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.
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Sunday, September 6, 2009

Party Positions on Democracy.

Having been beating the Democracy Drum for some time now and with the strong possibility of an election coming this fall I thought it would be interesting to see where each of the Political Parties stood regarding democratic principals and related matters. To that end I went to each official party site and searched for a statement of values and / or the party platform in that regard. (my bold throughout)

I first went to the Conservative Party of Canada’s web site and quickly found these extracts …..

The Conservative Party will be guided in its constitutional framework and its policy basis by the following principles:

A belief in loyalty to a sovereign and united Canada governed in accordance with the Constitution of Canada, the supremacy of democratic parliamentary institutions and the rule of law;

A belief in the equality of all Canadians;

A belief in the freedom of the individual, including freedom of speech, worship and assembly;

A belief in our constitutional monarchy, the institutions of Parliament and the democratic process;

A belief in the federal system of government as the best expression of the diversity of our country, and in the desirability of strong provincial and territorial governments;

A belief that the quality of the environment is a vital part of our heritage to be protected by each generation for the next;

A belief that Canada should accept its obligations among the nations of the world;

A belief that good and responsible government is attentive to the people it represents and has representatives who at all times conduct themselves in an ethical manner and display integrity, honesty and concern for the best interest of all;

At first glance this would seem to be a great start, however having watched our Conservative Government in the last couple of years show complete distain for each of these beliefs I am not so sure that this is going to be a useful exercise at all. Never the less I pressed on and next went to the Liberal Party of Canada’s web site and found …….nothing useful. I could find not general statement of values, no general statement of policy in this regard, indeed I found very little to tell me what the Liberals were all about. No doubt I could have downloaded and read their main policy statement PDF but I was just looking for an introductory statement of values not a major document.

Ok, lets move on to the New Democratic Party of Canada, here once again I did not find any broad statement of principals but there was a number of platform statements and several specific policy statement with regard to our governance which included the following:-

To strengthen federalism for a mature and modern Canada, Jack Layton and the New Democrats will:

Modernize key federal institutions:

House of Commons: change the electoral system to ensure that every vote counts. We will implement a proportional representation system that mixes constituency representation with party representation. This will result in fairer representation in Parliament, fewer regional differences, and more women in elected office.

Senate: abolish the undemocratic and unnecessary Senate, following the lead of Canadian provinces and other jurisdictions that have abolished their upper houses. A referendum on Senate abolition will be held to put the final decision in the hands of all Canadians.

Floor crossing: Democratic accountability should mean no MP can ignore his/her voters. We will implement legislation so no MP can ignore the voters’ wishes and become a member of another party without first resigning their seat and running in a by-election.

Hardly a broad and comprehensive statement but at least support for proportional representation is included!

We must I suppose include the Bloc, they do after all despite their avowed intent to separate from Canada try to do so in a democratic manner. In fact at times I think their leader could teach the rest of them a thing or two about democracy, despite their clearly stated goals they have not disrupted parliament, committees or Senate hearing to the extent that some of the other parties have.

Finally I went to the Green Party of Canada’s web site and quickly found a number of statements regarding their vision including this regarding our democracy ………

We strive for a democracy in which all citizens have the right to express their views, and are able to directly participate in decisions which affect their lives;

This requires:

individual empowerment through access to all the relevant information required for any decision, and access to education to enable all to participate

breaking down inequalities of wealth and power that inhibit participation

building grassroots institutions that enable decisions to be made directly at the appropriate level by those affected, based on systems which encourage civic vitality, voluntary action and community responsibility

strong support for giving young people a voice through educating, encouraging and assisting youth involvement in every aspect of political life including their participation in all decision making bodies

that all elected representatives are committed to the principles of transparency, truthfulness, and accountability in governance

that all electoral systems are transparent and democratic, and that this is enforced by law

that in all electoral systems, each adult has an equal vote

that all electoral systems are based on proportional representation, and all elections are publicly funded with strict limits on, and full transparency of, corporate and private donations. that all citizens have the right to be a member of the political party of their choice within a multi-party system

So to sum it up we have a Party that says one thing and does another, a Party with no vision or policies, a party who wants to do away with one of the few checks and balances we have upon our politicians, a party who whishes to break up our federation, and a Party with a clearly stated vision who has no members sitting in the House of Commons. It was indeed an interesting exercise but hardly useful, this is not looking good for democracy in Canada!

It seems I am not the only one thinking along these lines, I recently found this piece which sums up nicely what many of our politicians seem to have forgotten…..

With an election looming the Fifth Column calls on all federal political parties and party leaders to adopt the following:

Statement of Democratic Principles

The Canadian people have the right to elect Members of Parliament of their choosing and the House of Commons of their choice.

The House of Commons elected by the Canadian people has the right to govern.

A government that has the support and confidence of a majority of the Members of the House of Commons is legitimate, and indeed a government requires the confidence of a majority of the Members of the House of Commons to be legitimate.

The letter and spirit of fixed election date legislation must be respected and that an early election should only be held when it is not possible to form a government that has the confidence of a majority of the House of Commons.

And further, that party representation in the House of Commons should reflect the popular vote and that a process should begin immediately following the election to amend the electoral process to ensure that.

Finally, we all pledge to inform the Governor General that we have adopted and support this Declaration of Democratic Principles

Even if we could get our representatives to make such a pledge how long would it be before one or more of them ignored such restraints and what actions would or could be taken against such actions? The number one question we must all ask those candidates who come to our door is “What will YOU do to protect and enhance our Parliamentary Democracy” because if things continue to go they way they are now the only question you will soon be able to ask is “Who was appointed to represent the Government in this area”! Support Democracy - Recommend this Post at Progressive Bloggers


ADHR said...

Wait, what? What's with the shot at the NDP for removing a "check and balance"?

The very notion of a government of checks and balances is American, not English and not Canadian. Our government is founded on the idea of responsible government -- that is, a government that is accountable to the people. It's certainly not obvious that checks and balances are better than responsible government.

Furthermore, the introduction of a system of proportional representation seems to count as a pretty good check and balance on the power of Parliament. So, at worst, the NDP is in favour of shuffling the checks and balances around. And that's putting aside the fact that a unicameral system seems to better serve the notion of responsible government that underlies our democratic institutions.

ADHR said...

Shoot, forgot something: the NDP is also in favour of blocking floor-crossing. Which, again, seems to serve the notion of responsible government.

Rural said...

Whilst the move to proportional voting may well result in more minority governments and thus a “check” upon government partisan actions we are a LONG way from achieving that and in a majority government situation there are few restrains on excesses. Much as we would all like to see cooperation and compromise in the HoC it does not look like that is going to happen any time soon, meanwhile the Senate, which does indeed need a better way of selecting members, is the only chance for a (usually detailed) look at proposed legislation. Thing would have to dramatically change for the better in the HoC before I could support the abolition of the Senate.
As we have seen in the past “Responsible Government” is a bit of an oxymoron!
And yes, blocking floor crossing is probably a good thing but independents (some kicked out by their own party) should have more resources available to them so that they can operate on a more equal footing!