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 20, 2011

Not Important?

There are two rules at the centre of Parliamentary democracy. First, any politician given actual responsibility must have an elected mandate. Second, government is accountable to all politicians with an elected mandate. “ So says The Fifth Estate in a rebuttal to a recent article by John Ivisin. In doing so he make a number of important observations about how our parliament is supposed to work and how it is being increasingly subverted into a meaningless & dysfunctional shadow of its former self.
I agree with everything said and have therefore re=posted this article in full (My bold):-

A few days ago, I suggested that the main achievement of the Harper regime was something few people had noticed yet: a new style of democracy, à la George Bush and Hugo Chavez, where only the election results matter: once you’re elected, the rule of law no longer applies. Now John Ivison of the National Post has taken up the same point. Well, sort of. You see, Ivison is an irredeemably moronic pro-big-government flake (a journalist?) without an apparent shred of critical thinking ability or even basic knowledge of how Westminster democracy works.
There are two rules at the centre of Parliamentary democracy. First, any politician given actual responsibility must have an elected mandate. Second, government is accountable to all politicians with an elected mandate. Now, all majority governments skirt with violating this principle, all the time. They break laws. They stonewall investigations. They lie to journalists. And occasionally they close down debate in Parliament in order to ram a bill through.
According to Ivison, that’s fine and dandy. He says the government has a “right” to pass legislation, because it won the election. This “right” trumps the whining crybabies in Parliament who want to debate the bill. According to Ivison, in other words, Parliament is an irrelevant talk shop. Now, certainly the vast majority of MPs agree with him that there is no need for maturity, intelligence, or any remotest shred of independent thinking in their workplace. But they are wrong. And so is he.

It will probably come as a great surprise to people as apparently oblivious and ignorant to basic concepts of representative democracy as national newspaper columnists, and Post ones in particular, but no government has the “right” to pass a law. It actually has no rights. You can check, in the Constitution. What the Prime Minister has is the responsibility to ensure the consent of Parliament to pass the laws he wants to pass. Today, all political parties claim the right to command this consent whenever they want it from their members, and those members agree, and almost nobody calls them on their bullshit. I challenge anyone to explain how democracy could be anything but dysfunctional when party discipline reigns supreme.

But what we are talking about now goes beyond party discipline. The Conservative government has stated in practice, if not by policy just yet, that Parliamentary discussion is no longer relevant. They have done this by demonstrating that any time the opposition parties make some token opposition in Parliament, they will invoke closure on the debate and hurry the bill through. Their supporters, like Ivison, cheer them on as they do this.
I’ll be the first to admit that Parliament has become a rather sad spectacle, but the solution from authoritarians like Stephen Harper and quisling tools like Ivison is to do away with the instituion entirely and say that Parliament just doesn’t matter: what matters is Ivison’s totally fictitious, bogus, trumped-up “government rights” to do whatever they want in between election campaigns. I’m not sure they’ve thought through the long-term consequences of this. Because the major consequence is to take Parliament out of the equation entirely and simply agree that the prime minister can do whatever he likes.
Here’s how Parliamentary democracy is supposed to work: the prime minister is any person who can get a majority of MPs to agree to accept his leadership. That’s it. Political parties and all their ilk are traitorous leeches who corrupt this process and turn Parliament into mere showmanship. In this, the NDP and the Liberals are no less guilty than the Conservatives. But just the same, right now it is a Conservative government which is going one further step and suggesting that Parliament has no role in debating legislation except to meekly stand by while the Prime Minister’s Office dictates legislation.
People like Ivison presumably feel this doesn’t matter because the all-powerful leaders in the PMO will always return to the ballot box every four years or so, and then if voters have been too harassed by the government, they can get their revenge. But in an age of declining election turnouts, it’s worth asking how long it will be before a Prime Minister given the sort of pre-eminent power Ivison thinks he should have decides that it’s not really worth going back to the ballot box anyways.
That future autocrat won’t be Harper, despite some particularly upset leftist bloggers saying last May that we’d just seen Canada’s last election. It likely won’t even come during Ivison’s chosen career as apologist for authoritarianism. But so long as we accept that Parliament is subordinate to the Prime Minister’s Office rather than the other way around, that day is coming.
I’m very sorry that these plain facts about democracy will no doubt be unwelcome to those anti-democratic forces who insist that we have to shut down debate so that we can pass the laws now, now, now, fast, fast, fast, and “get things done” and “bring change” and so on and so forth ad nauseam. That’s not how democracy works. Democracy is not about making sure the leader can act quickly and without opposition. If that’s the sort of government you think is superior, there are plenty of them in the world, and you’re welcome to move to whichever one you think will make you happiest. Personally, I suggest this one.
Origionaly posted at http://sixthestate.net/?p=2718

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