Listen up, leaders

When I used to write primarily about arts and culture, I trained myself to look for trends across media. Themes or tropes that frequently occur in movies, TV, books and theatre can often reveal social or philosophical concerns that society (or at least the people who make art) are preoccupied with.

This trendspotting is a hard habit to break. Now that my job divides my attention across the entire spectrum of news, I still find myself looking for recurring themes in the world around us. One that has popped up repeatedly this week is the seeming unwillingness of leaders of supposedly democratic institutions to listen to the voters they’re meant to represent.

This cropped up for me while editing this week’s cover story by features editor Charlie Morin, in which they discuss Mountain Equipment Co-op’s sale to a private American investment firm, which was done without consulting the co-operative’s thousands of voting members. Since reading that article, I’ve noticed leaders ignoring their voters at every turn.

The most obvious example of this is US president Donald Trump’s refusal to recognize his decisive loss in the recent election. But there have been many instances of democratic negligence from our own leaders.

On Monday, the federal NDP introduced a motion in Parliament to create a one per cent wealth tax on Canadians earning over $20 million annually to alleviate COVID-19’s financial impacts. A wealth tax on the wealthiest Canadians is an extremely popular idea with the Canadian public, with recent polls showing 76 per cent of Canadians strongly or somewhat supporting the idea. That poll includes a majority of voters from every political party, with even 70 per cent of Conservative voters supporting it.

But the NDP motion only garnered support from Green Party MPs, with the Liberals, Conservatives and Bloc Quebecois unanimously voting to block the motion.

In Manitoba, this week has seen growing calls for Premier Brian Pallister and Health Minister Cameron Friesen to resign over their disastrous mismanagement of COVID-19. This, coupled with revelations from PressProgress that Pallister spent the days after COVID hit Manitoba in his Costa Rican villa and private rainforest, make it clear that our own government, too, has contempt for the voters it’s meant to represent. 

Published in Volume 75, Number 10 of The Uniter (November 18, 2020)

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