A Tale Of Two Countries

We had a provincial election this month. At the beginning of the election campaign, the ruling Liberal party was about 20% behind the opposition New Democrat Party (NDP). The gap got a little narrower and narrower towards Election Day, but the final polls still said the Liberal Party was going to lose “for sure”. However, on voting day, the Liberals ended up winning a greater majority than before. This was considered the biggest upset in the provincial election history in this province, if not in all of Canada. It also casts grave doubts on the validity of the results obtained by the polling companies during the election.

I never really trust the polling companies, because I think they are falling behind the changing reality of voters. For one thing, there are so much telephone fraud that people hesitate to give out private information on the phone to strangers. With Caller ID, people do not even answer those phones anymore.

Surveys on the web also do not reflect the true population. When on line, most young people have strong opinions about politics in the discussions, sitting comfortably in their arm-chairs, but when it comes to the actual voting process, less than half of them bother taking the time to come out to the polling stations to wait in line to vote.

As a result, this time only about 50% of the eligible voters came out to vote, and the voting results were completely opposite to those of the polling companies.

Some people said they did not vote because the polls all said the NDP was a sure winner anyway, so there is no need to waste their time lining up at the voting stations.

There are others who felt the parties are the same. They can promise anything during the campaign, but when they get in, they will give you reasons why they cannot do this and that, and worse still, they will do what they really wanted to do but did not bother telling you during the election campaign. In general, from past experience, most politicians are not as trustworthy as they claim. To many of us, it seems that the voting process is a waste of time.

Now look at my hometown Hong Kong. It is at the other end of the spectrum in terms of democracy. During my teenage years there, we never knew what free election was. We never questioned why and how the high level officials of our colonial government were appointed. It seemed that most of us were born with the colonial subject mentality. With the horrible situation happening just across the border in the Communist China during those years, we were all happy to be “protected” living under the British flag. There was little appetite for democracy.

With the announcement of the return of Hong Kong back to China in 1997 during the 1980’s, people of Hong Kong started to wake up to the reality that that their lives would soon be different. Moreover, it was also the time for the Internet, so people can truly appreciate what life is under full democracy in other parts of the world. Furthermore, within the last decades, the newfound Chinese wealth started to spill into Hong Kong, and along with it the rise of the middle class. There is now room and rising demand for democracy.

As in the Western world, people of Hong Kong wants to have a free election to choose their own governor, while Peking will only accept someone who is loyal to the Communist Party. This is a true dilemma. The word “democracy” is not yet in the Communist Book.

On looking back, this recent desire for full democracy could also have happen even if Hong Kong remained under British rule. As far as I could see, the word of “democracy” is also not in the British Colonial Book.

It will be a long struggle. In the end, Hong Kong may or may not get the democracy it wants. That really depends on changes in the Communist Party in China. During the struggle for democracy, many people, especially young energetic intellectual ones, may be sent to jail or even lose their lives. There will be horror stories, and heroes in future history books.

Here in Canada, young people are born with full democracy in their mouths and they do not know it. They are free to vote, and also free not to.

Ever since I came to Canada over 40 years ago, I voted every time there is an election, municipal, provincial and federal. Sometimes I did not know very well whom I voted for, and sometimes I regretted whom I voted for, but still I voted.

Every time when I was given the ballot ticket and directed into the voting booth to mark it, I always remembered that it was only a few decades ago that we Chinese immigrants here in Canada were not even allowed to vote.  I also remembered that in many other places in the world, people were still fighting with their lives to be able to have a free vote ballot like the one in my hand.

I say to young people of Canada: You do not know what you’ve got until you lose it.

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