More productive than an election?

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Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

The default reaction of many voters to candidates in the election campaign was . . . to complain. Many people “asked for stuff” or carped about what has been going on, but  very few made positive suggestions, except to ask for more spending.

Dispatches from the 148 by Fred Ryan

The default reaction of many voters to candidates in the election campaign was . . . to complain. Many people “asked for stuff” or carped about what has been going on, but  very few made positive suggestions, except to ask for more spending.
Granted, the parties had already worked out their programs, and each party had its advisors, whom, we were told, were experts on the issues, better versed than you and I. But
must this reduce us to
complainers?
 Passivity does us no favours. Feeling that all we have to do is vote every few years in order to keep our democracy alive is terribly passive. We can do much more, we can play a larger and more positive role – without sacrificing our
personal lives to politics.
Community efforts go on all year long, year after year; we aren’t squeezed into an eleven-week
window, after which we’re expected to wait another four years before we wake up again, politically speaking. Our local efforts need not be shaped and shaved to fit national programs or to fit federal budgetary constraints.
For example, most of us believe our communities would be stronger and more interesting if all kids had greater educational opportunities. It is better for us to live within an
educated population than live in one that’s not. Yet education, besides its
jurisdictional boundaries, seems always to be a
sacrificial victim on the
fiscal altar.
There’s an example already underway – the Pontiac Scholarship Fund – of us helping our kids
further their education. Over the years that fund has had a very good impact, but there are communities that have done even more. In Michigan, several towns have set up programs of free post-secondary education for any youth who
can meet the strict
requirements. In Baldwin, Michigan, retirees set about raising a fund of several hundred thousand for
college aid – including books and living expenses. Baldwin is no wealthier than the Pontiac, yet
hundreds of people chipped in $500 each
for this. Such campaigns don’t require a national consensus, big debates, a party’s agreement, nor a budget compromise.
That’s one example
of successful community building from the ground up – and there are more. 
 Another non-political measure to improve the Pontiac, one we can all
participate in, is to
boot-strap up our region’s economy. Our economy is the soil in which everything grows. We each can do
plenty – by shopping within the Pontiac,  by keeping our money at home so it is
re-invested here. Shopping at home creates jobs at home, creates more choice, adds to the supporters of community services and recreation (figure skating, hockey, the Fair, on
and on). We don’t need
permission from Québec or Ottawa – all we have to do is keep shopping as we
ormally do, except for one thing: limit it to “local”. Shop at home. Why give
the profits to Toronto or
elsewhere? Spend our money at home, and home will grow strong enough to keep our kids here and give us jobs and retirement capabilities.
These two examples – building Pontiac’s educational and economic futures – are only two of many approaches, both independent of elections and bureaucracies. In a
way, elections could almost be a distraction, making us think others are going to, and are willing to solve
our problems for us. For
hundreds of years, the Pontiac has been largely ignored in Québec and
in Ottawa. Why expect
salvation from that
direction? 
Complaining at elections should be our last option. There’s so much more we all can contribute, first.