On Monday night, my old friend Joanne came over for a visit. It was great to reconnect with someone I haven't seen in probably fifteen years.
Joanne and I attended the University of Alberta together, and even lived on the same floor (Main Kelsey) of Lister Hall for a couple of years. And of course, we were in the U of A Star Trek club together.
Joanne had some great stories to tell about her journeys, and one of them is even available on the web. Read The Alberta-France Divide in See magazine to learn Joanne's thoughts on French democracy, and how it differs from our own democratic life here in Alberta.
Joanne didn't plan to be in France during their elections, and that reminded me of my own accidental exposure to another sort of election, years ago, in Singapore. During the Christmas/New Year season of 1996/97, I went to Singapore to visit my friend Parvesh, another Main Kelsey resident and U of A graduate. And like Joanne, I arrived while the campaign was at its height.
I was somewhat troubled by what I experienced. The governing party blatantly threatened people who were thinking of voting for the opposition; government announcements clearly stated that public housing developments and other perks would be withheld from districts that elected opposition candidates. Public figures like media representatives were quietly but strongly discouraged from being seen with opposition candidates. The opposition leader himself was frequently hounded by the police.
I watched election night with Parvesh and some of her family friends, good people who were disappointed but not surprised to see that the ruling party had captured all but two (or it may have been four) seats. (Incidentally, that night I enjoyed one of the best meals I've ever eaten.)
Comparing Joanne's experience with my own, I can't help but compare Alberta's political landscape to both. As a progressive liberal in Canada's most conservative province, you can probably guess which political climate I feel most resembles our own.
When Earl's optimism about democracy was THIS BIG!