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, December 13, 2009

Definition of Government

There are many definitions of the word "government" ranging from “A government is the body within an organization that has authority to make and the power to enforce laws, regulations, or rules.” to “Body of people that sets and administers public policy, and exercises executive, political, and sovereign power through customs, institutions, and laws within a state.

For me the definition of a Democratic Government includes all those “bodies of people” responsible for making and administering decisions, laws and policy affecting the citizens of that country. That includes parliament and all our elected representatives, the senate, all those civil servant charged with overseeing and administering decisions made by parliament (particularly parliamentary officers) , our diplomatic representatives at home and abroad, and yes, the office of the Prime Minister. It is not, in my view, simply restricted to those who happen to be associated with the party who received the current mandate to administer “government”, to the leader of that party (the Prime Minister), or to that small group who the selected leader of that party has chosen to “advise” him.

That is not what most of us are referring to when we say “the government has….” or more particularly “The Canadian Government” , we are generally referring to that narrow definition that only includes those persons with the power to make decisions within the particular party currently in power. For many it perhaps does not even extend to those back benchers of that party but only to the PMO, their staff (elected or not) and the individuals in cabinet.

This examination of what we mean by “government” is brought on by the recent “request” by the majority of our representatives for the “government” (that’s the current ones with the power to instruct our civil servants) to produce unaltered historical documents so that a parliamentary committee can decide if individuals or groups of individuals have conspired to withhold information from our elected representatives. That such information may have implications for not only those that withheld the information but for the reputation of the country as a whole and possibly the individual solder putting his life on the line for “democracy” in Afghanistan, makes it essential that the truth be known. The public may not need to know all the details if such are of a “sensitive” nature, portions of the hearings could be closed to protect such, but as Robert Walsh, the Parliamentary Law Clerk recently said:-

In keeping with the principles of responsible government, no part of the Government’s responsibilities can by law be categorically excluded or removed from its constitutional accountability to the House and its committees, otherwise it would soon become only partial accountability and perhaps after some years no accountability at all.”

Perhaps we are already at that tipping point?

To clarify, I view the governing party and more particularly the PMO and cabinet as the “Executive branch of Government” as such they are PART of Government. A part that has special executive privileges it is true, but still a part, not the whole. A part that should be no less accountable for their decisions and actions than the various departments and individuals that they oversee on our behalf. It is perhaps the more narrow definition that we all refer to when saying, The Government did that or did not do this, that has led to our current executive branch referring to themselves by prefacing the word government with the current leaders name. Is it that they believe that they and they alone comprise The Government of Canada? Could it be that the current leader of the party charged with those “executive responsibilities” believes he has absolute power to do as he wishes despite the wishes of the majority of those parliamentarians charged with representing our wishes?

As with many things in our parliamentary democracy the lines between the power of the executive branch of government and the power of the people and their representatives to hold them to account is far from clear. What is clear however is that when those charged with that responsibility deliberately withhold, obscure, are less than truthful about, or otherwise seek to block information affecting both their own reputation and that of the country then we are well down that slippery slope towards oligarchy.

I am however somewhat encouraged by the number of bloggers who have picked up on this attack upon our democratic processes, it is increasing clear that the internet is our best tool to disseminate information and pressure those in power to “play by the rules”.
I hope to dedicate a post in the very near future to the link between the public use of the internet and the protection of our democracy. Your input is invited by comment or email,

T/H to Impolitical and DrDawg for this one… Support Democracy - Recommend this Post at Progressive Bloggers

1 comment:

tdwebste said...

I agree governments have a real role to play. It is not the role of government to marginalize governments social responsibility by destroy confidence in their ability to be socially responsible.

The advantage of an educated democracy with open access to information is its ability to remove governments which socially irresponsible and destructive.