Politics Unspun

Medieval Renaissance
Transit vote: Heads we lose; tails we lose
In 1790, “lobby” became a metonym for influence peddling. The change came about because people gathered in the large halls outside legislative chambers in London to “lobby” politicians to support this or that cause. I get a sense of this when I traverse the “lobby” of SkyTrain stations at certain times of the day.

The first group of “lobbyists” is the pleasant but mechanical newshawkers for 24hrs and Metro. Most commuters walk right around them without making eye contact, but some grab a copy without breaking stride, as if taking part in some kind of relay race. Further in, we find Jehovah’s Witnesses, who have somehow come to be a regular fixture. Two of them stand next to a rack displaying copies of the usual dogma holding one or two copies in each hand. This passive kind of lobbying works on the same principle as the Venus flytrap. The JWs smile at passersby hoping for some unsuspecting person to venture within proselytizing range, but the vast majority keep a safe distance.

To these two types of lobbyists, we can now add “The Yes Brigade.” On the front lines are groups of two or three young people who hover around SkyTrain escalators or street entrances to lobby commuters to vote “yes” in the upcoming transit-funding plebiscite. Even after commuters get past them their eyes are assaulted by multiple poster-sized propaganda posters on the train level, not to mention billboards and other forms of intrusive lobbying throughout the region.

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