By-elections are like McLuhan’s light bulb.
Marshall McLuhan, an Edmontonian who predicted the World Wide Web 30 years before it was invented, wrote books with evocative titles like The Mechanical Bride and The Gutenberg Galaxy, but none is more famous that his best-seller, The Medium is the Message.
Recognizing that no one had a clue what that phrase meant, McLuhan used the example of a light bulb.*
McLuhan pointed out that a light bulb, unlike say, a newspaper, has no content, and yet it has a social effect. When it is clicked on it allows people to interact in spaces that would otherwise be blanketed in darkness. McLuhan said that “a light bulb creates an environment by its mere presence.”*
By-elections are like McLuhan’s light bulb. They are a flash of light in the political environment.
The writ drops, the switch goes on and the voters in the affected riding have an opportunity to choose a new MLA in mid-election cycle. They are urged to send the government a message by ousting the government’s candidate and replacing him/her with a member of one of the opposition parties.
Some voters interpret the phrase “send a message” to mean punish the government by sending in its worst enemy (here in Alberta that would be the Wildrose). While this may feel good for a nanosecond (“so there!”), voters need to consider whether they’re simply cutting off their noses to spite their faces.
Instead of sending a message that could easily be misconstrued by the PC government (and the Wildrose for that matter) as validation of their view that Albertans are moving further to the right, it makes sense to send a more thoughtful message: one that reflects a common desire to protect and strengthen public services like education and healthcare and recognizes the need for a long term energy strategy which incorporates a desire to protect the environment.
It’s the only way to stop the PC government from continuing its slide to the Wildrose right.
If you’re one of the lucky voters who resides in the ridings of Calgary-Foothills, Calgary-West, Calgary-Elbow or Edmonton-Whitemud, what message will you be sending to the PC government on Oct 27th? A message of light…or more darkness?