I have insomnia. I have had it for a long while. Recently the only way I have managed to get to sleep is to imagine a world where we have won the plebiscite, and the parties that failed to secure individual majorities have successfully combined into a coalition that prevents Stephen Harper from continuing his disastrous reign. My partner tells me I am dreaming in technicolour.
I can deal with the No campaign appealing to the anti tax, right wing crowd. I would expect no more. What has hurt are the numbers of people who say they are voting No on principles that we share, like equality. That they are voting No for all sorts of Good Reasons. They have not, they say, been swayed by the outright lies perpetrated by the CTF which only now are being authoritatively tackled by those traduced by them. Rather they object to the Really Important Issues. Like the impact of a regressive tax on poor people, or the thoroughly unsatisfactory governance of our transit system and its lack of accountability to the people of this region. That rejecting a sales tax is more important than getting more HandyDART service – as though that were – somehow – a bribe.
Peter Ladner in his BIV editorial hits the right note
The only one clear message all these heartfelt no votes can truly claim is: I cannot bring myself to support the only proposal on the table, backed by municipal, regional and provincial governments, endorsed by 130-plus organizations from all walks of life, that – in spite of its inevitable flaws – is guaranteed to strengthen the economy, spread costs evenly, clean up the air and save lives, reduce spending on costly automobile infrastructure and subsidies, improve social equity, reduce public health costs, give employers access to a wider range of employees, give tens of thousands of households a chance to save $10,000 a year in automobile expenses, speed up goods movement, and reduce congestion and commuting times.
But rather like last weekend’s Pete McMartin column just a little bit too late, I fear.
The time to submit your votes stretches out before us, but I have a worry that the convinced have already committed themselves – not that they were open to any suasion. They had already made up their minds, and cannot conceive of any circumstances that would persuade them otherwise. And the people who might be swayed don’t actually vote these days. Their ballot has probably been recycled, or simply lost. Or they never bothered to register and anyway they haven’t got a driver’s license.
So this is now the time for the Hail Mary pass. A ball tossed high in the air in the hopes that someone near the goal line might actually reach it in time. And we could still, maybe, squeak out a win. If you are reading this you are mostly likely someone who has already voted. So this is not addressed to you. This is aimed at those who care enough to register, who got their ballots only recently and have not yet made up their minds. Or who could still register, and vote, if only they can summon up the will to try and make a difference.
Because that is where we are. More of the same, only getting steadily worse as we try to find another way forward. or something better. Something we had a glimpse of in 2010, but which seems to have slipped our grasp. A place where owning a car and driving for everything, no matter what, does not define us. Where walking, cycling and taking transit are realistic options. Where society actually does exist. Where “me first” is not an acceptable justification for anything.
When originally published this article had no title. I have since inserted the title from the Business In Vancouver editorial by Peter Ladner that I quoted