Have you ever met someone who says they never talk about politics, or who insists on not getting involved in political discussions?
The irony about such an idea is that even people who don’t talk about politics and shun involvement in it can’t escape the fact that political outcomes are all around us. Whether we like it or not, politics shapes our lives.
Traffic laws, tax laws, minimum wage laws, contract and labour laws (including the government’s new farm law, Bill 6) all apply to the way we work and interact with each other. The cost endured by every business or citizen as a result of such laws gets incorporated into the price of things—gas at the pump, things at the store, wine from a local vendor.
Businesses get their money from customers. So every time politicians pass a law saying that carbon or corporate taxes are higher or that the cost of wages has gone up, businesses have to choose between upping their selling prices, laying off employees, stopping new investment, or going broke.
In Alberta, politics has even reached far into the world of electricity, and everybody is going to be affected by it, including the people who don’t want to talk about politics.
In Ontario, politics changed the electrical system. The Ottawa-based Climate Science Coalition says in some cases electrical rates have tripled since the early part of the previous decade. Manufacturers that depend heavily upon electricity are leaving, taking investment and jobs with them. A Globe & Mail headline proclaims: “Ontario drives manufacturers away with overpriced electricity.” Bob Malcolmson, CEO of the Oshawa Chamber of Commerce, stated that 2,700 businesses fled Ontario in a single year.
Some people say politics is distasteful because politicians argue, debate, and get partisan about things. That’s true. Yet it’s also true that in every free society, political debate is the place where ideas and differing opinions are supposed to bang against each other, get aired out, and argued over. This is what English philosopher John Stuart Mill meant when he said: “Truth emerges from the clashing of adverse ideas.”
When politicians debate and argue it’s not because the political system is broken. Canada’s political system was designed to be adversarial. One party in the legislature is deliberately named “the opposition” because its responsibility is to oppose the assumptions, actions, and policies of the governing party. The beauty of this is that we decide who’s right and who’s wrong. Everybody gets a ringside seat and the chance to vote in the next election.
So what else does politics let us decide? The current government says it’s comfortable being in debt, possibly even for an amount exceeding $100 billion. One MLA claims government debt is the same as a home mortgage. Fiscal conservatives disagree, pointing out that at the end of every home mortgage, there’s a valuable asset that can be sold. At the end of government debt, there’s only debt—paid for by our children—plus interest payments. There’s never a marketable asset. No one buys old highways and used bridges.
Politics allows ordinary Albertans to decide which agenda they’ll follow. Political leaders say whatever they want, but in the end, we elect the government. In other words, political debate protects our freedom, which explains why we shouldn’t avoid discussing such things.