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 29, 2009

Land of the free and home of the beaver may be in trouble.

In searching for ammunition for my weekly post I found these little snippets from recent articles which are food for thought. The title above comes from the first piece and pretty much says it all.

“The entire concept of democracy depends on the participation of the society’s adults at a level of literacy that is well above the basic. One must be able to not only understand the issues and their potential impact but to be able to evaluate and weigh the pros and cons of them without being unduly influenced by them until a decision has been made. In short, literacy is essential to a democratic culture.”
Lani Donaldson President of Beacon Literacy

Given what is going on with various parliamentary committees and court cases the following from the Supreme Court of Canada on the duty of loyalty in 1985 , is perhaps something that our governments need to be reminded of…………

“The loyalty owed is to the Government of Canada, not the political party in power at any one time. A public servant need not vote for the governing party. Nor need he or she publicly espouse its policies. And indeed, in some circumstances a public servant may actively and publicly express opposition to the policies of a government. This would be appropriate if, for example, the Government were engaged in illegal acts, or if its policies jeopardized the life, health or safety of the public servant or others, or if the public servant’s criticism had no impact on his or her ability to perform effectively the duties of a public servant or on the public perception of that ability.”

This from a recent speech by John Turner at St. Lawrence College, Kingston on Nov 19 2009 once again highlights the need to remove the power from political partys and return it to the individual MP’s……….

“(We) have found there are four major impediments to today's young people volunteering, as we did, to serve in public life. Firstly, they are not willing to make the financial sacrifices that we did -- and it is a sacrifice. They are not willing to risk their marriages with the exposure of public life. Another element that we didn't have in those days in the early 1960s is the penetration into private lives by the media we have today, and I find that despicable ... It has become a very difficult thing for younger people in this country, because nobody is a saint.
And the final impediment is, I'm not sure that the role of the member of Parliament or provincial legislature is worth it anymore, and whether the job is really the job it should be. And this brings me back to a speech I made in 1963 in my Montreal riding. I said we have to strengthen Parliament. What I said then is even more acute now, because the issues I spoke about then have become more dangerous now.
I said that I was concerned that the party whips -- party discipline -- is excluding the influence of an MP to express his or her views -- or, more importantly, the views of her constituency in Parliament, free of party discipline. I would take party discipline off all bills in the House of Commons except the Throne Speech, which is government policy, or the budget, which relates to taxation. Every other bill in the House of Commons, I believe, should be a free vote.
In the House of Commons today, there are very few private members' bills that get anywhere; the standing committees don't have the authority they used to have. And party discipline has become overbearing. It didn't begin with [Prime Minister] Stephen Harper, but he's a master of the craft.”

It often seems that retired politicians show much more concern for our democracy after they have little influence upon it rather than when they do. Then there are those that are in that position and talk the talk but do not walk the walk. Most of them in fact just seem to be stumbling backwards as in the example below…..

“For me, these (Remembrance Day) events have great meaning. They go to the core of my involvement in public service. To me, the core Canadian values of freedom, democracy, and opportunity are precious — indeed all too scarce in the world — and worthy of efforts to support them.”

Peter Van Loan MP Nov 11 2009

“The Senate lacks legitimacy right now, and appointing more senators without a democratic basis isn’t going to solve that problem,” Peter Van Loan, (Minister for Democratic Reform) July 2009.

But what exactly has our “Minister for Democratic Reform” done to protect and enhance those “core Canadian values “?
Nothing that I have heard of………………

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1 comment:

Ms. M said...

Nice post Rural. I particular like your observation that the retired politicians seem the most concerned. Perhaps it's because they no longer have jobs to lose that they can afford to be concerned. What does it take for each of us to afford to be concerned? When I am concerned (actively that is, I am always concerned, but sometimes in more intense ways than others), my well-being suffers. Is it possible that this is true for others? Possibly. Lately I've been thinking our biggest trouble is that we are largely not a well-educated enough people. But there's more to it than that, connected to how knowledge about the totally abyssmal state of our politics is actually anxiety producing and almost unbearable to some of us. Sigh...I don't know yet how to bridge this terrible gap, of wanting to be active and vocal and spread the word and yet wanting to stay well at the same time. Kind of off-topic, but well...