Parties are not the problem

Parties are not the problem The political situation in the Yukon has deteriorated into the realm of surrealism ordinarily occupied by satirists. Politicians elected under one party banner jump to another for a variety of reasons, none of which seem to r

The political situation in the Yukon has deteriorated into the realm of surrealism ordinarily occupied by satirists.

Politicians elected under one party banner jump to another for a variety of reasons, none of which seem to relate to their constituents but more to their own personal gain.

A government minister leaves the caucus, accusing the leader of being less than honest, but says that he will not vote against the government that he finds so distrustful.

Willard Phelps, no stranger to politics, has such disdain for political parties that he has decided to form one.

It is little wonder the public has either tuned out completely, become thoroughly disillusioned and, for some, has decided that in the blame game, it must be the fault of political parties themselves.

However easy this might be, to do this is to forget history and to negate the value of the democratic process.

Just a short reminder, and I can speak only of the term of New Democratic governments in the territory, it was, and continues to be, the members who form party policies.

These policies form the platform during an election and are a way that the voter can decide whether to support the goals of that party or another. It is in the interests of transparency and accountability.

It was from this process that the territory saw a human rights act, a new education act, the establishment of a French language school, import substitution to support small business, a Yukon-wide consultation process that became a model for other jurisdictions and support for land claims, to name a few results of party politics.

This was not achieved, nor are the aims of any government, without the involvement of all parties.

It has become a cliche to say that we should all “just work together.”

Of course, this has merit (and, by the way, happens more often in committees than one might see in question period). The reality is that there are virtually no issues that have the support of every voter; we all believe different things, have different values and different priorities.

It is through debate of these different views that we, hopefully, reach a form of compromise that can benefit everyone.

In this, a strong opposition is key. Holding the government accountable is essential to the democratic process. It is not surprising, as we look around the world, that undemocratic regimes strive to eliminate the opposition.

The fact the debate may degenerate into personal attack or childish rhetoric is a comment on the quality of debate rather than its value.

Having had experience in many countries with less-than-democratic regimes, I can vouch for the fact that countries run by a dictator or a military junta have no debate, no disagreement at all Ð until the revolt, of course.

It is self-evident that political parties are made up of individuals who hopefully share a common philosophy and principles. The fact that sometimes members do not always demonstrate this commitment can hardly be ascribed to the existence of political parties, but might be more accurately ascribed to the quality and ethics of the members.

If another political party in the territory brings more interest in politics, that is a good thing.

But perhaps we have all become a bit complacent in thinking that, as individual citizens, it is “them” rather than “us” who must take responsibility to be informed about all the parties and their goals, to question and, yes, debate in a respectful and intelligent manner.

For those of us who have lived here a long time, I know that Yukoners are intelligent and love this place which is our home.

We can do better Ð we have in the past and we will again.

Audrey McLaughlin

Whitehorse