A blog to give a voice to our concern about the continued erosion of our democratic processes not only within the House of Commons and within our electoral system but also throughout our society. Here you will find articles about the current problems within our parliamentary democracy, about actions both good and bad by our elected representatives, about possible solutions, opinions and debate about the state of democracy in Canada, and about our roles/responsibilities as democratic citizens. We invite your thoughtful and polite comments upon our posts and ask those who wish to post longer articles or share ideas on this subject to submit them for inclusion as a guest post.
Contact us at democracyunderfire@gmail.com

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Questions, Questions

What’s with the other partys all ganging up on the government” was the question I was asked recently in a conversation with a young married man about Canadian Politics. He was of course referring to the foiled attempt to form a coalition government late last year. In the ensuing (rather one sided!) conversation in which I attempted to explain how it came about and how the government prorogued parliament to avoid a vote of confidence I was asked “what’s a vote of confidence?” and “prorogued?”

Now this young man is not some uncaring self-centered youth but an intelligent family man but I was struck as to how little he knew about our parliamentary system and how the partisan political messages had coloured his understanding of what he did know. It reinforced my belief that it will be all but impossible to bring about positive change to either the parliamentary rules and traditions or our electoral system until the general public and voters fully understand the current systems. I must mention here that even at twice his age I was equally uninformed, it is only recently some years beyond that I have become more politically aware, I like most others was simply to busy with “life” to spend the time to find out these things. I am in awe of the many (much younger than I) bloggers who have jobs, families and other interests but still manage to keep up (some on a daily basis) with all the political machinations, they are in my opinion, one of the few lights at the end of the tunnel, for knowledge is the key.

Given the above it seems that we must insist that Canadian Politics and Parliamentary Systems is a mandatory subject in our high schools and not just a fleeting subject mentioned in passing. Once out in the work force with a family to support and life to get on with few of us will take the time to really understand these things. The sound bites that we may catch on the nightly news simply confuse the issue when one does not know the basics and cannot separate truth from “spin”.

The other thing that struck me during this conversation was the difficulty I had in saying THIS is the way it works. I was able to say “this is the way I think it should work”. I was able to say “this is the way it appears our government thinks it should work”. I was even able to say “this is the way it has traditionally worked”. But I was unable in most cases to say defiantly “this is what the rules say and how it works irregardless of the party in power and here are the repercussions if that does not happen”. As I have said before on these pages and as several scholars have pointed out, much of our parliamentary system has evolved over the years since inherited from the British Parliamentary system, which in itself is an archaic institution replete with tradition, little of which has actually been either written down or brought into law. Few if any solid guide lines exist, we rely upon our parliamentarians to follow the tradition of open debate, our government to follow their whishes, our MPs to follow our wishes and all of them to keep us informed of their decisions. We know that at times none of this happens and there are no penalties other than possibly being voted out when next we get a chance to do so (often with a generous pension ).

So even if we do educate our youth about our governance what do we tell them? How to you say THIS is how it works when even constitutional experts cannot all agree, when each political party bend what few rules there are this way or that to suit their purposes, when much is “tradition” that can be changed at a whim without even being voted upon by our representatives in the HoC?

I know that despite all my research for this blog I remain confused on many aspects of parliamentary procedures and the powers of the government of the day, no wonder my friend was also confused, how could he not be? Support Democracy - Recommend this Post at Progressive Bloggers

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