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 5, 2010

Bring Back Democracy

Harpers recent “I make the rules” comment has seen quite a bit of attention this week, one such article from Lawrence Martin of the Globe & Mail contained these suggestions:-

A Bring Back Democracy platform should start with reducing the powers of the PM to something a tad less than Mussolini’s. It should involve a restoration of checks and balances that give the word democracy some meaning. Some examples:

Implement the Gomery commission’s recommendations designed to set limits on the PM’s control of everyone in Ottawa from chimney sweep to deputy minister. In this vein, recreate an appointments commissioner – a promise dropped by the Harper government – that strips away the PM’s patronage powers.
Reduce the size of both the Prime Minister’s Office and the Privy Council Office.
Re-establish the integrity of the Access to Information process.
Dismantle the government-wide vetting system that sees much of Ottawa officialdom gagged unless given prior approval to speak by the PMO/PCO.
Restore some semblance of power to the cabinet. A prime ministerial pledge not to make pivotal decisions such as the ones on income trusts and Québécois nation status without prior consultation with that body would help.
Open the executive branch of government to media scrutiny. This could include daily press briefings at the Langevin Block, which houses the PMO and PCO but is currently off limits to reporters. It should include frequent open-ended press conferences by the PM.
Re-empower the increasingly cheapened committee system, starting with having the committees – not the PM – appoint their own chairs.
Reform Question Period so as to reduce the level of farce. Required is an end to the long run of Speakers who are not prepared to enforce the rules.
End the antiquated convention that shrouds the decisions taken by the Governor-General in total secrecy.”

He finishes by saying -
The heart of the problem is that the roles of the different branches of government are vaguely defined, leaving a power-hungry PM all kinds of latitude to run roughshod over the system. The roles, as Mr. Gomery has recommended, need be codified so that a meaningful system of checks and balances can result.”

I entirely agree with this sentiment and would add perhaps - End the misuse and abuse of declaring non budgetary bills “matters of confidence” and the “whipping” of our elected representatives to vote enmass along party lines.

Part and parcel of any parliamentary reform must indeed also focus upon the availability of unbiased information to both our MPs and the general public. Recently information commissioners, privacy commissioners and ombudsmen from across Canada met and issued a call for more open government. Specifically they resolved that:-

1. The Commissioners endorse and promote open government as a means to enhance transparency and accountability which are essential features of good governance and critical elements of an effective and robust democracy.
2. The Commissioners call on the federal and all provincial and territorial governments to declare the importance of open government, including specific commitments for stronger standards for transparency and participation by the public.
3. Governments should build access mechanisms into the design and implementation stages of all new programs and services to facilitate and enhance proactive disclosure of information.
4. Through ongoing consultations with the public, governments should routinely identify data sources and proactively disclose information in open, accessible and reusable formats. Public access to information should be provided free or at minimal cost.

Once again these things seem pretty obvious to those of us who are concerned about the ever decreasing “openness and accountability” and the ever increasing lack of respect for the unwritten (and even the “codified”) rules within our parliamentary democracy. Will ANY of the partys currently represented in the HoC bring such reforms forward, not a chance! Are there individual MPs and potential MPs who would push for such changes, undoubtedly. We must identify and elect such individuals without regard to party affiliation and let our views be known to those MPs for whom the “party line” comes before democracy if we are to ever have this debate be taken seriously.

T/H to Bondpapers and Impolitical for bringing these articles to our attention.

Support Democracy - Recommend this Post at Progressive Bloggers

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