Bill-newby L. G. William Chapman, B.A., LL.B.

Whatever people may think about politicians and the political process, there is little that gets them talking more volubly than an election. Many constituents take an avid interest in what is about to transpire in the public affairs of our Province. Awakening one morning to the overnight proliferation of election signs at every public corner is the first taste of the metaphorical bloodsport that is politics. We may even subsequently be sadly reminded of the nastiness of the business when we witness the first of successive sign mutilations, spawning a debate whether the attack is that of mere youthful vandals without an agenda or anything better to do or whether there is indeed something shifty and underhanded about the foot soldiers of competing delegations. Whatever the conclusion the activity lays bare the raw side of humanity, a trumpet to the battle that is to ensue.

With equal gravity and polarization the division of parties, candidates and interests follows. The normal wishy-washy discussion of one’s health and the weather is instantly replaced by adamant and uncompromising statements as plain as the teeth of an angry dog when encroaching upon its bowl of food. There is plenty of jealous nourishment here for the voter no matter how involved he or she was only days before in the machinations of the Province’s elected officials. Some electors are even prompted to display their brazen armour, sword and spear by a proclamation of intractable bias in the form of a lawn sign. Gossip is rife with innuendo about party politics, corporate bagmen and general self-interest. Social niceities quickly give way to elemental and sometimes base causes of every description. Marginal differences on issues become epic idealogical disagreements.

Frequently the political stew is spiced by the candidacy of a new face, often a younger one. This natural concession to the evolution of society nonetheless raises the spectre of stock prejudices which in their most charitable form are characterized as the conflict between energy and experience. The over-riding party mantra ensures the disparity is seldom about initiative and tradition but the creeping favour for dark hair and a clear compexion is compelling. Only occasionally is there the novelty and humour of the likes of the Rhinoceros Party; politics is largely a serious business and the erstwhile mockery of our elected representatives gives way instead to grim-faced pronouncements.

It is the privilege of the masses, much like the former Roman citizens at the Flavian Amphitheatre, to watch with greedy and sometimes barbarous delight the unfolding campaign tactics of the unctuous candidates. The spectacle is at times circus-like with particularly enthusiastic contenders taking to the street to wave like a puppet at on-coming traffic or to pretend to be your long-lost friend in front of the local hardware or grocery store on a Saturday morning. Others confine their election operations to the somewhat less contentious custom of door-to-door confrontations, a model which historically has received mixed reviews but which for some voters is the deciding factor one way or the other. In our riding we have the singular advantage of being able to attend an “All Candidates” evening which – even if you’re not dedicated to hearing the details of each political plank – is rather like the annual country fair, an opportunity for mild amusement and communion with one’s neighbours. The opportunity also affords the rank and file the chance to demonstrate its interest and determination in the political process, one to be crowned eventually with the hard-won right to cast a vote.

Until voting day however there are likely to be far more intrusions upon our private life about the pundits’ predictable results than we would prefer. The media is thrown the proverbial bone upon which to gnaw to its heart’s content. Some members of the pubic have satisfactorily aligned themselves with the process to guarantee modest employment at polling stations. When election day is at last upon us there are few who can resist the temptation to learn the results. It is the public lottery in which we all have a stake and a ticket.