June 27, 1997 Halifax Herald

Mockery of democracy; Third World highways

WELL, folks, the federal election dust has settled and the country has a majority Liberal government. In view of the fact that the overwhelming majority, 62 percent of the electors, rejected the Liberals, this is hard to believe.

The question arising from this absurd result is: Are democratic ideals prevailing in a country where almost two-thirds of it's electorate say no to a political party, yet see that Party form a majority government?

What really amazes me about this sad situation is that very few commentators or editors have expressed any outrage about it. It would seem only reasonable in a democratic society that it's news media, which have a responsibility to expose and oppose injustices, would be out front crying for reform of a process where a minority of voters picks a government and voids the will of the majority. But not only do they not generally oppose it, many go so far as to refer to the results as a mandate for the Party chosen by the minority.

What's even more incredible about the present situation is that the majority, who were disenfranchised by the election results, meekly accept what is a travesty of their rights without protest!

We don't even protest when politicians rub salt into our wounds by making outrageous claims. For instance, after the ballots were counted, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien made this awesomely imaginative assessment of the situation: "This evening, the Canadian people have renewed their confidence in our team and in our program. I accept this honour and this responsibility." Wow! What an imagination!

Come on Alexa McDonough, Gilles Duceppe, Jean Charest, Jean Chrétien and Preston Manning, it's time to start a push for electoral reform in this country. Other democracies have introduced reforms which uphold the will of the majority in elections and the world hasn't collapsed.

Many of these countries have instituted a two-tier run-off system where, if one candidate doesn't achieve a majority in the first round, then the two candidates with the most votes go head to head. Others have gone to proportional representation. Personally, I prefer the first method because the second tends to lead to coalition governments, which lead to political instability.

After the results of the election were posted, things were said by political pundits which gave many of us a good belly laugh. For instance, some stated that the citizens in Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and New Brunswick, because of their rejection of the Liberals, would not be given the same federal attention that they received during the past three and a half years. Let’s hope and pray that this assessment is true.

We got so much of the Liberal government's attention during it's first term that our taxes went up to the extent that we now pay higher taxes on the essentials of life than citizens in the rest of the country. On reflection, the election results indicate strongly that many voters weren't persuaded that their pocketbooks could stand any more of this sort of wonderful attention!

NOW to the subject of Nova Scotia highways; that is, if we can any longer call them that - perhaps the term “trails” would be more appropriate. Without any fear of being called a liar, one can only describe them as a mess.

The potholes abounding in many of our roads put to shame the same found in many of the roads in Third World countries. Certainly, our potholes can compete effectively with the ones found in the roads in Mexico, which are, by anyone's standards, awesome! As a result of the lowering of the conditions of Nova Scotia's highways to the level of those found in such countries as Mexico, one's car can be literally shaken to pieces when driving over many of them.

There are, however, places to go to escape potholes. We recently took a trip through New Brunswick, Maine and New Hampshire and I can state that it was a welcome relief and pleasure to drive over highways without having to keep eyes firmly glued to the pavement, in order to avoid wrecking the car by hitting large potholes.

Another thing grabs your eye when driving into New Brunswick from Nova Scotia. One is greeted with the sight of three N.B. provincial flags flying proudly at the border. Upon returning home, one is greeted with three bare flagpoles. Can't we even afford to fly our own flag?

After viewing the bare flagpoles, the drive begins over what can be described as a mainly worn-out highway to Halifax. This drive would, if you were a stranger, make you very apprehensive about the decrepit conditions that might be found in Halifax. The highway, with its many potholes, patches, cracking and crumbling asphalt, screams poverty. What a way to make an impression on visitors.

If one thinks the main highways are a mess, then one should stay away from secondary roads. They are indescribable! Because of space limitations I can't list all that are screaming for major repairs, but No.14 is high among them. This spring, it looked as if it had been the target of all the bombing that had taken place during the two world wars (a bit of exaggeration, but I don't think the local who use it on a daily basis would argue with it)!

Maybe our decrepit highways are related to the mess our politics are in. Whatever the case, we need drastic action to fix both!

Daniel N. Paul


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