I Get Polled

I answered a political poll for the first time today; I’d been called before, but this was the first time I had the patience to sit through the ten minute grilling. It wasn’t clear who was doing the polling, but whoever it was, they were obviously looking to gauge public opinion on the Tory government here on the Island, especially on matters of public trust. There were a lot of questions like “on a scale of 1 to 5, how would you rate your trust for the following: Robert Ghiz, Pat Binns, Mike Currie, Mitch Murphy?” and “how would you rate the Government’s handling of industrial policy and job creation?”

Obviously the answers to a poll like this could be used by the government to defend itself, or by the opposition to find weakness.

The most interesting aspect of the poll was when I answered “Green Party” to “which party would you most likely support in a federal election?” As a result, Green Party had to be added by the computer to the list of eligible parties for every other question in the poll. I’m sorry now I didn’t say “particle beam weapon party” because that would have been kind of fun to hear over and over.


Steven Garrity's picture
Steven Garrity on May 1, 2004 - 16:15 Permalink

There was an interesting mention on The National last week of a significant jump the Green Party has been getting in polls lately. Apparently, the Green Party is being included in the default “prompting list” read to the poll participants whereas previously, they only showed up if the person explicitely stated “Green Party” after being read a list of “Conservative, Liberal, NDP”.

A classic case of definining the range of choice.

Marcus's picture
Marcus on May 1, 2004 - 17:13 Permalink

I always loved the Rhinoceros Party and everything they stood for. Platform was A-1.

Rob Paterson's picture
Rob Paterson on May 1, 2004 - 21:03 Permalink

I for the first time ever am considering not voting in the upcoming federal election.

I am coming to the conclusion that we are no longer served by the process and that voting on an agenda of being bribed by my own money for sound bite issues is not worth it. When the participation drops to say 30% we may start to consider a different process.

What process? One where issues are not over simplified — ie all we need for healthcare is more money or smaller class sizes for education. One where we put an end to the infantile behaviour of opposition. One where the bureaucracy’s ability to stop anything other than their own pay checks is checked. One where most of the money is kept locally where we all and not in the centre. A lot to ask for and unlikely to come via voting

Steven Garrity's picture
Steven Garrity on May 1, 2004 - 21:27 Permalink

Rob, there has been a thread of “don’t vote — not because you’re lazy and uninformed, but because the system is broken” floating around 84 Fitzroy for a while now.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about your points on the value of voting. Is a vote, even for the Green Party, a tacit endorsement of the current system of government? I worry that it may be.

Also, Jian Ghomeshi is hosting a special on CBC TV next week (May 7) called Screw the Vote.

Will Pate's picture
Will Pate on May 1, 2004 - 21:49 Permalink

I vote every chance I get, and if I pick the winner I’ll bring that to their attention if I want their attention. It seems to work well.

I don’t see what can be solved through abstaining, other than handing a layer of government over to the wrong person. John F. Kennedy said “The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all.” I think the same rings true for participation.

Steven Garrity's picture
Steven Garrity on May 1, 2004 - 22:01 Permalink

Will, you make the classic argument for voting, yet I find it unconvincing when held against the issues that Rob brings up. Perhaps we could all get together sometime and discuss this.

Will Pate's picture
Will Pate on May 2, 2004 - 02:07 Permalink

That would be fun. Ironically (or perhaps not) I agree with all the points Rob raised about oversimplification, toothless opposition, bloated and overly powerful bureaucracy and wise spending of public funds. Anyone up for a blogger meeting next Thursday (May 7th)?

dave m's picture
dave m on May 2, 2004 - 03:10 Permalink

i think democracy requires more participation than just voting. voting is just entry level democracy. it requires involvement. i get the feeling some folks use voting as the excuse not to be involved.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on May 2, 2004 - 04:01 Permalink

I agree with Dave: voting is like asking someone for a date. To consumate requires everyday vigilance.

Jean's picture
Jean on May 3, 2004 - 00:12 Permalink

Mitch Murphy is in politics today because he was an unfortunate victim of the infamous 7.5 rollback. At that time he was rumoured to be a Liberal supported but was extremely upset with the Callbeck decision. He was challenged to “stop complaining and do something about it.”
The irony of this is that his Government is as corrupt as any before him, but I have to respect the fact that he got involved because he hoped he could make a difference.
I believe it was Ghandi who said ” Be the change you want to see in the world.”
Will Pate’s comments are right on the mark. It is refreshing to see someone of his age understand the importance of voting and involvement. It takes only one person to make a change and we have to remember the sacrifices that were made in order for us to have the right to vote.

Robert  Paterson's picture
Robert Paterson on May 3, 2004 - 02:48 Permalink

Jean I no longer think that change comes from the ballot box. I wonder if we are now at a time like the middle ages where institutions serve only themselves.

Rusty's picture
Rusty on May 3, 2004 - 13:08 Permalink

If you are really dissatisfied for reasons outlined above (or any other number of reasons), a better idea than not voting is going to vote and then spoiling your ballot. Write in a joke candidate, mark exes in all the boxes, write an anti-establishment on the back of the ballot, draw a happy in each check-box, etc.. This makes those that count the ballots (i.e. purveyors, albeit low-level, of the establishment) something to think about PLUS the ballot gets counted. Imagine if there were as many “spoiled” ballots counted as votes for candidates. That would at least get the media interested, if not the parties right away.

Alan's picture
Alan on May 3, 2004 - 13:57 Permalink

I think you have to opportunity at a ballot box to declare that you decline in which case your attendance to the voting place is registered as is your refusal to participate. If you spoil the ballot, it is not recorded as your act in the same way.

Isaac's picture
Isaac on May 3, 2004 - 14:50 Permalink

I agree with Alan on this. The spoiling of ballots is just not worth it — I don’t want to be counted in with the people that accidently circled a name, or chose two people. I want a box that says none-of-the-above, and that gets tallied and reported.

I imagine the biggest issue with this is that at some point, the totals will be higher for this option than any of the candidates. At that point — how does the whole process not fall apart?

Jean's picture
Jean on May 3, 2004 - 16:24 Permalink

I agree with Alan in regards to spoiling the vote. A spoiled vote is perceived as being done by some poor soul with bad eyesight — nothing more. However, Isaac has the right idea. If there was a box with “none of the above” to pick from which would be tallied and reported it would make a difference. Whatever it takes to get people to utilize their right to vote, I am all for it. However, I still believe involvement is the key, as it discussions and opinion exchanges such as we are seeing on this site.

Casper's picture
Casper on May 3, 2004 - 17:21 Permalink

Reading the thoughtful remarks above gives me some hope for the future at least. You encounter so many Islanders who are well-connected, and who like the system just the way it is (except, of course, that they’d like more money from Ottawa). Those at the lower end of the food chain — often illiterate and very ill-equipped for the twenty-first century job market — are the ones who really get shafted by the system, and are always at its mercy.
Robert has pointed out that it’s simply incredible that the Island’s shocking rate of illiteracy was not the focus of the recent provincial election. Instead, the issue disappeared into PEI’s bottomless pit of denial. What can you say about a society that doesn’t particularly care if its children are taught to read and write?!
The biggest problem with Island society is that even discussing these issues is not welcome in public life. (Jean found that out the hard way.)

Jean's picture
Jean on May 3, 2004 - 18:58 Permalink

The one issue that I discussed publicly that jumps immeditely to mind when I read Casper’s comments was the one I raised regarding the age old tradition of promising jobs for votes which I refused to do. I certainly didn’t win any brownie points and definitely did not get votes from a certain sector of the population. I do think that the 66% increase in votes I did get, was a direct result of trying to run an honest and upfront campaign. Today, my dignity is still in tact and if there is a next time, same rules apply. What you see is what you get.

Rusty's picture
Rusty on May 3, 2004 - 19:11 Permalink

Having a “none of the above” check-box would be great; the process Alan refers to does not exist anywhere that I have voted. Spoiling the ballot isn’t a perfect option but, for now, its an avenue for a general expression of anti-establishmentarianism.

Alan's picture
Alan on May 3, 2004 - 21:29 Permalink

Rusty, I think it does exist but is not on the ballot — it is one of the rights under common law perhaps. I do think if you state after they strike off your name that you are declining to choose, you have to be noted as making that statement but a friend to Mr. Wigginton (not a character on Treehouse but the Chief Elections Officer for PEI) would be able to confirm through him whther that is in fact the case.

Casper's picture
Casper on May 3, 2004 - 21:35 Permalink

Jean, I was really floored when I read your campaign blog story about the household that brazenly told you they had four votes for sale — in exchange for two school bus driver jobs and two highway flagging jobs (then they specified how long they expected to be working before collecting pogey). I wasn’t a bit surprised that this had occurred; I just couldn’t believe that an Island politician would recount it publicly.
I think you suffered more backlash, however, from writing about your meeting with Island business owners who expressed their “number one” problem: that such a large chunk of the available Island workforce insists on “14 weeks or equivalent.” On the Island, that whole subject is even more verboten than vote buying. I really admired your guts in broaching the unspeakable though.

Jean's picture
Jean on May 3, 2004 - 22:21 Permalink

Thanks and you are right. Those words came from people who were trying to run their businesses but could not keep a work force more than 14 weeks.I knew where they were coming from because of some of the similar experiences we had when we had our business. Apparently the public wasn’t prepared for a bit of honesty in a politician. There is a word our Dutch friends use and it escapes me at the moment, but it simply means ” we know it’s not right, and we know that it happens, but we look the other way.” This is definetely the case with the “14 weeks or equivalent” issue. Having worked all day, every day of my life from the time I was 16 years old until I was 50, I find it hard to understand why anyone would not want work if it was there for them. As my Grandmother would say, ” Guess they just aren’t hungry enough yet.”

Alan's picture
Alan on May 3, 2004 - 22:35 Permalink

Seeing as it is also a core principle of staffing the Liquor Commission, it gets pretty hard to find another way to look. Not just business does it as a operating policy.

Casper's picture
Casper on May 3, 2004 - 23:04 Permalink

Most politicians are extremely careful (as are other Islanders) about addressing the issue even in private. Unless they’re sure that they are talking to someone who won’t blab their words all over their community (another grand old Island tradition) they’ll recite the official Big Lie without fail.
And this is breeding such self-loathing and resentment throughout society, all shrouded in this crazy conspiracy of silence. And there are much worse effects. Since it’s much more important to know the right people (especially the right politicians) than to be well qualified, Islanders have become amazingly indifferent to meaningful education. The Island’s school drop-out rate is just as shocking as the illiteracy rate. But people actually get angry with you for expressing concern! Islanders don’t like being “nagged,” “lectured,” “criticized.”
Yeah, just as alcoholics don’t like being told they’re alcoholics, and heroin addicts are touchy about being told that they’re junkies …

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on May 4, 2004 - 03:20 Permalink

Question: does the nature of PEI (i.e. a living laboratory of “six degrees of separation” where everybody really does know everybody) require a different sort of politics than in more anonymous areas?

Jean's picture
Jean on May 4, 2004 - 04:37 Permalink

I am sure that Island politics is already totally different than anywhere else in Canada. People in other provinces cannot believe how accessable our politicians are and how we refer to them on a first name basis. Or that we can pick up the phone and have a chat with our MLA if that’s what we need to do. Our kids both live in Toronto and vote for the ” party” because they know their candidate only by the name on the ballot. They have both tried to get involved in campaigns without success.
I have a real struggle with the mentality of the voter who growls like the devil about how hard-done-by he is with the present government and then votes them in again. I was telling a friend about a visit I made to a family during the election and after listening to them go on about everything that was wrong with the present government, I asked them if I could count on their support at the polls. The man said ” oh, no, I could never vote Liberal. I couldn’t do that to my parents.” I asked if his parents lived near by. He replied, ” oh,no, they have been dead for 38 years.” This is the type of thing we are up against and I have absolutely no idea how you would ever go about changing this way of thinking. And ,an even better one was a man, when asked if the most honest, honorable and hard working person in the Riding was running for the Liberals and if the Conservatives ran a known felon with many undesirable traits, would he still vote Conservative? His reply:” I would have to give the Conservative the benefit of the doubt that he would be able to straighten himself out!”
I do agree that the “everyone knows everyone” plays a huge part in Island politics. But what really annoys me is the fact that everyone thinks they know how everyone else votes. This might have been true years ago, but with the increase in the “come from aways” and the younger people thinking for themselves, this is no longer the case. I had poll captains tell me not call in on certain homes because they were traditionally Conservative. I called on every home, most twice, regardless of what they were perceived to be. I still believe that only the person marking the X on the ballot knows how he/she votes. One thing I soon discovered is that people want to be called on regardless of whether or not they intended to vote for you . This really peeved some of the party workers who think of themselves as ‘kingmakers’ but I believed that the only way the government would change was if the people were given a chance to meet the person who they would change their vote for. If you never change your mind, why have one?

Alan's picture
Alan on May 4, 2004 - 12:10 Permalink

There is also the other side of the coin. The way politics is practiced helps create society as it is. The existence of poll captains and certainly how they operate if not unique is very odd — your name being called out by election staff to poll captains as you vote certainly is. As Jean said, the kingmakers and “important people” degrading the importance and autonomy of the individual for political ends (now finally being confirmed as illegal as we saw again yesterday) normalizes the process making it ok to be nosey for other reasons. To correct the ills of politics — to get your different sort of politics — you may have to undo what politics has done to the community.

Hans's picture
Hans on May 4, 2004 - 12:56 Permalink

Referred to as “boss-follower” politics, Kevin O’Brien wrote an interesting explanation of it on his weblog a few years ago.

Casper's picture
Casper on May 4, 2004 - 18:13 Permalink

Jean, your two campaign anecdotes are just hilarious! Sad but so true.
As for the small scale of PEI politics, I’m afraid I see more drawbacks than advantages: it’s great to be able to pick up the phone and talk to your MLA, certainly worked for a certain Crowbush golf supervisor … didn’t work out so well for the individual that he bumped though. That a society can accept hundreds of ordinary people getting knocked out of their jobs for political reasons — then paid off at taxpayers’ expense — is simply incredible! And a huge number of these positions, for which Islanders fight tooth-and-nail, are of the 14-week variety (as Alan just pointed out).
That’s the dark side of our dear little political arena. Who gets the jobs? The contracts? The grants and other Ottawa loot? Who gets their road paved? It all depends on who gets elected.
Islanders are always congratulating themselves on the very high turnout at election time, but that’s understandable when it’s such a matter of pork distribution. Districts are lost or won by a hundred or so votes — and you won’t have any trouble finding a hundred or so people whose votes are for sale.
Like Jean, I’ve spent my life moving all over the country in order to work. I can, however, understand how people get so used to the pogey cycle because I’ve watched old friends get sucked into it. The “way things work” seemed like a pretty sweet deal when they were teenagers — lots of free time for working under the table or just partying. And nobody in their community ever called them on it. Then all of a sudden they’re middle-aged; they can barely read, and they have very few skills. One of the reasons these folks are indifferent, or even hostile, to education is that when their kids need help with their homework, the parents can’t even read the title of the textbook.
That’s what PEI’s cute little back-slapping political culture has done to tens of thousands of people. And members of the Island’s dear little aristocracy have nicely feathered their own nests with this system for decades. God help us, Islanders don’t seem to know the difference between right and wrong anymore.

Jean's picture
Jean on May 4, 2004 - 19:04 Permalink

At last! Alan, I think you may have hit the nail square on the head regarding Island politics with the printed word “nosey”. Poll captains do not want to be part of the work of the election, they just want to drive the candidate around hoping they can pick up a juicy tidbit or two. That was the number one reason I drove myself and of course it was frowned upon by the “kingmakers” because that was not the way it was always done. Other than driving the only place the poll captains wanted to be was sitting in the polling booth on electin day so they could see who came and went, etc. and then tell it. I still marvel at the fact that I enjoyed the whole experience so much.

Jean's picture
Jean on May 4, 2004 - 19:14 Permalink

Hey Casper, I totally agree that small scale politics here on PEI is not beneficial, and I expect less so to the person who gets elected. I find the whole scenerio of “who you know” as opposed to “what you know” more than a little taxing. Everyone is scared of stepping on someone else’s toes. That is a hard way to govern.
When we had our business I always tried to use our employees as fair as possible, but kept them at arm’s length because it is not easy discipling or firing a friend. That’s the problem with the buddy system we have hear. Do I think it will change anytime soon? Doubt if any of us will live long enough to see a total change, but if we can get enough good people elected, maybe we can chip away at the system bit by bit.

Casper's picture
Casper on May 4, 2004 - 21:58 Permalink

Jean and Alan, yeah the “nosiness” factor is a nasty facet of Island life, and the two-faced nature of this popular pastime is quite creepy in the political arena. In the case of someone like Jean, I suspect snoopers weren’t really looking for “dirt” as much as little tidbits about her unorthodox views on employment, government integrity, etc, for them to spread about the district. “Thinks she’s so great,” I can hear them cluck.
Newcomers are often shocked that the Island’s adorable little communities have so many really vicious feuds going on just under the surface. And when individuals realize that you don’t have any interest in repeating their remarks — and they get a little drunk and spill their guts about what they really think about their neighbours and their community … whoa!
I really think this viciousness is rooted in people’s sense of hypocrisy — apropos themselves and their community. (And, in some cases, to say “community” is to use the term pretty loosely.) A lot of people mixed up in politics for all the “traditional” reasons have a real contempt for the same voters they’re trying to buy off.

Jean's picture
Jean on May 4, 2004 - 23:11 Permalink

In November I was attending an meeting for one of the Federal Districts and one of the “good old boys” said to me, “guess you wouldn’t be thinking about running again.” I was taken back by the remark and asked him what would ever make him think that and he replied, ” well, you took a terrible beating last time!” I told him that I wasn’t the only one that didn’t get elected and that I had picked up 66% more votes than the 2000 election, so I didn’t think I had done all that bad and he replied, “well, it’s just that people are talking”. Ever wonder why it is hard to get good people to enter the game of politics?
So Casper, your final paragraph is probably more accurate than you realized when you wrote it.

Casper's picture
Casper on May 5, 2004 - 00:07 Permalink

Jean, I can’t recall the exact numbers, but my recollection is that you did pretty well in the fall. I was surprised (and somewhat encouraged) that you didn’t get absolutely clobbered for breaking the code of silence.
Unfortunately, many of the boyos calling the shots like the system just the way it is (except there’s always the need for more of “our fair share” of course). When you ask veteran politicians about cleaning up the sleazy dealings (and when they’re sure you won’t rat them out) the answer is a shrug and a defeated: “the political cost is just too high.”
So the Island’s “leaders” privately claim that they can’t show any genuine leadership on the issue (although they’re happy to provide endless phony posturing) — they seem to feel Islanders simply aren’t capable of anything better.
In a nutshell, I’m surprised you haven’t given up.

Jean's picture
Jean on May 5, 2004 - 03:13 Permalink

You know…there are days and then there are days. But losing that election was the only thing I ever tried out for in my life that I did not get and I reckon that needs fixing. If we go another four years, the age may become an issue as the swing seems to be towards the youth. I surely don’t want to be grouped with the Wilbur MacDonald’s in the Legislature!

Craig Willson's picture
Craig Willson on May 5, 2004 - 10:23 Permalink

Jean, I suspect there is very little chance that you will be grouped with the Wilbur MacDonald’s of the world.

Casper's picture
Casper on May 5, 2004 - 15:11 Permalink

Well, Wilbur’s a home-grown hero to a lot of people. And he’s reaping some big rewards for being their kind of “good constituency man” (as described by the premier) and a fella who has accurately expressed the views of an alarming number of his constituents. Now he’s re-elected, back at the committee table, and the government has set it up so he’s double-dipping, enjoying his salary and pension at the same time.
Good old Island democracy at work.

Jean's picture
Jean on May 5, 2004 - 17:14 Permalink

I didn’t mean any disrespect to Wilbur, just simply referring to his age. I understand he is loved by his constituents. That is wonderful, but I believe there is a time to come and a time to leave. You already know my opinion on double-dipping.

Casper's picture
Casper on May 5, 2004 - 19:52 Permalink

Jean, I was being a smark alec! I’m no fan of the double-dipping Wilbur MacDonald.
What I meant was that he may have been forced to apologize for that shocking speech two years ago — but you’ll run into a lot of Islanders who have no problem at all with the bigoted point of view he expressed! And don’t forget, that day in the legislature nobody said a word to contradict him; in fact his colleagues called out helpful details to help him along, and their applause is recorded in Hansard.
This guy didn’t just wander into the legislature yesterday — he’s been a federal MP, provincial cabinet minister and speaker of the legislature. What makes me very angry is that he actually seems to be being rewarded for that speech. (And it was no quick slip of the tongue; he rambled on and on and on that day.)
Again, this is a “traditional” PEI politician who is lauded for ladling out the pork and 14-week jobs to his party faithful, and he has the cheek to insult millions of hard-working “non-white” Canadians who pay his bills and provide the boodle he spreads around!
Listening to a guy like Wilbur lament the decline in societal values is enough to make me throw up.
It’s particularly galling that he chose to single out West Indians and Mexicans for “taking over” the UK and US respectively. He must know that PEI fruit growers have been bringing in Jamaican and Mexican farm workers for several years now to do work they can’t get Islanders to do anymore.
Phillip Brown’s astounding remarks last week only demonstrate that the Wilbur case was no isolated incident. Discreet as Islanders can be about the many little things “you just don’t talk about” (EI fraud, job rotation, vote-buying), a stunning number of people aren’t shy at all about expressing their bigoted views in the most ugly way.

Jean's picture
Jean on May 5, 2004 - 22:32 Permalink

There is nothing you can tell me about bigoted views that I have not already heard. Our future daughter-in-law is from Singapore. A beautiful, highly educated girl. I was at a Women’s Institute one night and a member started on about the Chinese for no other reason than she wanted to let me know exactly what her opinion was even though I didn’t particularly care. After she expounded on about the Chinese being dirty, filthy, ignorant people who ate cats, I said to her that she was aware that our son’s girlfriend was Chinese so she should be careful what she was saying. She never missed a beat and said, “no offense, but we had them in the cottage and they left lobster shells in the garbage can.” Guess she would have been happier if they left them in the sink. Her daughter told her they were Japanese people and she said it didn’t matter they were all filthy people who ate cats and asked another lady to verify that this was true. The woman replied ” well, they say there is no cats left in Charlottetown.” There was laughter all around. That was the last meeting I attended after being a member for 28 years and if you can believe it the first line of the prayer that is said before each meeting is : Keep us O Lord from pettiness, let us be large in thought, in word and deed.
Certainly not all Islanders are bigoted. I would say there is a small percentage and in those cases it is sheer ignorance and nothing more. However, we must be careful not to paint the entire population with the same brush.

Casper's picture
Casper on May 6, 2004 - 01:40 Permalink

Good Lord, Jean, that is a dreadful story! My sympathies!
You’re also very correct in pointing out that you’ll find bigots just about anywhere, not just PEI. Usually, though, when they realize they’ve been spewing their venom at someone who’s related to the kind of people they’ve just been bad-mouthing, they get this terrified look on their faces, and desperately try to convince you that they’re “not like that, not at all.” (Although there’s no getting the manure back in the mule, no matter how they try.) That this incredibly ignorant person would be so shameless is really stunning. It must have been painful for you to walk away from the institute, but it is definitely their loss.
As for your son and future daughter-in-law, I wish them and you all the best.

Jean's picture
Jean on May 6, 2004 - 03:26 Permalink

Thanks. They will be okay. They live in Toronto and in spite of all the nasty thoughts we have about people who live in “the centre of the universe” they have never had any racist remarks made about their relationships. Dale says they leave that to our neighbour here. (yes, it was a neighbour)