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By German Gutierrez




    By German Gutierrez

  • The day I took the oath of Citizenship, my life changed forever. I am a Canadian. This is an apparently simple fact and yet I am as passionate about it as I am about be-ing alive. Since then, and for this very reason, I decided to become an active civilian in my new nation by volunteer-ing to serve on several committees and boards of direc-tors of social and non for profit organizations. These ex-periences were very enlightening and they taught me about the Canadian way of active Participation in society.

    After several years of social involvement, the next step for me was to become politically engaged. I was blessed with the help and support of many friends and colleagues who encouraged me to do so. In preparation for my in-troduction to politics I read the works of many brilliant Canadian scholars and shared magnificent conversations with politicians and political analysts who have honoured me with their friendship.

    I then decided to run for City Council in the Municipal election of 2010 in London, Ontario.

    In so doing, I had the opportunity to visit more than 8.000 Canadian households.

    This extraordinary combination of reading about Canadian politics, talking to scholars and analysts, together with the knowledge I received from the people directly at their doorsteps has led me to two inescapable conclusions:

    First, Canadians clearly are turned off by politics. Second, while some still want to vote, they all too often do not vote for the party that best reflects their own views. The first point is the more im-portant one and so I will address that first.

    Since the 1980s voter turnout has been dropping in Canada. It seems that with each election the percentage of people who vote declines a bit more. At the door during my municipal campaign I heard things such as I cant trust politicians, Politicians say one thing when campaigning and do something else when elected,

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    FEBRUARY 2011 London

    German Gutierrez NDP

    London North Centre

    Fundamental social standards, motivations, and attitudes

  • "You guys come to my door when you need my vote and then you disappear until the next election", "How dare you come to my house asking for my vote, when every-body knows you people just want to enjoy the salaries you get from my taxes" and You politicians dont listen to me...so why should I listen to you?

    I wanted to find out what changes have occurred over the years in our country that could lead to such reactions. From my memoirs of the conversations I had with the people, I have come up with some possible answers.

    The biggest reason for people to turn their backs on poli-tics has been globalization. Many Canadians feel that poli-ticians are more concerned with what is going on in other countries than with what is going on at home. The busi-ness community states loudly that no one can interfere with market forces and trends. But before globalization governments did a good job of controlling and setting rules for market forces. When globalization took over and markets were left alone the economies of the world crashed. But our politicians still talk about the im-portance of letting market forces lead us into the future. Clearly there is a disconnect between what is happening in the world and what our politicians are saying. It is no wonder then, that people are turning away from politics.

    Then there is the issue of how we are doing politics in Canada. If I view this process in the context of the testi-monials of the people I have spoken to, I must conclude that one of the greatest enemies of our Democracy in Can-ada is our own current political practice, which is based on ideological manifestations rather than on being re-sponsive to the needs of people. Certainly, there was a time in Canada when politicians did things for righteous causes. Those were the times of the founding fathers, and well up into the nineteen eighties, when politics obeyed the supreme guiding principle of trying to attain the best possible for the most possible.

    Lets Give Government back

    to its rightful owners: The


    German listening to the problems of those caring experts who

    have lost government support for their Programs

    With community leaders at the

    John Labatt, during the munic-

    ipal election of 2010

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    February 2011 London

    German Gutierrez NDP

    London North Centre

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    German Gutierrez NDP

    London North Centre

    But since then things have changed in Canada as they have changed in many other parts of the world today, thanks to the consequences of glob-alization and the exploitation of power in the interest of corporate financial success.

    These days, not many politicians are willing to do things for a cause. The rule of principle and social concern has sadly given way to the realm of complacency in the exploitation of power. And this is something that we cannot allow in Canada.

    And yet it is happening. It is happening because those who are in power try to manipulate the population into accepting that their way is the only way. And in this, they have the support of powerful media.

    At one time in North America governments rep-resented both the interests of business and the interests of people. But now governments clear-ly favour the interests of business over those of the people, as has been evident in the way this recession has been managed.

    One of the reasons for this is, of course, globali-zation, because our leaders tell us we have to do things in our economies to remain competitive within the developing world.

    Years ago, governments would implement pro-grams to aid people who had been adversely affected by economic changes.

    Now governments do not seem to want to do this. The people who have a say in our societies consider that the responses of the Globalized market place are the only answer. Typical ex-amples of this are the recent Provincial Con-servative initiatives in Ontario of eliminating full-time Kindergarten and reducing corporate taxes, both in the best interest of powerful cor-porations and with total disregard for the plight of the average citizen.

    German at Londons International Airport

    A moment with Nature

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  • The trouble is we haven't realized that both our politicians and our business leaders go to the same schools and

    learn the same approaches to how the world works. And so, our democratic governments become undemocratic

    in how they perform because they leave the people behind from the very moment they step into their classrooms,

    years before they make it to the real world.

    My past experience is that the participation of the electorate loses ground when the exercise of political power

    begins to tolerate different types of benefaction that entrench the imperative of monetary power over that of so-

    cial concern. Politics then becomes a tool in the hands of businessmen, and political issues are turned into oppor-

    tunities to subdue and overpower public opinion and to take advantage of bureaucracy to wield power and influ-


    When that happens, Politics takes a step in the direction of consensus and mediocrity.

    The people in power then rely on politics to be mediocre because it is the only way to attain the level of complicity

    necessary to hold on to power. This has become so evident in the kinds of actions and inactions of the govern-

    ments in power in Canada, that the hard-working people of the nation have decided to step away from politics.

    They prefer not to know what is going on in the circles of power because in the end they figure whatever they

    think or feel will not be taken into account.

    There is an individual conviction that leads each constituent's vote away from the polls on election day that is ex-

    pressed very simply with these words: "No matter what I do, no matter who I vote for, everything will remain the

    same. These guys (politicians) are just a bunch of manipulators. None of them deserve my vote." The problem is

    that the people who have come to think like this in Canada now number the hundreds of thousands. Should we

    worry? I think we should. However, many politicians don't seem to care much because they feel this will not real-

    ly affect them as long as they remain in power. In fact, it is easier to steer a 39% of the potential vote, for example,

    than it would be to control higher percentages of democratic participation.

    Another problem is that the opinions and thesis statements that were at the base of the healthy polarization which

    led to most of Canada's greatest social and political achievements are now gone from the political arena. Constitu-

    ents now believe that voting is just not worth it. And the truth is that, given the apparent unbeatable nature of the

    way politics is now carried out, people feel that it is ridiculous to protest. A compliant silence is much more com-

    fortable. The new political structure appears to be strong and long lasting and, because of the way it functions,

    there is no real accountability.

    Several North, Central and South American democracies have fallen victim of such structur