Watching Politicians at Work

victoria-855810_1920A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of attending an All Candidates Meeting in Vancouver. It was the most educational two hours of my life. Fact and fiction diverged at frightening speeds and produced an eye-opening study in human behaviour, both on the part of MLA candidates and the audience.

Firstly, I loved that it commenced with a land acknowledgement. The vast majority of my experiences at community and school events have lacked this integral component. It made sure that we were all approaching this discussion in the same frame of mind. It would prove to be important later on when the questions from the audience turned to Canada’s darkest chapter, and how specific provincial parties plan on mitigating inter-generational trauma and working towards reconciliation.

Of the two hours, a good portion was spent on questions from the host. They were mainly of the quick yes or no variety, and yet the candidates simply refused to abide by the rules. Two of the three frequently gave non-answers, a common tactic of politicians. For some odd reason, I hadn’t thought that they’d have the audacity to do that to the voters who sacrificed their time to come sit in person and hear them address issues near and dear to the community’s heart. “Is your party committed to $10 a day for childcare? “I don’t have enough information.” I was aghast.

And that was only the beginning of the event.

As the questions collected by the host beforehand were answered (or more oftentimes, not), the candidates simply stopped trying. They degenerated into simply parroting their previous answers. The term evidence-based research was uttered more times than I cared to count by a certain candidate, in lieu of explaining what their party’s actual policy was in regards to specific issues like affordable housing. You could feel the aggravation in the room. A small part of me wished that throwing rotten produce at insufferable public figures was still a thing.

Unfortunately, only about a third of the evening was dedicated to the audience directly grilling the Liberal, NDP, and Green candidates. The good part was about to start. But first, there is something to be said for the strength of the individuals who stood in front of the crowd, and despite the underwhelming responses so far, were committed to asking questions about the things important to them personally. Vulnerability is undoubtedly powerful. Instead of honouring them, I felt that some of them hoped to capitalize off the emotional momentum by sharing stories of their own. Concrete answers were few and far between.

Watching politicians at work was a bit of a disheartening experience. As someone who is intensely interested in the landmine that is politics, I was disappointed to see that one of the candidates seemed wholly unprepared to answer questions, and another insisted on pulling faces every time their opponent was speaking. But watching the 30-something residents of the riding persevere was a sight for sore eyes and a hardened heart. One young man even gave a candidate a chance to enhance his previous non-answer. He repeated the same insubstantial comments as before. It was a symbolic moment.

By Asmaa Heban

* All views expressed in this blog post belong to the author and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of CYH.