By Dave Loewen. Democracy has its roots in Ancient Greece, dating back approximately 2500 years. One of the distinguishing features of Athenian democracy was a legislative assenbly consisting of all Athenian citizens. They practiced direct democracy; their individual voices were heard and not subject to the directives or control of a body of individuals. They may not have had their “rights” secured by the Athenian constitution, but enjoyed their liberties nonetheless. These liberties were exercised and enjoyed by not being subjects themselves to the rule of another body or person.
Canadians have become increasingly cynical about the political process and about politics in general. This growing mood has become evident in the shrinking turnout at election time. Many citizens don’t feel and experience that same level of direct democracy that Athenian society once exercised. Party politics, so evident at the federal and provincial levels, is to a great extent, responsible for this pessimistic mood. Individuals elected by their constituencies find it difficult, at best, to represent the views of their constituents.
Local government has for the most part, been able to avoid the pitfalls of party politics. That individuals elected to office can exercise independence of mind and reflect the values of a body of citizens without restraint from a party leader, remains one of the greatest strengths of local government. Furthermore, I have come to appreciate that through the process of testing my ideas against the challenges of eight other Council members, I have become more thorough and confident in my decision-making. Instead of two or three contending viewpoints, we may each be faced by as many as eight views on any given issue, and in the back and forth discussions that ensue, better decisions are more likely to be made.
Last week I heard Rex Murphy refer to communities as the “texture of the nation”. I would then add that diversity of independent thought and opinion in local government represents the diversity of the community, which defines that texture.
I penned these thoughts as a response to rumours regarding my political leaning, and specifically, my view of “slates” in local government. When nine men and women excercise independent decision-making in what each believes to be in the best interests of the community, the “texture” of that community can only be enriched and strengthened.
Republished with permission from Councillor Loewen’s blog – From My Side of the Table.
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I have to agree with Dave’s view. I’m one of those cynical voters who has lost faith in party democracy. I don’t feel I am represented by those elected, even when they are the ones I vote for. It seems like we elect a dictator. Yet I accept my civic responsibility and vote. Since I don’t have faith in any of the dictators seeking power, I’ve recently voted for the lesser of the available evils. But I don’t like that approach; cyanide or hemlock, hmmm? I’m considering spoiling my ballot in the next Fed or Prov election as a way of declaring that I care, but not for any of my choices. I would welcome feedback on this approach as I’m unsure of the best way to make my vote count when I find all my options unacceptable.