizens to tune out the ads, tune into public policy issues, and turn up the heat on our elected representatives to, well, represent us, in all our political diversity.  Or be replaced by people who will.

Joyce Green/Cranbrook