The politics of politics -

The politics of politics

Sixty percent of us aren’t talking about it


Susan Delacourt, Chris Selley, Greg Fingas and Dan Lett review the latest report from Samara, this one on the engagement of Canadians in the political process. Of the numbers contained therein, I’m most interested in the finding that only 40% of respondents claimed to have participated in a discussion of a political or societal issue, either in person or over the phone, in the last year.

It would be interesting to know here how respondents defined a “political or societal issue.” Would traffic congestion count? Do 60% of us regularly go 12 months without talking about public schools, public transit, how long we have to wait when we visit the ER, the cost of post-secondary education, how homeless people ask us for change, a local incident of crime or the possibility that we might be unemployed at some point in the future? Probably not. And so I’m tempted to conclude that part of the issue here might be that we generally take a restrictive view of politics. Many of us, I’d guess, define politics as “that which involves politicians and/or recent matters of tragedy, controversy or note.” So Mike Duffy is a political issue, but the time required and manner of your daily commute is not.

Regardless of how we define it, there is also the matter, as Alison Loat notes, of how we regard the idea of discussing politics: “Politics is viewed as a dirty word something that isn’t appropriate or that should be celebrated.” Like religion, politics is not to be discussed around the dinner table. And like most of MTV’s reality television programming, its participants are viewed with cynicism and scorn and to watch it closely is not something one is generally advised to brag about to strangers or employers.

A certain degree of skepticism is probably healthy and you’re surely forgiven if you’d rather not argue with your parents around the dinner table about the long-gun registry. But trouble comes when it’s generally decided that politics is nothing to do with us. Because that is terribly mistaken.


The politics of politics

  1. Traffic congestion, schools etc are more local….municipal or provincial….and people talk about them more often, but only in a complaining way at the water cooler. Usually a couple of sentences about something immediate and practical in their lives.

    Federal politics? Hardly anybody speaks about that, even during an election campaign. Politics affects everything you do in life, but most people are convinced it has nothing to do with them.

  2. Why is it implausible that we are the most apathetic & self-centred nation on the planet? Isn’t that confirmed in hundred ways each week? I’m stunned that as high a proportion as 40% have even heard of politics. This is Canada. Land of the moose and the two-four. Not the UK. Not the USA. Definitely not Egypt. Be proud of our shame, it’s the Canadian way.

    • We have a culture of complaint….lack of ambition….general laziness…complacency

      • hear hear !!! Emily what a concept we agree on something :)

    • The reason why Canadians don’t get involved with politics is because of our corrupt and undemocratic voting system, First-Past-the-Post. It rewards hyper-partisan, polarizing politics that disgust Canadians with the whole process.

      As Andrew Coyne points out, we can fix this problem by modernizing our voting system (as the rest of the developed world has done.) Either Preferential Voting (ranked ballot) or Proportional Representation will get the job done.

      Andrew Coyne: FPTP and polarizing politics

    • It isn’t just politics that people are not engaged in. People are not watching the news. Rather, they are watching reality shows like America and Canada’s next top model. It is easy to explain away that these people are not “literate” but that is a fallacy. These are educated people who work in important jobs. They can’t tell you what is happening in their cities, their provinces or their countries. Some of them follow the American elections because they like the Hollywood connections of the President. However, they have no interest in Canadian politics because they find it boring. You can bet your bottom dollar though that they know exactly what the Kardashians are up to. They are certainly self-centered but I am not sure that you can say they are apathetic. This group isn’t apathetic when it comes to their own interests. What do you expect from a generation whose being supported by their parents until they are close to forty years old? What happens in the world has no affect on them.

  3. I think that the central cause of the problem is that in reality there is no problem : we are in a well functioning – relativley graft and corruption free (all things being equal) open tolerant society ! as it stands we have the luxury to sit back and hang out on web forums and feign indignance complaining about partisan ideas as if they are sports teams and we each have our own we root for and an opposition we hurl insults at – this actuallly isn’t a problem – were we to have real and significant changes that threaten our democracy this would change in an instant – I think that what people confuse is that freedom is only precious when it is seriously confronted and since we can compare ourselves at any time to our neighbour down south whose problems are far more serious – we secretly are very happy with our system although loathe to admit it !!!

    • Actually it’s a disaster….the water in the pot is getting warmer, and we aren’t noticing

      ‘A global race is under way and it is waiting for absolutely no one.’

    • So we were foolish to vote against the Liberals due to adscam? huh, how different from “demand better!” this new tack is.

  4. The media have educating adults as one of their main functions. Though I’ll agree with a member of the USA gov who believes the 5 yr accredited degree standard is an anachronism and that learning should be lifelong. In this regard, media personalities should not be appointed to the Senate. It is a conflict of interest.

    Canada copied the model of Rome, having 3 levels of power: Queen, learned aristocracy (Senate), and the elected MPs. Here Canada figured lifetime appointed land-owners would be most learned. I’d prefer three MP terms, or about 10.5yars, as a Senate term, as 8 years might not be enough to get upschool on an issue. And they are suposed to have a long-term focus, so perhaps being too ld in general and having an old person education base is bad. Ideally pressing future issues (whose initial forcings can most efficiently be addressed now); it would be possible to know who has the past reading list or education or present and future frendship circle (E.Musk has a vertical airplane that ould help London UK and a hyperloop that sa HSR competitor), and that person would be a goodSeate appointment. Such a list of long-term societal needs could fill a roster of potential UK Lords appointments, with the narrowed selection list being chosen by the PM or whoever. This is how Coroprate Boards are stacked and shielded from shareholder scrutiny instead of letting hareholders FW candidates.
    And making Senate pay partally contingent on participatnig and chairing committees would prevent idleness. Having reoccuring Senate witnesses could de facto add to their lengths of service,if possessing gifted faculties. And now that cdn Gini is high, it isgood poorer Que and Atlantic Canada are overrepressented: the opposite of the initial plan.
    Be nice to have one extra Senator from BC and AB though, just to prove flexibility.

    • …we have an educated (U degrees) population so I’m okay with not using the Veto too much.

      • 42% of Canadians are functionally illiterate And of the educated ones past high school….most are college, not university

  5. Aaron, when I read an article about the study last week in the Calgary Herald. Two things struck me. The first was that people likely do not discuss politics with their friends and family. There is that old rule about not discussing religion and politics and it is a wise adage because discussing them with people who don’t share your views leads to arguments which can result in a disastrous evening. I learned to only discuss politics with people who were politically like-minded and in very small groups where everyone is engaged. To have a political discussion in front of people who are not interested is like talking shop at a gathering. It is boring for those who do not work in your industry and ultimately, very rude.
    The other part of the article which struck me regarded the role of the partisan, which apparently means “of the party”. People on this site are often accusing one another of being “partisan” but the truth is that the real partisans are the ones who do “the heavy lifting” for the party. If you aren’t out knocking on doors, making calls, folding brochures, etc., you aren’t really a partisan…you are just an “observer”. So, all of these so-called devoted political animals here on Macleans feeling smug and complaining about “lazy, complacent, illiterate Canadians” need to get off of the computer and join the 10% who do the “heavy lifting” in our political parties before they have the right to criticize anyone else. Otherwise, they are just observers.