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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Friday, May 22, 2009

Is "Majority Rule" democracy?

Most people think so. It’s one of those myths that we have clung to for a long time. But when the Athenians, the architects of democracy, created a system that would guarantee “freedom from tyranny”, majority rule was not a basic tenet: “The essential features of First Democracy were freedom from tyranny and the inclusion of all citizens in governance. These go together. Any kind of tyranny – including majority rule – keeps some citizens out of government.” Paul Woodruff, First Democracy

In Falkland we are being given a $6000 referendum on whether or not to purchase a particular product; in this case, mosquito control. This “choice” is being given to us because we had 3 horrific weeks of mosquitoes last spring, and it’s an “all or nothing” kind of thing. We either ALL pay for this product (whether we want it or not) or we ALL don’t get this product (whether we want it or not). It actually isn’t much of a choice, because up to potentially half of us could end up very unhappy with the results, and if we vote “yes”, then we have the burden of that $6000 to repay, plus the cost of the assessment done by the biologists/salesmen last year. This is the kind of choice that can strain relationships amongst neighbours and friends. Like I said, it isn’t much of a choice.

There are more democratic and cheaper ways of doing things. A survey could have been sent to each household with the following questions:
_____ I would like some form of chemical mosquito control program to be done in Falkland as soon as possible.
_____ I would like the mosquito situation monitored for a few years and public education to be given about mosquito life cycles and how to prevent them.
_____ I don’t think one bad year of mosquitoes constitutes taking any action at this point.
_____I would like to learn how to build bat houses, attract frogs and other predators to my back yard and would appreciate workshops on these topics.

Such a survey, delivered to each house with a note that every voice counts, would have gone a long way to avoid this current either/or situation. As it is, if we vote “NO” now, we won’t get a chance to re-visit this issue for potentially many years. If we vote “YES”, we will pay an extra $150 on our property taxes next year, and then an extra $122 every year there-after, and if we ever decide we don’t want or need this program, then we will have to pay for another referendum (and I am honestly very curious why a referendum in Area D costs $6000).

Now I personally am voting NO. I don’t want this product, much as I don’t ever want air conditioning. There are no guarantees that it isn’t harmful to the ecology of our area, there are no guarantees that we indeed have a problem and that this Bti will solve it, and money is tight; I don’t want to pay extra for something that I don’t feel we need. If the majority says “Yes” then I won’t be very happy. I will be stuck paying for something that I don’t want. My voice, and the voice of the rest of the 49% or less people, will count for nothing. And vice versa with a “NO” vote; the people who can’t handle mosquitoes will be unhappy. No – this referendum is not democracy in action. Calling a meeting of all concerned residents to discuss and come up with a plan together – that would have been democracy. So if we can’t even manage to do things democratically at the local level of the regional district, then what hope have we of ever re-gaining our democracy provincially or federally? As we just proved here in BC; the “majority” does not want democracy, and so we have none. Support Democracy - Recommend this Post at Progressive Bloggers


Rural said...

Just one thought here “the “majority” does not want democracy, and so we have none.” … Given the less than 50% turn out either the majority just don’t care or are so confused or disgusted that they felt it was not worthwhile. So many are tuning out and turning off when in fact the only way to enable change for the better is to become MORE involved. In my view you are correct when you say democracy SHOULD be about discussion, cooperation & compromise, all too often the choices are black and white whilst the answer is gray!

Ms. M said...

Yes, good point - that most don't turn up to vote. So it is presumptious to assume they don't care or want democracy; perhaps they do but feel it is pointless; that democracy is simply not reality and they feel powerless. I actually have been thinking that "powerlessness" is possibly the most powerful anti-democratic force at work here in Canada, within all communities. It goes back to that disconnection I keep speaking of; people are so disconnected from others that they feel powerless. Empowerment comes with feelings of connection, I have noticed. The more connections I form with people, the more empowered I feel (in a "power-to" kind of way, not a "power-over" way, the latter of which is how we have come to identify power in our screwed up society).

Ms. M said...

Just one more comment. As I talk to people about this issue, it appears that most people do think that "democracy" and "majority rule" are synonymous. I suppose I would have thought so too except that I've been reading up on it. I think this issue bears more examination......