It shouldn’t be a surprise, but it is ironic that a group so obsessed with secrecy that it prorogued parliament rather than answer to the Opposition parties should now deny young people from attending their political rallies.
The issue rises from a situation involving a young woman named Awish Aslam.
It was reported in today’s Toronto Star that a Conservative Party representative told Aslam that she was “no longer welcome” at a party rally held Sunday in London, surprisingly enough, because her Facebook page indicated Liberal Party ties.
As it turns out, a photo with Michael Ignatieff was the “tie,” and all the Conservatives needed to eject this young woman.
On Monday another group — students from the University of Guelph, encouraging youths to vote — were ousted from another Conservative rally.
In Aslam’s case, the practice used to vet her allegiance has been described as, “Facebook-creeping,” and everyone should be aware of it. Media reports indicate employers do it; personal experience shows that friends and enemies do it; so why not politicians and their henchpeople, right?
Well, politicians should be particularly aware of democratic rights and freedoms. They’ve sent Canadians around the world time after time to defend such principles, claiming Canada is an upstanding example of those principles.
Secondly, it raises the question: Are we witnessing the Conservative philosophy on democracy-caring?
How can these young people begin to enter the political fray — participate in democracy, and learn about the characters vying to whip, massage, and by any means necessary, shape their beloved country — if they’re locked out of the discussions?
Is it inconceivable to the Conservative public relations and marketing jockeys that having strangers in their camp can be good for business?
If an attentive and open citizen ventures into a Conservative rally, isn’t it possible that they might be overcome with enthusiasm after hearing a rousing Conservative speech? Hasn’t it also occurred to them that speaking to the choir is a bit unimaginative, particularly if they’re trying to reach out to people who are undecided, or who don’t normally vote, and (at this early point in the campaign) seek information? Wouldn’t some of these young people be keys to the majority Stephen Harper harps on about?
The Conservative Party, judging by a letter sent from Conservative MP, Immigration Minister Jason Kenney’s office, were campaigning unofficially even before an election was called; but why bother reaching out to ethnic groups only to display wanton ignorance of the concept diverse communities seek most: acceptance and inclusion. They want their diverse body — in all its colours, shapes and sizes — heard, respected, legitimized and valued, not flaunted like cheap baubles, then conveniently discarded.
What’s more, young people who are looking to participate in their government, shouldn’t have to close their Facebook pages for fear of their uncorked profiles and profile pictures being surreptitiously used to exclude them from the political process.
Closed door meetings are one thing, but for a political party trying to win an election, such stuffiness is just strikingly at odds with coherent communications strategy, and to some extent, fairness.
To look at it another way: The Canada Elections act ensures that public places and residential dwellings are accessible by candidates and their entourage, so the benefits of access and citizen engagement is clearly recognized legally. So what about access of citizens to attend these elections functions?
If the media isn’t allowed in, and the Conservative party limits their questions, how can the public gain insight into the issues, or enjoy rigorous debate about them?
We might all prefer privacy in various situations, but while attempting to gain enough votes — a majority of votes to be specific — to rule a public domain, conversation should be public and as unfettered as possible; otherwise, return to your lair, and hibernate where we won’t disturb you, for if you can’t be open on the campaign trail, how can we expect openness in government?
Ah … there’s the rub: Currently, the Conservatives leave the public with unanswered, but not unanswerable questions, about government conduct in regards to Afghan detainee abuse, G20 spending, access to information cover-ups, Elections funding in-out schemes, Peace and Prosperity Partnership with the U.S., true costs of budgetary items like the fighter jets, Bev Oda funding policy decisions, etc. This from a party that initially rode to power on a platform of transparency in the wake of the Liberal Party’s sponsorship scandal.
Tightening access to information at campaign events is probably a well-thought out action, one made by well-paid experts; However, I cannot understand why the party (if it doesn’t have anything to hide; fervently supports democracy; and is comprised of able professionals) would provide such clear evidence to support accusations that Conservatives cannot be trusted with a majority, or even a minority, in a progressive society.
Wouldn’t all interested participants benefit from a more inclusive stance? After all, hearing one side of an issue never guarantees good decision making, and in any election campaign, informed decision-making is crucial, if only because it can be four years before we get an opportunity to go back to the polls. Also, effecting change post-election is more difficult. Just look at the public outcry to keep the long-form census, which was overruled by the Conservatives, albeit based on dogma more than evidence.