Is it democracy?

A reader wonders if the recent decision regarding the Ashcroft school name fits the definition of "democratic"

Dear Editor,

Today I am reflecting on the word democracy: “A government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation involving periodically held elections.” When those who represent us win elections by acclamation, through apathy or whatever the case may be, the people have expressed a lack of interest in the democratic process.

In Canada we have the privilege of electing people to represent us, and should embrace that privilege by having more than one candidate for each position, to provide a choice. We should listen to the positions espoused by candidates, then choose the one that most closely conforms to our own ideas. All too often elections become popularity contests and issues are pushed aside.

When people are elected by acclamation it is easy to forget they have a responsibility to those they represent. An elected official becomes a public servant. They must hear the voice of those they represent and serve those who elected them.

I have lived in this community for forty-one years and have always favoured local autonomy. When the government favoured amalgamating school districts, I was against it, feeling that smaller communities would lose a voice regarding their unique special needs. When those elected to represent us disregard the voice of those they were elected to represent, perhaps we would be better served by having one or two trustees on a larger board like Kamloops or Merritt. We would certainly have greater resources at our disposal, and perhaps there would be greater interest in the selection of the person or persons representing our interests.

Perhaps another recourse is recalling elected official(s). This is the process followed in parliament when MLAs have ignored the will of their constituents. It would require consultation with the Ministry of Education regarding the procedure to be followed should this become necessary.

Why bother conducting an opinion poll and then ignoring the will of the people? Not responding to a petition with over 600 signatures simply asking you to revisit your decision and perhaps open the matter to further public discussion would appear to show contempt for those you serve.

Based on the definition of “democracy” set out in Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, it is difficult to understand “We believe that the decision to name the school Desert Sands Community School was fairly and democratically conducted and to revisit the name would be undemocratic and unfair considering the many people who participated. . . . This information shows that the name Desert Sands School received the second highest level of support from stakeholders . . .” (a portion of the letter I received from the Board of Education in response to my letter questioning the process followed). Using this logic on a slightly larger scale, it would appear that Mr. Romney should be the President of the United States instead of Mr. Obama, because he received the second highest number of votes.

I would like to introduce another word: oligarchy (“rule by a small group”). When the democratic process fails, the next step is often rule by a small group or by one. The electorate must remain vigilant to ensure that those representing them do not abuse the trust which they have been accorded.

Mike Baldwin, Ashcroft