Budget consultation an important step towards collaborative governance

We’ve been using the same system of government for a long time. But government hasn’t really matured like it should.

Despite the fact that we’ve long had access to online voting systems, we still don’t really use them. Despite the fact that a ton of political discussion takes place online, many in power ignore online circles of debate. Despite the fact that voter turnout among youth is at an all-time low, little progress has been made to spur engagement. We live in the age where a technological solution is the answer to everything from a better taxi system to a way to find a partner (or something more fleeting). Why not government, too?

It’s not for a lack of trying, and there might be a good example of a more serious effort right here on campus. In Alexis Stockford’s story on the consultation, you can read about how TRUSU has taken the step of reaching out to find out how students feel about how university money should be spent.

The budget consultation might look boring. It might look unimportant. It might look like a token gesture to the student population, but it’s actually an important step in the right direction towards more collaborative government for everyone.

Student elections are rarely taken very seriously – even at universities where important issues are on the table or where things are a complete mess, the voter turnout is never too impressive. In 2013, TRU’s voter turnout was a measly 10.5 per cent. In 2014, things were only slightly better, with a voter turnout of 15 per cent. We don’t seem to particularly care about student elections.

But we should care. There have been some impressive people running TRUSU during my time here (one of them, Dylan Robinson, is featured in a Q&A this week).

Like a lot of things at university, student elections are a bit of a test run for the real world. But better still, they’re a place to try out new ideas or improve on things without having to navigate the sticky web of bureaucracy encountered in the real world.

That’s why the budget consultation is a big deal, because this is something that will one day carry over, in some form, into our provincial and federal governments and something that fosters the very idea of more collaborative governance.

It only makes sense. Why should democracy start and end with an election? Sure, we don’t want referenda for every little thing, but that’s thinking in the old model. An annual consultation, for a budget, for priorities, for planning, is not unreasonable. The City of Kamloops holds its own version of this kind of consultation, but it seemed to suffer from the same problem as TRU: low turnout.

Whether we care or not, it’s our responsibility to show up to things like this. Attendance begets attendance. Show up and bring someone with you. You might find more that you care about than you thought you would.