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Elections can only make things better

But to get there, first you have to define what “better” means

With an Alberta provincial election coming up in mid-April and a federal election likely to happen in the fall of 2019, I know it is just a matter of days before all my problems will be solved.

With either new or re-confirmed governments in place in both jurisdictions all my troubles will be lifted. Everything will be different, better. The sun will shine everyday.

As an existing government is replaced, I will be glad because the old one cared nothing about me the average person and was only concerned with their selfish political interests. The new government won’t be like that. And if a government is re-elected, re-confirmed, I know they will have listened to the people, learned from their mistakes and do a much better job.

I take great comfort in knowing the elected government will be honest and trustworthy, working 24/7 on my behalf. They will be transparent, and never let a shadow of politics affect their decisions. They will lower taxes, increase services so that my life will be easy. They will proactively support every worthwhile industry sector, commodity organization, consumer interest, race, colour, creed, religious sect, and sexual orientation because they know that all of these interests are “very important” and the government takes their concerns “very seriously.”

Elections bring renewal — they are the life-on-earth version of dying and going to heaven.

If it isn’t obvious I am a little (if not a lot) cynical about politics. I am sure there are many good and honest people who go into politics hoping to make life better for their constituents or generally the people of Canada, but it seems so seldom the cream rises to the top. Even if they start out with good motives, those seem to quickly be beaten out of them once they find their seat in a legislature. (I always find it interesting when people leave politics they usually say it’s because they want to spend more time with their family, which would suggest those going into politics are looking to spend less time with their families.)

Generally, red, blue, orange, green — it really doesn’t matter the colour of the election sign, once a political party takes office all colours fade to grey.

Governments run largely on political fear. I can see fear in government runs deep 365 days of the year and only gets amplified around election time. For example, there was a time when I could call an Agriculture Canada researcher in any part of the country to ask a question about their research. Their contact information is listed on the website, I could call and talk to them directly. In recent years in most cases I need to have that call approved by someone in federal communications, before the researcher is allowed to talk to me. Makes sense — you can’t just reveal proper control measures of dandelions to every Tom, Dick and Mary.

And if I ever think about contacting the Pest Management Review Agency or the Canadian Food Inspection Agency about a current issue or for background, I consider them “black holes” of information.

It is similar situation at the provincial government level. One of the first encounters a few years ago, I wanted to talk to a forage specialist in Saskatchewan about the quality of the hay crop. I reached a specialist, but he couldn’t talk to me because the election had been called in Saskatchewan and there was a gag order on all employees. Again you can appreciate how information on hay shortages or surpluses could mortally wound an election campaign — obviously the government must feel it is responsible for how much it rains or doesn’t rain.

In Alberta you don’t need to be in the middle of an election call, to find employees on edge. Several weeks before the April 16 election was announced, I called the Royal Tyrell Museum in Drumheller for information for a column (the museum is part of the highly secretive and sensitive tourism department) but was told they couldn’t talk to the media about new dinosaur exhibits for 2019 because the election might be called and they couldn’t give out any information during the “red zone,” which apparently covers 12 months of the year.

Similarly, for years I have been calling specialists with Alberta Agriculture to talk about weeds, crops, livestock or whatever. I used to be able to call the specialist, listed on the government website directly. Recently I’ve been told by the specialists, they can’t talk to me unless I first get approval from the department’s communications branch. And that can be a hit-and-miss process. Sometimes they get back to me within a few hours with clearance to speak to the specialist and sometimes they don’t. Political fears are paralyzing. Politicians talk about running a government that is open and accessible, unless you’re looking for information on the highly controversial subjects of hay quality, weed control, seeding rates or fossils.

The rhetoric is obvious no matter what, but in an odd way I am impressed how a prime minister or department head can effortlessly sidestep a simple yes or no answer to an important question with a useless bafflegab, non-answer, always ending with the reassurance they take the matter very seriously or very, very seriously as the situation warrants.

Elections remind me a bit of those signs you see sometimes on restaurants or motels “now under new management.” What is that telling me? Should I expect a greatly improved experience or just appreciate they now have fewer bed bugs and complimentary mousetraps in every room?

About the author

Field Editor

Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary.

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