Part of being an elected representative is carefully listening to what the people are saying, not just hearing the words, but actually comprehending what frustrates them and what they want. The number of people who have responded to political polls as “undecided” has grown substantially in Alberta.
The word ‘representative’ has lost its meaning to a lot of the people who are now openly expressing their discontent with how the party structure of government has failed them. Recently in a conversation I had with a gentleman from Drumheller, he described himself as a “political orphan” because he feels he has no political home and nobody worthy of his vote. It’s a term that describes how a lot of people I’ve talked to seem to be feeling these days in Alberta.
The sense of being disaffected politically seems to be rooted in a gut feeling, that regardless of who they vote for, it won’t make a difference because their representative will be forced to toe the party line and put the best interests of others outside the constituency ahead of the best interests of those they’re supposed to be representing. Most experts agree that voter disengagement is most prevalent among the young people. However, very little is being done to correct the actual problem.
Over the last 44 years, spanning 13 provincial elections, voter turnout has averaged just over 50 percent with the 2008 election seeing a dismal turnout of a mere 40.5 per cent. The numbers rebounded slightly in 2012 at 59.9 percent and in 2015 at 58.4 per cent elections but recent poll numbers suggest that another very low voter turnout may be imminent.
It’s worth noting that Albertans had a legitimate alternative to the reigning PCs in 2012 and 2015 that being the Wildrose party. But the rejection of Wildrose as government shows Albertans did not consider them as qualified. According to the overwhelming feedback I’m receiving from inside and outside the comstituency, it appears many Albertans are undecided without a legitimate alternative like they’ve had in the distant past.
A 2013 study done on Britain’s political system showed that almost half were angry with MPs and a quarter not interested in the issues their representatives were bringing forward. The study suggested that the problem was being exacerbated because politicians were not taking voter concerns seriously enough. The most stunning statement to come from the study was that young people don’t think political parties or politicians are the legitimate solution. Our politicians should be paying rapt attention.
Since making my decision to sit as an Independent Member of the Legislature, the feedback has been overwhelming from people expressing their frustration with the current political choices they have. It seems that the feelings expressed from the gentleman in Drumheller that described himself as a “political orphan” is much more prevalent than most people realize. The message is loud and clear, the electorate is broadly dissatisfied.
Although singular events contribute to the feeling of the political orphan, they are not the driving factor behind the discontent. From what the constituents of Drumheller Stettler are communicating, the decline has more to do with the structural inadequacies when it comes to the lack of direct representation they have received from political parties available over the past three decades.
As Alberta’s political parties roll out their “one size fits all” policy platforms that fall well short of fitting every Albertan in every constituency, the feeling of personal disengagement seems to be growing. If politicians fail to give people something to be passionate about, why would voters participate?
If you’re one of those people who feel like a political orphan, you may find a home in a ‘consensus government’ option. There is a grassroots rebellion rising!
Please stand by for part three!!