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 8, 2009

The Future of Democracy

Last week I republish a bit of Steves May’s thoughts upon the future of our democracy from a post in his series on this subject. Not having a great deal of time this week I have here cherry picked some items from part IX of this series. Much of his series is focused upon “green” issues but the following is food for thought regarding where are we going with this Parliamentary Democracy of ours. I have added my thoughts upon his comments, Steve & I would be interested in your thoughts upon this.


Changing Public Opinion through Education.Seems like this is going to be a generational project, as public education requires time and energy, and is best accomplished through education which begins at home with children and continues through meaningful exposure through our school systems. The good news here is that we have been largely turning out a good number of critical thinkers in the recent decades who understand and acknowledge the perils we face to a greater degree than do most. So, we’ve already got a bit of an advantage here. It’s too bad that many of the youngest in our society are disadvantaged by mounting debts, and disengaged from the political process and our civil society, which often dismissively shuns their involvement. Given our aging demographic, this doesn’t really come as a surprise.

Indeed education is the key but we must ensure that it is FACTUAL not political spin that the public, and more importantly our youth receives!

Leaders Must Initiate a Public Discussion About the FutureRight now, our governmental Leaders have been completely ducking these discussions. Other leaders, though, are stepping up throughout all sectors of our society, and are trying to engage Canadians. While the media has largely ignored these efforts to plan for our increasingly local futures, the momentum is clearly in place. Our elected Leaders need to play some catch up. Shifting public opinion will be their impetus to do so.This discussion must begin quickly, and it needs to take place in an unbiased manner, based on fact and not conjecture.

I am very much afraid that the majority of our POLITICAL leaders will do NOTHING that would change the status quo unless it is forced upon them by public opinion and pressure from the minority of us who see these issues as a threat to the future of our democracy as we know it. We have many politicians but darn few Leaders!

Sweeping Legislative ChangesThe tools for implementation will require sweeping changes to federal and provincial legislation, and that’s not going to happen over night, especially when the public service is going to be focused on cuts. However, these changes will be needed to force the agenda. Pressure to do so must be unrelenting: from the public, from the business community, from other levels of government, from the media.

Again Steve is aiming more at legislation to implement changes related to Climate Change but the same discussion must take place regarding how we are governed in general.

There are many impediments to changing our laws, even when there is a laser-beam focus to do so. Some things to consider:-Abolish the Senate in case they decide to hold legislative changes up (provincial governments don’t have Senates anyway; we won’t have the luxury for this Chamber any longer...plus, think of the cost savings). If abolishing it won’t work, then suspend it.

Despite the recent revelations on the excessive, perhaps obscene is a better descriptions, expenses of some senators I really believe that we must retain the second chamber in order to put at least some checks upon government proposals, something which at this point does not seem to be happening in the HoC. If we ever get to the point where parliament starts working as it should and discussion and compromise become the norm not the exception, then perhaps there may be room to drastically reduce the Senate. There is not much doubt that there needs to be changes in the way the senators are selected, their term in office and upon the expectations of value for compensation received, but this check upon poorly conceived or worded legislation is still needed at this time..

-Stop the practice of partisan politics and restore meaningful debate to parliament. A bit of a tall order to say the least, but we can do this if we elect fewer politicians who are in Parliament to play games.-Adopt a much more representative form of government which is based on proportional representation. This must be a priority, although we often think it will take time. It doesn’t have to. Our elected officials can just do it. And should.

Agreed, but just about impossible to actually implement, all we can do is keep letting those in power know that partisan politics is unacceptable. We elect individuals to represent us not Partys.

Give Local Governments the Powers They NeedThere will need to be greater partnerships with all levels of government. This includes municipal governments, who are going to be tasked with delivering at least part of the mandate. Municipalities will need to receive real powers from senior levels of government, and finally transition from "creatures of the province" to "mature levels of government". Municipal elected officials must assume this responsibility with foresight and in good faith: they must acknowledge that they will be under a greater degree of public scrutiny, which is as it should be, if municipalities are given the power to tax. Power comes with responsibility. Deal with it.

A VERY complex subject given our current mix of what services are provided by which level of government, and which of those provides the funding and criteria for said services. I agree in principal but the devil is in the details on this one!

UrgencyI’ll say it again: All of this must occur within the context of a sense of impending urgency. Some have suggested something akin to a "wartime mobilization"; I’d like to see a little more thought than that go into it, but really I’m still talking about significant action being discussed over a very short period of time (say 6 months) and then action being implemented quickly. If we’ve learned one thing from the Stimulus spending, it’s that it’s not always as quick to make decisions or implement them as we might like it to be, however, it can still be done.

The longer it takes for Parliamentary and Electoral reform, or to tackle Climate Change issues, the further down that slippery slope towards an irreversible situation we get and the harder it will be to turn back.

Take Personal ResponsibilityYou must take personal responsibility as a member of your family, your community, your province and nation. You must educate yourself to the point where you have a decent understanding of the challenges we are faced with. You must act in concert with the emergent consensus. You must acknowledge that the consequences of inaction are too great to consider…………..

Indeed, each of us must not sit back and ignore these important issues, be it Climate Change as Steve is alluding to, or the demise of our Democracy that I am equally concerned about.

Extracted from Part IX http://sudburysteve.blogspot.com/2009/11/future-of-democracy-in-canada-personal_05.html Support Democracy - Recommend this Post at Progressive Bloggers

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