Parenting is not easy in Canada when adults don't know how to co-operate

by Wing Wo

May 1, 2012

Wing Wo is a founding member of the Canadian Electoral Alliance and has been speaking to her son Nigel about Canadian politics - this is what she wrote about her experience:

Parenting is not easy. Parenting in Canada is even harder... much harder than it needs to be.

When Canada withdrew from the Kyoto Agreement, my ten year old asked me,“Why?” He wondered why Canada was not committed to doing its share of reducing the carbon emission.

When the Harper Government decided to fast track development of the tar sands, my child, again, asked, “Why?”

Our children know what climate change is. We encourage them to participate in reducing our carbon footprint at home and in the community. It is hard to teach them one thing while our government is promoting the opposite. Are we supposed to be decreasing carbon emissions or not? Are we supposed to protect our environment or carelessly exploit our natural resources? Are we supposed to use less oil but more green energy?

And then my son realized something else. He asked, “Why don't we do what we promised? We signed the Kyoto agreement. Isn't that like a promise we need to keep? Am I correct, Mom?”

We teach our children the importance of keeping promises. We encourage them to “practice what you preach”. Our governments, on the other hand, seem to joyfully do the opposite. Over and over again, our elected officials do not do what they promised to do and back out of agreements they do make.

The next (not surprisingly) logical question from my son wasn't at all slow in coming; “Mom, why can Harper do whatever he wants?” Good grief, I think, thanks a lot Stephen Harper!

I try to explain to my son that the MPs in Parliament debate but that Prime Minister, Harper, being the leader of a majority government, gets to set the policy. Yes, yes, my son said, he had learned about the elections at school already. But what he could not figure out was why the Conservatives got a majority government with less than 40% of the overall vote! That meant the Conservatives' “majority” does not match up with the “majority” of the voters. How unfair!

Finally, I tell him how our electoral system allows MPs to win without receiving most of the votes – that many, many votes don't matter because of the way they're counted. And I explain vote splitting and fair voting and wait for the penny to drop. It does, shortly.

“You'd think if the other parties know they want the same things then they'd just work together. Then they could get the majority of seats in the parliament and be in charge! Isn't that a good idea?” Of course, I agree. Together, they could get a new electoral system and we could vote for a government that truly represents us. Then governments would do the right thing, tackle climate change and keep its word too. My son nodded in excitement.

“But...”,I continued.

“What, Mom?”

I told him that most parties do not want to co-operate because they think that one day, they can win and have a majority government of their very own.

My son was now very upset. “Don't they even understand what co-operation means?” I can only sigh. He's right. We keep telling our kids to be team players, that co-operation works. Why is it that our politicians cannot set a good example for our future generations and start co-operating and working together for a better country?

Well, I do not know how to answer my son's questions any more. I guess parenting will be easier when everyone gets the meaning of ideas like co-operation, our place on the earth and the importance of keeping our promises like our children do.