Spring has sprung it seems. This morning, the sun is shining, the air is warm and the snow is mostly disappeared. It feels good to be outside without a parka, mitts etc. What shall we think about today? What issue is in our minds and lives? For some it is the Stanley Cup Playoffs and the fate of the Ottawa Senators. Exciting I agree.
But I think the issue for me is the Mike Duffy trial. In my time on PEI, the melodrama about Senator Mike Duffy was front and centre most days. Islanders were for the most part disappointed about the antics of Duffy, and his ties to PEI. It seemed as though it was an embarrassment to them. They knew Duffy had moved away from the Island a long time ago for work. That is a common phenomenon for them. Many of their family members born on PEI, grew up on PEI, now live in Alberta, Ontario and in the United States. However there are two things that occur with this group of the PEI diaspora. Every summer, they come home. To see friends, go to the magnificent beaches, eat sea food, or just be at home. The second event that happens is at retirement age. Many, not all, islanders will return home. They buy or build a house and live in retirement on PEI. At most times in their lives, if you asked, they would usually say – Yes, I am an Islander. Where they actually live is not the issue.
I don’t want to defend Mike Duffy, and cannot really. But he is an Islander, even though he has lived in Ottawa for 40 years. He does have a cottage, and is on PEI at some time during the summer. So far, we don’t know if he would return home to PEI. Bets are, he will stay here in Ottawa. (Well, he may have no control over where he stays, after the trial.)
Islanders are disgusted with Mike Duffy because he took advantage and claimed entitlement to things he should not have, simply because he was appointed as a Senator. It was obvious to most people including Islanders that Mike Duffy was in it for himself, not for PEI and not for Canada. The trial will determine what legal or illegal things Duffy did. But Islanders would say that the manipulation of loopholes and loose regulations and rules does not make it right or proper. His definition of his cottage on PEI as his main residence and claiming living expenses in Ottawa is inappropriate. Using Senate expense accounts for personal comfort is inappropriate. This is all well and good for Islanders or anyone else to be disgusted with Duffy or any of other senators. But truth be told, we are just as much at fault. We are at fault because we have turned away from political discourse. We have said “They are all like.” “It does not matter. All politicians are the same” The number of people who vote in Federal, Provincial, Municipal, and School Board elections is truly disheartening. Politicians and political parties are elected when perhaps only 60% of eligible voters bother to cast a ballot. In municipal elections it is even worse. Why do we not vote? Is it too much of an inconvenience? Do we not have the time? Do we not know what the issues are? Do we not care?
Our ambivalence and lack of interest in the political process and in the government of the country is shameful. When people like Mike Duffy see how little people really care, their ability to take advantage is easy because nobody cares. Mike Duffy and the others – in the Senate and in places in government are entitled because we allow them to feel entitled and we do not hold them accountable through the most powerful tool – the right to vote.
Around the world, wars and civil rights movements are fought. People die in conflict. This is done to gain the right to vote. In South Africa who can forget the first election when apartheid died? Millions of people who had never been allowed to vote, waited days in line to cast a ballot. We should take our responsibility as a citizen seriously. Maybe then politicians and those who think they can do anything will stop. Faith is the same.
Faith does not just come to us. We must take responsibility in our own faith journey. God calls us to be involved in our faith journey. We are called to pray. We are called to read Holy Scripture. We are called to care for each other – feed the hungry, care for widows and orphans, visit the lonely. Love one another.
I believe that we are called to speak up for ourselves in the way we live, in the way we are governed, in the way we ask others to work on our behalf, in the way we will hold them accountable to us and to a greater truth. We only do this through involvement in the political process, and in the plain and simple fact that we vote.
–Rev Boyd Drake