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 20, 2009

Who is caring for our democracy?

Every party talks about running (I'll put the words in quotes because someone surely has said this) "the most open, transparent, and accountable government the country has ever had" yet every party in my waking life has failed to deliver on this promise.
To the Liberal's I issue a challenge: if your guy and your party were really serious about reforming Canada's governance in a positive way, ultimately even the most jaded Canadian apathetic voter might perk up and notice.

Is it too alarmist to claim that Canada's democracy is on life support? Not in my opinion. Our representatives are often no better than puppets. Rather than representing regions and their constituents, our parliamentarians at all levels of government more often than not are whipped to adhere to the party line and that is decided by a few, mostly unelected people, in the Prime Minister's Office. Parliament is side-stepped at every turn. First among equals is a concept many prime ministers, notably our current one, have trouble identifying with.

The weakening of parliament in favour of increased power in the PMO - to the point where today the U.S. system is actually more democratic than ours - is as a result of intentional design by both Conservative and Liberal government leaders dating back almost four decades.
Manning's "Reform" movement recognised some of this, to their credit; but despite being one of the architects of the Reform Party, Harper wasn't so much interested in democratic reforms, only in power that would allow him to "re-form" (quite a different notion) Canada in his own vision.
I want to see a truly open government. We have the technology available to us now that can easily permit all to see spending done by almost every department in near real-time. Open all the doors and windows, pull back all the curtains. Lets see not only who is lobbying who, in real time, but what they are talking about. Lets have more citizen involvement than a token election every year or every four years.
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The above is reposted from http://mikewatkins.ca/ , one of several bloggers writing about our “dysfunctional” parliament this week, well said Mike, without open government democracy is indeed in trouble.. The following is from Peace, order and good government, eh? . The point is well made that once again out politicians are misleading the public into believing that there is something inherently wrong with a coalition government (despite the fact that ALL the partys have in recent years attempted to form one!). Perhaps it must once again be pointed out that our parliament consists of elected MPs from several different political persuasions who SHOULD all work together for the good of the country. A coalition is simply a more formal agreement to that end, and is not only perfectly legal but could in fact be more productive than the usual non cooperative mood in the HoC!

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Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff vowed Friday that his party would never enter into a governing coalition and said he could make Parliament work without such a deal.
Ignatieff said he has a "certain credibility" on the coalition issue, pointing out that he could have become prime minister back in January had he agreed to a pact with the other opposition parties, but he turned it down.
"I don't think I need to give further proof of my feeling that that's not what Canadians want."

When the pundits refer back to that ill-fated coalition attempt they love to remind us that it didn't poll at all well. But I think we discovered late last year that a significant number of those who make their living explaining our politics to us either don't understand our system of government themselves or don't really have a problem with misrepresenting it to us. A big part of the reason the public reacted negatively to the coalition was because the media told them to. If it wasn't print pundits competing to see how many times the word "coup" could be squeezed into the same short column, it was broadcasters signaling that they were in dire need of a fainting couch at the mere thought that a bunch of scruffy MPs whose uniforms weren't all the same colour might have the temerity to try and form a government.

Since then, the constitutional experts have spoken and reminded us of some of the facts of life in Canada. This isn't a republic; it's a parliamentary democracy. We don't vote for a prime minister or a government; we each of us vote for a representative of the riding in which we live and when those representatives reach Ottawa it's up to them to sort out which group of them, and with which leader, can govern with the confidence of the majority of them. The political parties involved are a convention but not a requirement; the confidence of the majority of the members is a requirement and not a convention.

With an election campaign not even underway yet, there was probably a teachable moment here. There was an opportunity for the opposition leaders to point out that the Conservative talking points about the illegitimacy of a coalition are nonsense. Using teachable moments to actually teach something important and valuable would show leadership.
Instead, Ignatieff has just reinforced the view that there's something wrong with the idea of a coalition and that voters who reacted badly to something that was a shock when it happened and that was misrepresented by a lot of the voices who were shouting at them at the time, were right to do so. Aside from allowing a misconception to stand unchallenged, Ignatieff has allowed Harper to set the terms of the debate and reacted defensively. If he keeps doing that, he'll lose.
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“Never” is such a long time, sounds like another promise that cannot be kept! Support Democracy - Recommend this Post at Progressive Bloggers

2 comments:

janfromthebruce said...

"Instead, Ignatieff has just reinforced the view that there's something wrong with the idea of a coalition and that voters who reacted badly to something that was a shock when it happened and that was misrepresented by a lot of the voices who were shouting at them at the time, were right to do so. Aside from allowing a misconception to stand unchallenged, Ignatieff has allowed Harper to set the terms of the debate and reacted defensively. If he keeps doing that, he'll lose."

That's right, but it appears that Ignatieff doesn't mind peddling falsehoods as long as they are plausable. Now what other leader does that sound like?
Emulating the same, shows there's no difference, and thus no difference if they won. So why waste 300 million dollars of Canadians money if what we get is the same old, same old.

Monique said...

I agree. Having Iggy in power will make no difference at all - just a waste of money, just another guy and his own agenda in power rather than democratic governance. Now if we could do something really meaningful, we would stop having the conversation about Conservatives vs. Liberals (they are, in fact, one and the same) and start looking at independents and Greens and getting some more sustainable and free thinkers to represent us.