Our Democracy-Voting Is Not Enough

Reflections of a provincial candidate.

Che with a group of people around a table in discussion
Our Democracy-Voting Is Not Enough
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About the Author

Che Marville

Che Marville

Che is the Principal at Che Marville Consulting and the Strategic Advisor for a national senior’s wellness program for Retirement Communities. She was Senior Advisor for Human Resources and Wellbeing for the University Health Network in Toronto. She was the Program Leader and Chair for the first Employee Health and Wellness Center for St Joseph Hamilton Healthcare. She has worked with thousands of health professionals and created multiple programs focused on reducing sick time and absenteeism for Health Professionals in Ontario. She was Co-Founder of the Children’s Own Media Museum Inspired by Marshall McLuhan and Co-Developer of the Clarity Centre for Mindfulness. She started her career as Researcher and Project Manager for the Ontario Science Centre and lead the development of a series of ground breaking exhibitions and programs for sixteen years. She has thirty years of experience in the volunteer sector starting at Toronto Western Hospital in 1983 and has lived in Oakville for thirteen years and is active community member. Recently she ran for provincial office in the spring for Oakville of 2014 and recently she was elected to the Ontario NDP’s executive as Co- Vice president.

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As I reflect upon my time on the campaign trail in Oakville, I can’t help but remark on what an astonishing experience it was to run. I had the great privilege of being the Provincial NDP Candidate in the spring of 2014.

And although I lost, I have no regrets about running.

And whatever good or bad I experienced I have to confess that I feel more inspired to participate now and I would like to encourage others to do the same. Frankly voting is not enough, it is only one part of democratic engagement and I would argue that voting should be the culmination of participation, action, discourse and listening in between election cycles. Democracy has never been perfect, but we cannot afford to allow elections to become strange popularity contests about the leaders and long meditations on gossip and spectacle.

In Oakville, we boasted that voter turnout rose to 57.2 percent and that was not something to be proud of.

It is true many people are disinterested in politics, I know. However the challenge falls back to the Parties and government to engage the electorate. If this is not the job of politicians, if politicians are not activists for democracy then what is their job? In Oakville, we boasted that voter turnout rose to 57.2 percent and that was something to be proud of, yet if we wrote an exam and received that mark we would know that we had not been adequately prepared to answer the questions.

We are actually struggling with engagement, and that is probably why so many groups like Fair Vote Canada and Reclaim Our Democratic Canada have evolved and why so many people refuse to vote. It is also true that often great change starts outside of the doors of power. We need to hold our elected representatives and government bureaucrats accountable for citizen engagement. It has become abundantly clear that the mainstream media is so tightly controlled by economics and a belief in the narrative of the disinterested citizen that they cannot be relied upon to share the breadth of ideas and stories surrounding all of us. More often than not, its online newspapers and rogue journalists that are telling the stories that we never hear and that are sharing layers of human complexity. The Parties of course have an inherent bias too, and lean towards a mentality of using business language and negative attack mantras to engage voters. So, blind and afraid of being misrepresented, they cut themselves off from being in relationship with those who support them.

We need to focus on what happens in between campaigns; in our own communities, being unafraid to speak to one another or to be challenged. This is where the heavy lifting has to be done. And I don’t mean fundraisers to support the Party, but non -partisan community policy hubs, “thought-raisers” that create opportunities to explore ideas, share policy, build collective knowledge, address conflict and practice resolving differences.

We should be focused on building relationships with one another through looking at the issues at hand, the people making the decisions and the people being impacted by the decisions. This is where we as a community grow more engaged, responsible and personally accountable to one another. Perhaps citizenship also requires that we pay attention even when we think we have nothing at stake. Our culture has been overrun by a new literature, a mechanistic financial language that demands that we constantly look for the business case justification before doing anything, including citizenship.

We need to hold our elected representatives and government bureaucrats accountable for citizen engagement.

But the issue is that we are not economic beings, we are human- beings, we need to feel in order to think and live compassionately together. It is an ongoing multigenerational learning process. We are continually growing and teaching one another how to be together and elected representatives don’t live outside of that organic system.

The levers of that system are still people, we are not yet robots and not everything is a convenience. Democracy is not a brand or a message, it is not corporate, it is a living system, it is vulnerable, it changes because of who inhabits it. It’s about steadily paying attention to one another and figuring out how to be fully human together.