A year ago, the Federal Liberals voted in favour of a resolution calling for marijuana to be legalized and regulated. While the resolution doesn’t mean the Liberal party must campaign on legalizing marijuana during the next election, seventy-seven percent of delegates supported the resolution and, in response, interim leader Bob Rae stated that the current drug policy is ineffective. On 28 January of this year, the British Columbian branch of the party released a report on the economic benefits of legalization. It also recommended for marijuana to be sold in existing liquor stores, money to be invested in drug education and prevention programs, and amnesty to be extended to possession-related offences.
When I hear the topic being brought up by people I know, it is always met with the same criticism. No one disagrees with the move by arguing that the prohibition should continue. For that matter, the topic of the resolution isn’t even addressed. “The Liberals are just trying to get more votes”, they say. “They’ll never actually try to change anything.” People simply don’t trust any political action.
Obviously, the resolution won’t translate into legislation anytime soon. For the Liberal Party, which holds only 34 seats in the House of Commons, just regaining its former status as official opposition would be difficult. But what’s important is that a major political party has a chance to reinvent themselves to better fit the views of the people. The Liberals, in response to their current unpopularity, are considering changes.
‘Never leave home without a healthy dose of skepticism,’ so goes the proverb. We should always be doubtful, especially when it comes to politics. But there’s a distinction between skepticism and cynicism. If we truly believe that politicians don’t care about issues and only say what gets them the most support in the short-term, what reason is there for us to make our voices heard? Saying the Liberals are just trying to grab votes implies that no one should care when party policies change. It means there’s no point involving oneself in politics because the parties and their proposals are insincere. And it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Democracy cannot work without a public that involves itself and is vocal about what its people want.
But what ensures politicians do follow through with their promises? That’s a question we’ll have to answer when the Liberals are choosing a new leader, and in the next federal election. For now, however, it doesn’t make sense to question faithfulness. This resolution wasn’t rhetoric tossed into a speech by the party leader; it was submitted by the youth wing of the party to be voted on by delegates. This is an idea, offered to be added to the party platform and supported by a majority of the party’s members, not to mention a majority of Canadians[i].
I want parties that try to grab votes. If they look at an issue one way and recognize that the majority of people feel differently, why should they keep an unpopular, impractical or outdated view? Why would they want to? A politician who makes campaign promises that people want is more likely to get elected because that politician reflects the people’s views. As for whether or not those promises are kept, a politician who keeps campaign promises is more likely to get re-elected because that politician delivers on the people’s views. To expect all politicians to lie is to give up on our governmental system. If we expect change, we need to start expecting politicians to follow through. Not because it is the norm or because they seem superficially trustworthy but because it is their job as elected officials.