THE HELPLESS ROMANTIC: Cogs of the Big Red Machine

I agreed to stand as a delegate to attend the Liberal leadership conference, so I found myself in church last Sunday. The service was well under way and so was the delegate selection meeting. Delegates get to pick the next Liberal leader and possibly the next Prime Minister of Canada. There was a big lineup full of old folks discussing who to vote for, which went along the lines of “If you vote for my brother, I’ll vote for you,” or “You can pick 14 delegates, so you can send Sheila, your uncle Ted and my sister too.” With all the hard politicking right up to the election, it was clear that I didn’t stand a chance.

Turns out that was exactly it. I had no chance because not only was everybody better connected than me, I wasn’t even on the ballot. I checked my wallet. It was five dollars lighter, so I had paid the fee to stand. Moreover, I did remember filling out and handing in the form. Apparently I wasn’t the only one whose name was lost: Several other Young Liberals had been removed from the ballot in their ridings with little explanation. Surely not reverse ageism, I thought, as I filled out my form like an obedient child who had been told he had to do homework instead of going to the cool party where all the grown-ups were.

Then I went over to the Liberal McGill station and was frustrated to find McGill students who weren’t club members voting as well. Didn’t this somehow violate the club constitution-a constitution drafted by the club’s members and supported by the Young Liberals of Canada in Quebec? It did, especially since the club had submitted the list of names for people who could choose the club’s delegates well ahead of time and in accordance with the rules. Yet here I was, having paid good money to become a member of Liberal McGill, standing in line behind strangers not in the club who were going to decide who the club’s representatives at the convention were going to be. The poll clerks, picked because they were neutral in the coming leadership race, had been forced to bend to the pressures of the older, more ignorant officials. They may as well have thrown their lists away.

To a non-Liberal or non-Liberal McGill member, this may be dull, but it affects all students-even those in the Conservative party, which doesn’t have a youth wing. Students make up a large number of eligible voters and could be an important interest group. Politicians’ platforms are always addressing education and other things of interest to the country’s youth. They will always claim, as is undeniably true, that we are Canada’s future. Yet at the same time, whether it’s the leaders themselves or the hacks who work below them, somebody is screwing young people.

But it isn’t just their fault. Few of my peers actually care about party politics or who to elect. Many pick who I tell them to pick come election time or get lumped with the radicals and trust fund Trotskyites who start riots or ineffectual picket lines.

Voting in larger numbers isn’t going to change anything either. The same old-timers who draft the delegate lists also choose the candidates for Parliament come election time. Party politics, by all accounts, is an older man’s game.

While it is infuriating how powerless I am right now, I can take solace in the knowledge that when I get to their age, I’ll finally be able to take revenge by screwing over their grandchildren.

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