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, November 30, 2014

Vitriolic nastiness does not breed respect.

Stephen Lewis , the former Ontario NDP leader, United Nations ambassador and lifelong human rights advocate recently took aim at the “pre-paleolithic Neanderthals” in office and their role in the decline of Parliament, the suppression of dissent, the plight of First Nations, their blinkered climate-change policy and our plummeting world status.
That his words have been picked up by numerous newspapers and bloggers this week makes it no less important that his assessment of the Harper Regime be repeated here, they are words that need repeating time and time again.

Lewis told the Symons Lecture on the future of confederation: that Canada’s world standing is in free fall, the Harper government’s contempt for Parliament and its traditions has degraded political life and fostered voter cynicism and that its attitude to aboriginals is not paternalistic, it is racist. Also that Harper’s refusal to join the rest of the world and move toward renewable energy sources is endangering future generations and contributing to a looming planetary meltdown and that civil society and the ideas it fosters have been slapped down and censored, subverting democratic norms.

In comparing the current atmosphere in Ottawa to that of the Ontario legislature when he served there during William Davis years he said that there was then a respect in that chamber and that it was fostered by the premier.

Vitriolic nastiness in debate does not breed respect, nor does adolescent partisanship, nor do pieces of legislation of encyclopedic length that hide contentious issues, nor does the sudden emergence of frenzied TV attack ads, nor does the spectre of a Prime Minister’s Office exercising authoritarian control.”Stephen Lewis

Another more recent politician who's scars from some of that “vitriolic nastiness” are still relatively fresh says that in his opinion there is no longer any expectation in politics of debating the message but just attacks upon the messenger

Michael Ignatieff says “I went into politics thinking that, if I made arguments in good faith, I’d get a hearing. It’s a reasonable assumption, but it’s wrong. In five and a half years in politics up north, no one really bothered to criticize my ideas, such as they were. It was never my message that was the issue. It was always the messenger.”
"They will not attack what you say, so much as your right to say anything at all.........

He goes on to praise those that still come to work every day in the face of such abuse, which in any other place would be subject to numerous allegations of personal defamation or workplace harassment.

The worst of them—the careerists and predators—you find in all professions. The best of them were a credit to democracy. They knew the difference between an adversary and an enemy, knew when to take half a loaf and when to insist on the whole bakery, knew when to trust their own judgment and when to listen to the people.
As I learned while watching wiser colleagues than I in a democratic legislature, it is really something in life to be utterly disabused about human motive, venality, capacity for double-crossing, and yet still come to work every day, trying to get something done.”

I start to wonder who would subject themselves to these working conditions and is this why we have so few honest, principled and truly dedicated MPs in the house. Unless you are one of those people, as Mr Ignatieff puts it, 'with outsized ambition, have a sense of vocation, a belief that something must be done, that you can make life better for a lot of people' why would you bother. Or is it just a place for those with an overblown desire for glory and fame?

Certainly the quality of the leadership, the respect for both democracy and opposing views, and in many cases the honesty of those charged with representing us in the Legislature seems to be diminishing daily. I can only hope that Stephen Lewis's 'possibility' becomes to pass – but somehow I dont see it happening any time soon, if ever!

Somewhere in my soul, I cherish the possibility of a return to a vibrant democracy, where equality is the watchword, where people of different ideological conviction have respect for each other, where policy is debated rather than demeaned, where the great issues of the day are given thoughtful consideration, where Canada’s place on the world stage is seen as principled and laudatory, where human rights for all is the emblem of a decent civilized society.” Stephen Lewis

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