COLUMN: Democracy at risk from apathy

I have had the state of our democracy on my mind of late.

I have had the state of our democracy on my mind of late.

It’s hard not to, when you watch what is going on around the world.

Whenever I discuss current events, it almost doesn’t feel like the average person can do anything to improve things.

There is a general malaise when it comes to politics and most people feel indifferent. Our ears turn off and worse still, our brains.

That is the most concerning to me.

I’m not as concerned about the populist swing that a lot of countries are going through right now. That actually makes sense to me.

What doesn’t make sense is the voter turnout that is sorely lacking in most elections at all levels of government.

What doesn’t make sense is the lack of public engagement in the institutions of government.

Our democracies are at risk if this apathy continues.

An example is our paper. I can usually judge what is going on in Summerland by the amount of letters to the editor we receive.

I ask John Arendt frequently to find out how many we have for the week’s paper.

Lately, the volume of letters has been well above average due to the Banks Crescent development proposal in front of council.

That makes sense. Development and change are hot button issues in most communities.

I would submit to you that there are other as important issues facing Summerland.

They don’t have the sizzle of a potential development but I think they would have a far greater day to day impact.

It is going to be budget season soon. That should generate discussion but I have a five-spot in my pocket that says that we will be unlikely to get a letter regarding it.

Why not? The yearly budget has a very direct impact on Summerland. Funding of services gets decided, grants get approved, and property tax rates are set.

That should get the juice flowing as much as a shovel in the ground, shouldn’t it?

Nope.

I had a flyer regarding the Banks Crescent development on my windshield today. I doubt I’d get one about any other issue facing Summerland.

Like infrastructure spending, the state of our municipal assets and buildings.

Staffing levels at city hall. I could go on but I can already sense your eyes glazing over.

I’ll get to the point. Democracy is a participation sport.

It requires effort, not just for the hot button issues like Banks, but for all the other issues too.

Our elected officials act on our behalf and if you want to make a difference, make your opinions known.

Call your councillors, write letters to the editor, attend council meetings. Encourage your kids to get involved.

Keep your ears open during election season, study the candidates and ask lots of questions.

It may not be as interesting as the upcoming new season of The Bachelor but you can PVR it.

Rob Murphy is the Summerland Review’s sales manager.

 

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