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, April 13, 2014

Prerequisites for Democratic Legitimacy

Anita Vandenbeld author of an article called ‘Imposing Legitimacy: The Dilemma of International Democratic Development’ for LawNow magazine and former director of parliamentary affairs for Jacques Saada, the first minister of Democratic Reform in 2004, recently wrote an article on the legitimacy of bill C23. In it, in contrast to her previous article where she raised the question of how democratic institutions become legitimate in the eyes of a population, she now asks how do democratic institutions lose their legitimacy?

Here are some extracts, read the whole thing at Ipolitics:-

Basically, I argued there are five prerequisites for democratic legitimacy:
  • A legal or constitutional basis for authority;
  • Enforcement mechanisms;
  • Impartial decision-makers (financial independence, security of tenure);
  • Transparency in decision-making;
  • Mechanisms for giving or withholding consent.
Bill C-23, the so-called Fair Elections Act, risks undermining each of these prerequisites for democratic legitimacy. It risks stripping Elections Canada of its democratic legitimacy and endangering the future of free and fair elections in Canada. The legal basis for elections in Canada is the Canada Elections Act. Changes to this law must be taken very seriously and be based on the widest possible public and expert consultation. ........................
One of my responsibilities in Kosovo was to work with the Legislative Assembly to pass a law that would make independent institutions (like our Officers of Parliament) accountable to Parliament and not to the government. This is no mere formality — it affects everything a parliament does..............
Under Bill C-23, the enforcement arm of Elections Canada (Commissioner of Canada Elections) will be moved to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, who is appointed by the government and reports only indirectly to Parliament through the government. I brought a delegation to Canada from Kosovo in 2007 on a study visit to learn how Canadian institutions maintain their independence from government. Today, I would be embarrassed to bring them to Canada.
One of the more egregious aspects of Bill C-23 is that it actually forbids Elections Canada or the Chief Electoral Officer from communicating with the public. No more reports. No more voter education. No more communication about robocalls or any other investigations.
In every international best-practice regarding democracy, transparency is the number one criteria. It is hard to imagine how a country can maintain elections transparency when the body that runs elections is no longer allowed to speak to the people. Even former auditor general Sheila Fraser has criticized this aspect of the bill, saying: “Independent officers of Parliament — the government is now restricting what they can say? It’s just so inappropriate.”
I can honestly say that in all my years of working on democratic development with the United Nations, OSCE, NDI and other international organizations on five continents, I have not found another electoral commission that was prohibited by law from speaking to the public about elections or doing public awareness campaigns to encourage people to vote.
Anita Vandenbeld worked for a number of years internationally on democratic development with the United Nations Development Programme, the National Democratic Institute,the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Parliamentary Centre.

Exactly, changes to our electoral system that are forced through the legislative process and are not based upon based on the “widest possible public and expert consultation” or are contrary to the wishes of the majority of Canadians cannot be viewed as legitimate. This would make the results of the next election questionable no matter what party gains the right to govern, but certainly given the bias in this legislation to the current regime would make a win by them nothing short of a coup d'etat.

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Owen Gray said...

The bill is a very carefully crafted attempt to ensure Conservative longevity, Rural.

It is not subtle. And that doesn't bother these folks at all.

Rural said...

As you say Owen, its in your face, we can do no wrong, stop us if you can, we don't care about Canadian Democracy!