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Petitions, protests, public hearings and boycotts — oh my!

Posted on March 1, 2017 by Sunny South News

Petitions, protests, public hearings, public consultations, plebiscites, boycotts and social media rants — people get so riled up these days about everything and anything. But, these non-violent ways of speaking up are sometimes the only way to get heard.
In Canada, Canadians are lucky to be able to disagree with government and to use democracy to vote and to promote change. When government isn’t doing what the majority or minority of voters like, voters can create a voice — hopefully, a voice that will be heard.
Recently, the potential return of VLTs in Coaldale has been a hot button issue amongst residents, the town’s elected officials and even non-residents have chimed in. Whether those opposed oppose because of moral grounds or because they disagree with how town council handled it — it really doesn’t matter — what should matter is, council offered the public a chance to share their thoughts. But, on the other side of the coin, councils are elected to make choices for the community, even though some choices may not be right for everyone. No matter how you slice it, you can’t please everybody all the time. The lesson to learn is — if you disagree enough with an elected politician — remember that, come election time. Or maybe, cut them some slack. Local politicians are human and most try to do what is right and hopefully are not pursuing some kind of personal agenda of sorts.
There are many issues a community faces. It could be a bad intersection or lack of infrastructure, it could be a municipality’s spending habits are all out of whack, maybe a municipality isn’t collecting enough taxes or is collecting too much tax revenue — a municipality needs to find the right balance, but that is sometimes impossible when the electorate is diverse.
It becomes a challenge to make choices for a large sum of people, with a variety of political leanings, tastes, likes, dislikes, wants, needs, etc. It’s kind of like a crapshoot in reality. The local politician throws an idea up in the air and perhaps it will be a hit or it could very well be a miss.
A jaded political base is what most municipalities have to deal with. Voters are sick and tired of politics and not getting what they vote for. From all levels of government — local, provincial and federal — the political scene has worn out its welcome in its present state.
Electoral reform is indeed a pipe dream, even in Canada, it seems. Politics can be a shady beast if not kept in check. But, most importantly, voters need to be informed, educated, in the know when it comes to politics. A vote, without so much as a thought, is a stray bullet and can do more harm than good. If a voter doesn’t take the time to get to “propaganda-ly” know a politician, at the very least, the voter is doing a dis-service to their community, province and country, as a whole. Yes, voter remorse runs rampant through Canada. What is worse is the amount of voters who don’t give a darn about this, that or those other things.
Vicious circle — is what the relationship between voter and voted in has become. The cyclical and cynical rotation of the relationship can be summed up with one word — “nauseating.”
It’s like a game of poker. In the words of “The Gambler” Mr. Kenny Rogers, “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em. Know when to fold ‘em. Know when to walk away. And know when to run.” It works both ways. A voter lays his/her cards on the table when they vote, as the elected bluffs, cheats or plays his/her cards on his/her sleeve, open and honest.
Luckily, in Canada, voters have a recourse and that’s public opinion and sway through petitions, protests, public hearings, public consultations, plebiscites, boycotts and social media rants. But, these weapons in the war chest, need to be used precisely and accurately, as to not misfire or not hit the intended target. Posting drivel, not having a defined “real” reason for a petition or plebiscite, boycotting something just because everybody else is doing it and not asking questions at a public consultation or hearing — can be detrimental to the cause.
A cause campaign needs a SWOT Analysis. Take a look at its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Or at least old school it with a list of pros and cons. A good campaign will have a little bit of Column A and Column B and all the rest.
For example, you are a voter and you dislike sushi because of its smell, texture and taste and you don’t allow it in your home, but you also want to have it banned in stores, restaurants and you want it outlawed throughout the entire town. No one should be able to eat sushi. How will you go about the campaign to outlaw sushi? Who will be your allies and who is your enemy? What is the end game of your campaign? When will the campaign take place and when will it end? Why do you want to begin the campaign and why should people listen? Where will this campaign take place?
OK, the questions have been asked, briefly. Now, a SWOT Analysis. Strengths of campaign — a lot of people don’t like sushi (its smell, texture and taste). Weaknesses of campaign — a lot of people like sushi and just because you choose not to eat sushi at home, doesn’t mean everybody has to suffer with not being able to eat sushi in town if they want to. Opportunities of campaign — you might be able to persuade others towards your plight. And, threats of campaign — you may not understand the reasoning behind the campaign and come off as a kook or ill-informed or you could jeopardize something important to you, but the campaign could be a worthwhile sacrifice.
Passion fuels everyone. Whatever floats your boat or sinks it is what makes you either “yay” or “nay” about something. Opinions are extensions of our beliefs. We all need to play in the proverbial sandbox today, tomorrow and yesterday. There shouldn’t be a line in the sand, but there always is. Compromising is a key to many an argument or disagreement. Today’s sandbox should be a safe place to hold one’s beliefs, hopes, dreams and aspirations intact without persecution or judgement. But, it goes both ways. If I listen to you, you need to listen to me and vice versa. An exchange of ideas makes the world a better place, without needing to be right.
Open communication or being transparent is what politicians speak about and want, or that is what they say. So, why not open up a dialogue between voter and politician about whatever ails ya, if it is well-thought out and not just a rant and/or call to action just because.
In today’s world of send before backspace and delete after a moment’s thought — it is hazardous to one’s health. Back in the day, there was white-out or you could scratch off what you wrote with your pen in a letter that could be torn up if not correct. There’s no turning back from digital communication. What is said, is said.

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