Ultimately, the ‘facts’ won’t change many minds

In politics, the facts don’t matter; and the facts are not likely to matter when Duncan residents vote this fall in a referendum on whether to study the possibility of amalgamating with North Cowichan.

Consider for a moment that most everything we tend to think of as facts are just agreements to call something by a certain name.

For instance, if you are reading this on the day it was published it would be what we call Friday.  There is no intrinsic truth (or fact) underlying this day being called Friday — it is simply a long-held custom to break a solar year into day/night cycles called days, and days in weeks and then into months that don’t line up with weeks. This is a convenience so that we can agree easily about the timing of something occurring in the future or the past.

In politics, at its simplest level, people collect around shared ideas and values for what is “good and right.” Policy wonks like this as it gives them a chance to formulate government policy to implement these “good and right” ideas.  The rest of us will migrate toward the political organizations or individuals who best represent what we each think of as “good and right” when it comes to supporting or opposing something in the political process.

Again, for convenience, we have developed names to categorize broad ranges of political ideas.  We have progressives and conservatives, or some variation and combination of the two.  Depending on how serious you take your politics, these names are also shorthand for “good guys” or “bad guys”.

Now, lots of people need “proof” that political ideas being professed by politicians are actually “good and right.” This is where “facts” begin to enter the discourse — somebody’s word for it is insufficient.

In practice, and in politics, so-called “facts” either reinforce and justify the belief system held by politicians and their activist followers, or are labelled as corrupt and bought-and-paid-for by an interest group.

Presumably, if a majority of Duncan voters want to study amalgamation, an expert consultant will be hired to consider and identify the ramifications of the city joining its much larger neighbour.  These will become the “facts” that will be presented to Duncan residents at some future date and, again presumably, Duncan city council will decide if the matter should be put to voters again — this time to ask if amalgamation should proceed.

Voters may say “No” to any study and that will be the end of the matter for a long time.  I suggest a ‘No’ vote will not be based on “facts” but rather on all kinds of intangible fears about change.

It will be interesting to see who fans these inevitable fears and who tries to focus on a vision of the benefits of two communities coming together in a co-operative manner.

I’ve a got a sneaking suspicion Duncan residents who are interested enough in this issue have already made up their minds and will vote accordingly — no matter what “facts” are presented to them.

Patrick Hrushowy is a Cowichan writer and political consultant. Email him at phrushowy@shaw.ca

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