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Partisanship, what is it good for?

What if people simply looked at political candidates as the person who the community selected to champion the area’s greatest needs, not solely based on their party’s ideologies? What if more people shrugged off the notion of partisanship and got involved in conversations happening across the political spectrum?

When things seem to be going wrong in society how do we cope? Usually, we start by looking to those in roles of leadership – local leaders, provincial leaders, possibly even our federal leader. 

And why shouldn’t we? We are taxpaying, ballot marking, civilly responsible people who have done our due diligence. So, when things go wrong there are people in place that we expect to manage situations in our best interests.  

Whether the person we voted for holds office or not, they have a responsibility to all constituents – not just those who favour them.  

And for that reason – the fact that an elected official should represent all of their constituents – I question if partisanship is harmful, or if it is really in anyone’s best interest. 

The word partisanship means, “strong and sometimes blind adherence to a particular party, faction, cause, or person,” according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. 

The definition doesn’t exactly make staying within party lines sound all that appealing or even very positive. It sounds somewhat like group think. You are either with us, or against us. 

When it comes to other terms touted more and more frequently, such as ‘extreme partisanship’ or ‘hyper-partisanship,’ it paints an even clearer picture of ongoing polarization. 

In the next few weeks, a tiny fraction of the Lakeland’s population will go to the polls and pick a candidate who may very possibly be Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul’s next MLA.  

Of course, a provincial election is still relatively far off, and one cannot make such grandiose predictions. However, Albertans outside of major urban centers typically vote in favour of conservative leaning parties, with the United Conservative Party scooping up the most support from conservative voters. 

For that reason, the UCP’s local nominee race is actually quite important because those who show up to cast a ballot may be selecting the riding’s next provincial representative. And yet, under five per cent of the riding’s residents are eligible to cast a ballot based on only about 2.6 per cent of constituents having a UCP membership. 

Whether or not someone holds all the same beliefs as the UCP party, should they not have a say in the riding's representative? It is an interesting thought. 

I wonder what political engagement would be like if more citizens decided to be non-partisan. What if more people decided that they wanted to be engaged across the political spectrum whether that meant taking part in the UCP nomination race, or a Green Party, NDP or Alberta Party political convention? 

What if people simply looked at political candidates as the person who the community selected to champion the area’s greatest needs, not solely based on their party’s ideologies? 

Our municipal, provincial, and federal leaders should be championing what is best for their constituents – not just tagging along with other MLAs or MPs based on party lines. 

Yes, a party’s values do matter – but when political decisions are bogged down because leaders are expected to tow the party line and refrain from collaborating with the opposition – no one wins. 

With most provincial parties charging just $10 to be a member – for less than $50, an Albertan can have input in a variety of political conversations happening throughout the province. 

If more voters shrugged off partisanship and listened to conversations happening among a variety of political groups, I think we would start to realize that most groups have the same goals – improve healthcare, improve care for seniors, improve education, all while being fiscally responsible. 

Jazmin Tremblay

About the Author: Jazmin Tremblay

Jazmin completed a minor in journalism at Hanze University in the Netherlands and completed her Communication Studies degree from MacEwan University with a major in journalism.
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