With the selection of Angelique Wood as the NDP candidate for the Central Okanagan Similikameen-Nicola constituency, I find myself
dealing with an inner quandary. She is my neighbour, only two doors away. Also, I observed her efforts fairly carefully during the three years she was the RDOS representative for Area G. Her work ethic is impressive and she has an evident love for the Similkameen Valley and for Canada.
Given that I have a positive opinion of her, why would I hesitate to vote for her? It certainly isn’t that I favour one of the other two major parties.
I think former PM Jean Chretien best epitomizes why I might hesitate to vote for any party other than the Greens. Some years ago, I was in a line of people patiently standing in a hot sun waiting for the privilege of shaking his hand. When he finally appeared, he sped along the line with the determined visage of a Kentucky Derby race horse. He showed no warmth or interest in us.
His inner voice might have been saying, “I really would rather not be here. These people mean nothing to me. The only reason I’m here is that they are potential votes. Let’s get this done and leave.” This is only conjecture on my part but that certainly is the message his visage and body language conveyed. Only our votes mattered in his relentless drive to be re-elected.
Although I went away unimpressed, I still had some faith because of his famed Red Book boldly outlining Liberal Party promises. I agreed with my wife Linda when she said, “if he puts them in writing, surely he means to follow through on them.” How naive we were. How easily deluded. Experiences like this have made me cautious, even skeptical, when listening to politicians, especially those who could soon be governing our nation.
Does my lack of enchantment with political parties mean I won’t vote in the upcoming federal election? Certainly not. Does it mean I hold Angelique Wood accountable for the arrogance and failings of Jean Chretien and other politicians? Again, certainly not.
I’m actually deeply impressed by the founders of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) precursor to the NDP. Before being elected to Parliament, J.S. Woodsworth was superintendent of the All Peoples Mission, working with the poor in Winnipeg. Later, in an address to Parliament he said, “the economy should be planned for public benefit rather than allowing businesses to gouge customers.” Pierre Berton referred to him as “the conscience of Canada.”
On the provincial scene, in 1944 Tommy Douglas and the CCF won
47 of the 52 seats in the Saskatchewan legislature. According to Vincent Lam in his biography of Douglas, the province at that time had the second highest provincial debt in Canada. The CCF, he says, recorded a surplus in each of its 17 years in power and steadily paid down the debt.
Speaking at the 1983 NDP National Convention, Douglas said, “We are not just interested in getting votes. We are seeking people willing to dedicate their lives to building a different kind of society. A society founded on the principles of concern for human well being and human welfare.”
Lam says “voters continued to elect the CCF in election after election, because they delivered what they promised.”
Lam states further, “the need for a Universal Public Health Care program was a well used plank in the Liberal federal election platform since the early years of the 20th century, one that was never followed by action.” It is his opinion that Douglas and the CCF can take credit for having the commitment and political will to make universal health care a reality in Canada.
I believe many Canadians long for politicians who will represent the wishes of the people to the leader, not the wishes of the leader to the people. With the Party Whip system, employed by the Big Three parties, this is difficult to achieve. It is for this reason I often vote Green.
I do recognize that we need people of integrity, ability and vision to sit on the benches of the governing party and the opposition. It is my opinion that Angelique Wood embodies some of the qualities and zeal of the party founders. Although I have never voted NDP and am troubled by their spending commitments, I do feel she established a strong track record in the RDOS. I may yet be persuaded to affix an x beside her name on election day.