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, August 19, 2018

Democracy Versus Populism

One of the oldest rubs against democracy is that ordinary people aren’t up to the job. And the friends of populism aren’t helping the cause. They’re lining up to throw democracy under the bus in the name of, well, more democracy. The result will surely be less, not more.”
So says Dr. Don Lenihan an internationally recognized expert on public engagement and Open Government in a recent piece at National Newswatch.

He goes on to point out that its not so much the recent decisions by newly the elected Ontario Premier but the process that got short circuited in making them is the most troubling.
Take Doug Ford’s decision to intervene in the City of Toronto’s election. It’s a textbook example of how contemporary populism sacrifices the essentials of democracy for shallow, short-term gains. Ford’s view that a smaller City Council will result in better governance is not the problem. That’s a fair subject for debate. Derailing the Toronto election is the show-stopper. This sure looks like an abuse of power.”

Indeed given that the provincial government does have the right to make such decisions (questionable that it might be) that legislation to enact a drastic reduction in the number of councilors representing the citizens of Toronto being introduced and passed in just a couple of weeks with little or no 'consultation' is clearly undemocratic.
Ford justifies this one by saying that no one has ever asked him for more politicians. In fact, this is just the kind of thinking that gives democracy a bad name. Process is there to guard against abuses of power, yet populists want to discard it the moment it gets in the way of a good idea.” (not that this is necessarily so good)

Populist leaders generally claim to represent the unified "will of the people". He stands in opposition to an enemy, often embodied by the current system - aiming to "drain the swamp" or tackle the "liberal elite". Whilst not limited to 'right wing' regimes such governments seem to strongly fit that mold.
Over the years, we’ve seen tons of examples of populist governments around the world. All too often, the effects are exactly the reverse of what people like Wente claim. Far from enhancing democracy or “results,” they simply weaken accountability and centralize power........ Donald Trump is the exemplar of this kind of politics. Less than two years into office, his MO is clear. He is intent on divesting his office of as much accountability as he can, while centralizing decision-making as far as possible – all in the name of Making American Great Again “.

In his book The Global Rise of Populism, Dr Moffitt argues that there are other traits associated with the typical populist leader. One is "bad manners", or behaving in a way that's not typical of politicians - a tactic employed by President Trump and the Philippines' President Duterte. The other, he says, is "perpetuating a state of crisis" - and always seeming to be on the offensive, they also tend to dislike the "complicated democratic systems" of modern government which ties in to its links to authoritarianism, - a lack of trust in the established system gives rise to "strongman" leaders. (That certainly seems to fit with where Mr Ford seems to be headed)
(Mr Lenihan is) not denying that there are too many rules in government or that “bureaucracy” sucks. We’ve all been tied up in red tape and cutting lots of it out of the system may be liberating. But concentrating power in the leader so that he/she can “get things done” is the wrong way.
There are no short cuts to better democracy, and anyone selling this one is peddling snake oil. The true friends of democracy are willing to do the hard work of weeding out bad rules and finding and testing new solutions.”

I can only add that the recent actions by Mr Ford and what appears to be a caucus of willing yes men and women scares the H out of me in both the proposals tabled and the speed of legislation passed. It seems to me that 'due process' is not a phrase that our new government here on Ontario recognizes and if it can happen to Toronto it can happen to ANY municipality in Ontario..

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