Personal Pedantic Political Peroration, the Opposition Effect

I smell an election.  All the political parties are in full rut; wooing and catcalling all and any citizen that happens onto social media. In the midst of the flying oaths and dodgy declarations I keep hearing the stupidest thing.

“Don’t throw your vote away.”

This is my rebuttal to those people who proffer the warning that the ruling party alone is responsible for making sure that the wheels of government keep turning, and anyone not in the ruling party does nothing but take up valuable space:

Stop it already.

That’s not true, and in fact it belies a basic lack of understanding about how a parliamentary democracy works – about what is and what isn’t a sign of a healthy democracy.


  • Parliamentary democracy = democratic governance in which the executive branch derives its legitimacy from, and is held accountable to, the legislature.

Note the italicized words.

How much accountability is there really going to be if we elect one allied group of people? How much greater the opportunity for collusion and coercion when all members of the ruling party espouse and are aligned with the same ideologies?

Doesn’t accountability spring from fresh perspective, skepticism and asking new questions?

Who does that?

In parliamentary democracy, the party with the second highest number of seats in the legislature is given the OFFICIAL status of OFFICIAL opposition. That comes with an OFFICIAL function.

Our government enacts legislation on our behalf, and the opposition watches over them with a skeptical eye and reports back to us. Government runs things, and opposition makes sure they do it in an efficient, effective and legitimate way. They are the quality control.

Opposition is the steward of democracy. Perhaps not to rule, but to participate in good governance, is the nobler goal.

So, if you vote for the party that doesn’t form the government your vote is not a throw-away. If your elected representative is an opposition member then your elected representative is responsible for the health of our democracy.

This isn’t the race track, Alberta. Picking the winner doesn’t pay the highest democratic dividend. We complain about corruption among our representatives. It exists because we have handed unchallenged power to them. If we can’t muster the collective will to change things up once in a while the least we can do is to elect an opposition to mitigate the tendency of power to corrupt.

Alberta, we need to work together to oppose the behemoth on the right. Until we do that we have no hope of ever replacing the behemoth on the right and changing our boom and bust (hi)story.


This is the story of a place called Alberta. Alberta was a place where working people lived and played, were born and died. And they lived through booms and busts too.

They even had a legislature and every few years they had an election … used to drag themselves to the polls and cast a ballot. Some of them got tired of casting their vote and got caught up in the nets of some pretty big fish. Caught in rural ridings.

And every election those Albertans who did get to the ballot box just got used to electing conservative governments. A government made of oil loving wealth hoarding entitled bureaucrats.

Now, if you think it’s strange that Alberta should be electing bureaucrats you don’t understand the history of Alberta for the last 43 years, there is this fear of electing anybody other than cons.

Now, I’m not saying anything against a bureaucrat. They have a place keeping the wheels turning. They are the engine of Alberta, but they aren’t good as leaders. And the process and policies that bureaucrats just follow aren’t moving Alberta forward.

The laws and policies started to cater to the wealthy and gave them tax loopholes big enough that they didn’t pay a fair share. The policies and procedure started to focus so hard on one single industry that it slowed down the speed of change and growth in other areas so that one industry could keep its grip on the economy without too much effort.

Laws and policy are good things – for the status quo. But they are hard on a society that’s changing. The economic climate was getting harder and harder for new ideas and entrepreneurs. Yet, Alberta kept hoping with each election they would see some progressive change.

And finally they went en masse to the polls. They voted one conservative out and put another conservative in.

The conservatives had put on a great campaign. They said “vote for Ralph’s team” as if a new leader meant real change. As if when you put in the new leader the old party would suddenly be different.

So Alberta elected them again. And the new leader had the same cronies and enacted the same laws and policies as his predecessors. Life was as bad as before.

And when they couldn’t take that anymore they elected the old men out and split the right apart. Then they elected a woman leader ‘for progress’. Then they went back to an old man. They even ended up merging the right all over again. And they called that reunification.

They got a government made up of some progressives and too many regressives: there were even some that preached a lake of fire.

You see, the trouble wasn’t with the leadership. The trouble was with the lack of fresh perspective. There were no new ideas. And because government was always the same they naturally kept repeating the same mistaken financial management policies.

Finally there came a long a group who had an idea. Alberta, you should listen to people with new ideas. These people said we should unite the left, why do we keep electing conservatives and scattering the progressive left wing candidates? Why don’t we run together as one progressive left wing alternative?

No! Liberal minded Albertans said, we want it our way even if we lose! And they turned their backs.

I implore you, Alberta, you can be all for one, or one for all, but you can’t be all fighting one another and hope to prevail.*

(*with all due respect for the late, great Tommy Douglas)


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