Wednesday, October 20, 2010

So This is Democracy?

Democracy... one dictionary definition is "government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system."

The recent Edmonton elections were indeed a democratic process.  Approximately 1 out of 3 people choose to exercise their democratic right to vote and I wonder why the other two thirds of residents choose not to.  Where they confused with the issues?  Did they care about the issues?  Perhaps the better question is were they informed about the issues in an unbiased manner, or from balanced reporting?

Edmonton's print news media folks were certainly very vocal on things for several months leading up to the election, of that there is no question.  I am not sure how honourable they were, in hindsight.  The Edmonton Journal would place articles done by columnists on the front page of a section of the newspaper, giving the appearance of the item being a news story and not being clear they were opinion comments and not actual news.  The Edmonton Sun and The Examiner also created articles or editorials that never provided the full facts on issues.

Edmontonians were also subject to the influence of campaigns run by Envision Edmonton and Share The Facts.  Perhaps more importantly, in amongst all of this, were the things the people of Edmonton were not told.  I am not going to bother with diving into accusations over the Mayor and Council race, but I will bring up one point for people to ponder on...

As I have stated before, I am just starting to finally pull my head out of the sand when it comes to civic, provincial and federal politics.  Better late than never I guess.  With that said, I really wonder where the voices of the School Boards were in this campaign.  The reason why I say this is simple.  From the school board aspect, I live in the Ward B area.  The incumbent for EPSB was Ken Shipka.  According to the ARTES (Association for Responsive Trusteeship in Edmonton Schools) report card, Mr. Shipka was the worst possible choice.  Talking with many who know a lot more about the Trustee side of things than I do, they are also of the same belief.

According to the election results, Mr. Shipka received a total of 5,013 votes.  The ARTES report card also lists the best choice as being Darryl Lagerquist.  Darryl received only 801... the lowest number of votes.  I am deeply saddened, and if past performance is any indication, then EPSB has another rubber stamp added to it's collection.

I wonder how people are supposed to make informed decisions, if the information provided in the media is continuously biased and/or one sided... or if the School Boards don't tell you about what is going on with the people who were previously voted in?

Democracy can only be true, if you have TRUE facts to base decisions on.

In my humble opinion, the residents of Edmonton were let down in knowing the truth.


  1. Hi Gary,

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post. There was a lot going on in this election in terms of new/social media vs. traditional. My take is that old sources of information like TV and newspapers are not doing the job - did you try to watch any election results on TV? I tried, but quickly switched on my laptop. Print seems at times easily led by groups like Envision Edmonton who claim the airport issue is dividing the city (even though nobody, and I mean not a single person I know, is passionate about ECCA staying open). And then there is the Nenshi effect of how one underdog can win with ideas and new technology.

    I am involved with ARTES and I think ward B was a glaring exception to what was going on with the school board elections. For example, the ward G voter turnout was up over 35% from 2007, and they decisively removed a non-responsive incumbent and instead voted for someone who promises to listen. Several progressives were voted in as trustees across the city. And remember, until this year hardly anyone gave trustee candidates the time of day, so that fact that people were talking about school issues during the campaign is great progress.

    So, while find the "truth" may be harder to do between the stereo and used car ads in the paper, or after "Dancing with the Stars", new media, social or otherwise, are filling in the gaps. Almost all of the useful information I found for this election was from websites, blogs and twitter. Maybe we should stop being so passive about how we get our information and go find it. I guarantee you somebody somewhere will have posted a blog on it.

  2. There were many more school board voters but were they informed is a good question. Who on the School Board do you propose would "tell about the people who were voted in"? Fellow trustees? Administration? Or should the public do their reseatch through minutes or maybe even attend a meeting? Laura Shutiak who marginally lost against Pat Cochrane Calgary Board Chair says the result may be from voters who turned up en masse for the municipal side and while they were at the polls cast a school board vote in ignorance. Are results based on familiarity of names?
    Nick says progressives were voted in.Is it the same parents who send their children to alternate schools of choice who then voted for the candidates who ran on a platform of community schools or the community who has other concerns? What will the new trustees place as a priorities if, after their first few meetings, they succeed in a moratorium on school closures. How do they propose to balance the books or will they force students to attend community schools versus ones of choice? EPSB is known around the world for responding to student and parental wishes with their programs and now are they going to focus on programming for children or community real estate values?

  3. Thanks for the comments from both Nick and Anonymous. This is the first Edmonton election that I can remember, where the bias of several of the printed news media was "ugly". The general impression I got was they seemed to be very afraid of biting the hand that feeds them. There is no question that times are tough for all forms of media. The news papers and television stations are in a very real battle for life. We can not depend on "the internet" to give us everything we need. Sure, blogs are nice... but they are no different than what columnists are doing in the papers. Finding someone you can trust to offer the truth, well... And of course, I am no exception to that either.

    The Ward B public forum was my first "in depth" attempt to getting involved in the trustee issues. I can thank the people in social media for bringing many of those issues to life. Issues I was never aware of before. From a voters aspect, in the past, I've been very indifferent to who I've voted for, trustee wise. Oh, that's the incumbent? Oh.. ok.. *tick*.

    The results of the Ward B vote were a clear indication to me that the majority of people in the ward also did exactly what I used to do.

    We can't force people to attend meetings or get involved. What we must do, is offer a way to get the truth out... a way that explains both sides (positive and negative) on the issues of the time. I saw huge signs for Shipka and many large signs for Amanda (who came in second for vote counts). When I attended the public forum, there were literally hundreds of parents and children that were in the parking lot. All dealing with Girl Guides stuff. Inside the forum, there was maybe 20 people. Only Darryl and Amanda were there to talk. Amanda made it clear her priority was "bullying", and went into little details on anything else. Darryl spent time with all of the issues. My choice was made that night, and later confirmed by the report card from ARTES.

    A few nights back, the Canadian Walk of Fame event was broadcast on TV. Farley Mowat was one of the people added, and he made a comment about one of his statements many years ago. "Never let the facts stand in the way of the truth".

    This election was full of facts.... and very little truth. We need to fix that.