The Winnipeg Free Press just launched a page on Facebook that is, in their own words:
A Free Press project aimed at increasing voter turnout and engagement in the Oct. 4 provincial election.
While in many ways they should be commended for such an effort, I have a problem with this. The problem is with the last part of the sentence, “in the Oct. 4 provincial election.” What’s problematic is that once again, we see the conflation of elections with democracy. I would be much happier if this were simply called the Winnipeg Free Press Election Project, because according to their descriptive sentence that is what it is about, the Oct. 4 provincial election.
We need to remind ourselves that, to borrow a mathematical equation, “representation democracy < democracy.” I’ve written about this before, and perhaps I’m beating my head against a brick wall, but the NDP has been in office 4 years and 3 months since the last election and now, 2 months before the next election their is suddenly a concern with “engagement.”
Now, let me say, good for the Winnipeg Free Press trying to get more voters out. That is a part of engagement. The problem is, increasingly we make that the whole of engagement, which it is not. I hope that the Free Press makes a commitment that once the election is over, they will double their efforts to increase engagement. Maybe before the 2015 or whenever it falls election, they will help to create more organizations like the Spence Neighbourhood Association for example. These are the democratic organizations that we need more of.
Maybe they’ll encourage more citizens forums on issues such as crime, downtown revitalization, rapid transit, or whatever you wish to include. Maybe they’ll find ways to encourage citizens to ask more difficult questions of our politicians. Or, maybe they’ll wait until two months before the next election and then try and convince people that after four years of being disengaged, they should head to the polls.