Politicians should start standing for something

People don't bother to vote because they feel it doesn't matter

Dérives démocratiques - la société confrontée à sa propre impuissance

As this year in politics moves to a close, there's a definite feeling here that governments are growing less and less responsive to the electorate.
In Quebec, the Charest government continues to refuse to set up a public inquiry into allegations of collusion, corruption, and cost overruns in the construction industry.
In Ottawa, the Harper government also says no to growing demands for an independent judicial inquiry into allegations of the torture of Afghan prisoners.
These combined refusals to probe issues of importance are leaving more and more voters with the impression that their governments are trying to cover things up.
History will surely note that this time was not the finest hour for our governments.
It seems that even some retired politicians share this disappointment with today's governments and political parties.
Yesterday, former Parti Québécois minister Guy Chevrette gave a telling interview to Radio-Canada host Christiane Charette. Remember Chevrette? He was elected in 1976 when the PQ won its historic first mandate. Until he quit politics in 2002 after premier Bernard Landry shut him out of cabinet, he had held a number of portfolios, including transport. He was also one of the PQ's shrewdest organizers.
At 69, Chevrette announced that he's phasing out his most recent career as president of Quebec's Conseil de l'industrie forestière. He plans to write his political memoirs fairly quickly after that - something former ministers seldom do here - and intends to comment on the state of politics.
Oh well. Another "ex," as we call this phenomenon common in Quebec in which more and more former politicians move on to media commentary.
"My biggest disappointment with today's politics," he told Charette, "is that politicians govern like golfers. They wet their finger to see which way the wind is blowing, and that's right where they head to. Without any projet de société." Meaning with no clear vision, no direction and no concrete actions submitted to the population.
Extending his diagnosis to all parties, including, one supposes, the PQ, he added: "I don't feel that any of the parties are presenting any such project to citizens at this time."
Although he stands to the left of Chevrette philosophically, PQ MNA Camil Bouchard made more or less the same lament this week when he quit politics. This respected academic and social democrat concluded that he'd been more useful to society as a university researcher than as an opposition MNA for seven years.
Interestingly, this disappointment that both men share about the current state of politics crosses their ideological lines.
Yesterday, as he commented on Bouchard's departure and that of François Legault last spring, Chevrette had some advice for today's political class: "Political parties must rethink their actions and present citizens with a more global project."
Describing today's politicians as mere "managers of perceptions," Chevrette defined real leadership as defending projects with "courage, objectives, principles, and an actual plan."
Looking back to the first Lévesque government, he noted that if ministers had based their decision-making process on "perceptions," controversial but essential laws such as Bill 101, no-fault auto insurance, agricultural zoning, or restrictions on party financing never would have seen the light of day.
But while Chevrette bemoans the lack of vision and determination in today's political elites, including those in his former party, it's important to note that this has consequences on the state of democracy as well.
I'm referring to the growing disconnect between the electorate's expectations and what they get. This has fuelled the steadily decreasing voter turnout at elections, be they federal, provincial or municipal.
Most people who stay home on election day do so because they don't see the point in voting. They don't see what that would end up changing.
What Chevrette said is that it's paramount that the political class starts giving citizens some concrete reasons to get out there and vote - like they used to do not so long ago.

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