12.12.2016 10:59 AM

This week’s column: it’s our democracy, not yours, you bastards

To whom does democracy belong?

Its parentage is uncertain. As with “values” – about which the Lilliputian Kellie Leitch arrogantly claims to be the final arbiter – “democracy” gets invoked by politicians all the time. They insinuate that democracy, and the values that make up a democracy, are known to them and them alone.

But democracy, as clichéd as it may be, belongs to the people. The politicians apparently need to be reminded of that, these days.

Last year, of course, the Liberal Party of Canada offered up high-sounding promises about democracy in its election platform. Tucked in there were four vague sentences about electoral reform. The platform solemnly promised that Canada would never again conduct an election under the so-called “first past the post system.”

The promise was designed to suck in New Democrat voters, and it worked smashingly. New Democrats always believe that they lose elections because the system is at fault, and not them. So Dippers stampeded over to Justin Trudeau.

The paradox, historians will note, is that the Liberal Party never expected to be lifted from a distant rump in the House of Commons to a commanding first place, and a huge majority government. They, like everyone else, thought they would hold Stephen Harper to a minority, and then take back government in 2017 or 2018. Thus, their platform was chock-full of promises they never, ever expected to keep: deficits of no more than $10 billion, revenue neutral tax breaks, fighter jet procurement, restore door-to-door home mail delivery, revolutionizing C-51, and – as noted – comprehensive electoral reform. And so on.

A year later, the electoral reform promise is in shambles. And, when you think about it, the “democratic reform” file has been an utter fiasco from the earliest days. From those four oblique sentences in the Liberal Party platform (promising bold change but not saying what the bold change would be), to now, when the whole thing has spiraled downward into Twitter hashtag farce (there are some really good ones, too!): it’s been a disaster, from start to finish.

The minister responsible, Maryam Monsef, bears responsibility for some of that. Monsef did herself no favours by criticizing the work of an all-party committee into the issue – or by sounding less-than-candid when some conservative conspiracy theorists earlier cooked up a racist “birther” narrative to destroy her and her policy.

But she has also been subjected to more abuse and derision than any cabinet minister since Bev Oda, she of the $16 orange juice fame. This writer’s strong suspicion is that the hostility and hatred that Monsef has endured (as with Oda) possibly had something to do with (a) her gender and (b) her race. We’ll never know that for sure, of course, but (as with Oda) Monsef’s coming punishment seems to be far, far out of proportion to the offence.

There is plenty of blame to go around, however. Personally, this space is unimpressed with all of the combatants in what has become a hellacious mud-wrestling match. There is much to oppose, if you are a sensible person.

You should oppose the “referendum solves everything” approach – favoured by Conservatives and separatists – because we still don’t know what the question would be. (And, irony of ironies, what kind of referendum would it be? Fifty per cent plus one? Two-thirds? Ranked ballot style? )

You should be against the New Democrat approach, which is proportional representation by stealth. They want that system because it guarantees them seats, even when they run a crappy election campaign, which is something they do with impressive regularity. For Dippers, proportional representation is like an electoral pension plan without end.

You should also be against the Liberal approach, which is to tinker with democracy for no apparent reason whatsoever. It may be imperfect, per Churchill, but our system of electing and governing is a Hell of a lot better than all of the alternatives, isn’t it? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, etc. To wit: before now, was anyone standing around the water coolers of the nation, saying: “God almighty, I didn’t sleep again last night because our elected representatives are insufficiently informed about the Gallagher Index!”

Enough time has been wasted on this file, politicians. Donald Trump is bringing the world towards the brink of some sort of a war with China, and this is all you have to worry about?

Get a life. It’s our democracy, not yours, you solipsistic, self-interested egomaniacs.

 

30 Comments

  1. doconnor says:

    Unlike the other parties the NDP has been totally open about what they want and how they want to achieve it.

    For a lot of voters, how parties run thier election campaign isn’t as important as the principles that their party represents. Wild swings in seat count generated by the relatively small swings in support is undemocratic. It’s not about politicians have a secure job. It’s about segments of the population having a secure voice is government.

    • Ron says:

      “The index involves taking the square root of half the sum of the squares of the difference between percent of vote and percent of seats for each of the political parties.”

      How’s that for top drawer horse bleep ?

  2. BillBC says:

    Aw Warren, you seductive bastard…every time I start to think you are just one more Liberal a-hole, you write something like this, and I fall in love all over again!! 🙂

    I agree with every word of this, and I would just add this: the current FPTP system, for all its faults, is easy to understand, and gives us centrist governments that a majority of us can live with. Leave it the hell alone.

    • Al in Cranbrook says:

      Kinda what Bill said, ‘cept for the “fall in love” part…”like” is probably more appropriate, at least for me. (…and a-hole is bit strong, too.) 🙂

      Anyway…

      Worst idea in the world is jerking around with our voting system. For all its faults, its merits outweigh the works. First off, and most importantly, it keeps the fringe extremists and goofballs in check. Before any party or person gets elected to office, they have meet the requirement of attaining critical mass with voters…which is not an impossible feat, as demonstrated by the likes of the Social Credit Party, the CCF hence NDP, and the Refoooorm Party/Canadian Allliance. May, for reasons incomprehensible to me, is a rare exception to the rule, albeit the Green Party continues to languish in a dark cave someplace, where, IMHO, it belongs.

      God forbid our parliament turns into a gong show all too common to European countries, where basically nothing gets done save for conceiving an ever increasingly infinite list of more laws and regulations on just about anything imaginable…including, of all things, the weather….in the mind of your average preschooler on up, always a favorite pastime of the left, if for no other reason than to justify their otherwise apparently meaningless existences.

      Secondly, who said democracy was supposed to be easy and minimally time consuming…think, f’rinstance, on-line voting? Of course, this would be a terrific boon to the left’s cause…essentially permanent power…as it would enable every kid between the ages of 16 (in lefty’s dreams) and 25 to participate without having to actually get up off their sorry asses, abandon their Play Stations/X-Boxes, and walk outside their parents’ basement into the obviously scary world beyond, in which other people with real jobs pay taxes to support their indoctrination into Marxism and politically correct thinking by our public education system…and then, of course, vote for some one/party on the left. Albeit, as someone wiser than I observed, most people under the age of 30 or so are prone to do anyway (…see: Bernie Sanders.)

      But I digress…

      Frankly, if lining up vote and exercise one’s democratic right once every four years is too much trouble, then stay home…that’s also one’s right. The rest of the nation benefits thus because it ups the standard of who finally does gets elected by those who actually give a damn, if you get my meaning.

      • Nicole says:

        I rarely agree with Al, but I do on this issue. The biggest complainers about FPTP are the NDP and Green Party. The NDP has managed to get official opposition, so maybe with the right leader they can do it again. The Green Party is a one issue Party and doesn’t have a serious agenda on running a country otherwise.

        As for young adults not voting, that has everything to do with the parents. My parents brought me to the polling station even before I was old enough to vote and once I was of voting age, I went on my own and my parents made sure everyone voted. They didn’t tell us how to vote, but we had to go.

        There are plenty of advanced voting days available for provincial and federal elections that there is no excuse not to go and in urban areas the voting locations are easily accessible. That trend should continue. We cannot be like the US where some states make voter registration and voting difficult. That said, if you can’t be bothered to make an effort, then you can’t complain when the politicians don’t do what you want them to.

    • Kelly says:

      What the heck are you talking about? Our system produces governments that most people didn’t want. Every time. It’s practically guaranteed to work that way except in a 2 party sham democracy. The only reason Conservatives are screaming for a referendum is that historically because of inertia people won’t change the system in referendums. And if in fact we were to adopt PR, they would never win government again unless they actually do become centrist, instead of acting like the extremists they were in the last regime.

      So let’s quit pretending you care about democracy, OK? FPTP produces phony results and phony governments with the power to engage in crazy radical policies and you know it. PR produces real majorities through consensus building and coalitions while every vote matters.

      I worry the current Liberal government is stupid enough to think it will win many more majorities when they are vulnerable to the next dirty dishonest campaign by the Cons. They’re fools. However I think that young voters are activated now. I think they’ve seen the horrifying results of their sitting out the US election and Brexit. I think PR would actually win in a referendum this time. Which is why I don’t think the Liberals will even get as far as a referendum. They’ll just quietly shut the file down because they don’t want PR either. They’ve won more phony majorities than any other party.

      • monkey says:

        Actually if you’ve been following European politics closely, it would show us exactly why we shouldn’t go to PR. Most European parliaments have far right extreme parties and in the case of Austria and the Netherlands, the far right is currently leading in the polls while they are competitive in Sweden so the idea PR produces more centrist governments is not necessarily the case nor does it necessarily represent the majority. It’s whomever can form the best backroom deal. If one looks across the Atlantic and considers Canada is doing better than just about every European country regardless of what system they uses, I don’t think we need to change. As for the younger voters, most don’t know or care about what electoral system we use. They will show up if someone inspires them like Trudeau or Obama and will stay home if no one does regardless of what system we use. In fact in Italy, they are trying to move away from PR so they can actually form stable governments which is holding the country back in economic growth.

        • doconnor says:

          If the far-right was leading under FPP, they would have a good chance of forming a majority government, like what just happened in the US. Under PR, thier influence would still be limited.

          There are still backroom deals within difference factions of Canadian parties, its just they are so backroom, many don’t know they exist.

          • monkey says:

            Not totally true at all. In Denmark, they brought in one the harshest refugee laws that was widely condemned by many human rights organizations in order to obtain the support of the far right Danish People’s Party. Norway, Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, and Italy have all at some point either included the far right directly in their coalition or got them to promise to support them in exchange for something. Only Germany, Sweden, and Belgium do they have a cordon sanitaire whereby the parties unequivocally agree not to work with far right parties. At the same time in the UK, the the far right UKIP came in first in European elections where they use PR, but in the UK election they won only 1 seat out of over 600 seats showing FTFP does work in weeding out extremist. In Australia, the far right one Nation party has seats in the senate where they use PR, but none in the lower house where they use ranked ballots (AV). Likewise France where the far right is strongest in numbers still has no National Front MPs federally and has largely successfully kept them out of most parts of government because they use a majoritarian rather than PR system. Yes the US elected a far right, but even under PR it’s not totally impossible Trump could have not gained power. Under PR, the GOP vote + Libertarians would have been enough to put him over the top although they could have also put Hillary Clinton over the top too.

          • doconnor says:

            I said the far right could have sone influence and PR, but are much less likely to totally take over the government.

            Under PR the Republicans would have split into far-right and centre-right parties.

  3. billg says:

    How did we become such a great nation which constantly rates in the top 5 country’s to live in with such a horrible electoral system?
    My truck is running great, I think I’ll get an engine overhaul.
    There is a Democratic reality, and that is, the party you support may get millions of votes and never wield power.
    If this was a two party system FPTP would seem unfair to 49.9% if that’s the way it unfolded.
    I do not like nor do I care for our current Prime Minister, however, isn’t it my responsibility in a Democracy to understand that other voters might have it right this time and I don’t, and that regardless of my feelings Justin Trudeau is my Prime Minister and Canada’s leader so maybe I should just get over it.
    Our system works because the Governments we elect become centrist and work for all Canadians, an NDP government pushing for pipelines is proof.
    How Canadian is that, and, how perfect is that.

    • Kelly says:

      Cuba has a lower infant mortality rate than Canada. Just saying. We also rank as one of the worst in the OECD for poverty, homelessness and household debt. Many first Nations live in abject absolute poverty. Countries in Northern Europe with PR don’t have these problems. We need to tax the people who have all the money like the Scandinavians do and implement a guaranteed income supplement, scaled to bring everyone below the mean up to the mean before adjusting. You would have another 2 million people suddenly able to participate in the economy and make choices and have freedom. The top 10% of earners would hardly noticed their taxes had gone up.

      • monkey says:

        Actually on most counts Canada does very well and even the Nordic Countries are not the paradises some on the left think they are. Cost of living is much higher than Canada and after tax take home pay is less. Also their taxes are less progressive than ours meaning its not the rich who pay a lot more, but rather the middle class. The top rate is lower in Norway and Iceland than in Ontario while Finland is around the same (Iceland 46.4%, Norway 46.9%, Ontario 53.5%, Finland 52.5%), while Denmark and Sweden are only slightly higher but not enough to make a big difference (Denmark 55.9% and Sweden 57%). Corporate tax rates are lower in all Nordic Countries than Canada. The reason they can afford more expensive programs is they have a 25% VAT as well as their top rates kick in at much lower levels (around 70K vs. our 200K), millionaires do not pay more tax there, maybe more than the US, but not Canada. Also all of the Nordic Countries charge user fees for doctor’s visits and have a parallel private system (otherwise the Cambie Surgery Centre which the government is trying to shut down are legal there although only a handful exist in each country). I agree poverty is an issue, but different countries use different metrics and I would hardly say looking at the stats Canada does too bad. More equality isn’t necessarily a good thing as it can mean lower productivity which the Nordic Countries face. Also Nordic Countries unlike Canada have to deal with far right parties in their parliaments who get between 10-20% and satisfaction with governments is no higher than Canada and racism is more rampant there (It’s more rampant in pretty much every other country on earth, not that we are perfect but we are less racist than most). As for Cuba having a lower infant mortality rate than Canada, that is false. It is the third lowest in the Americas behind Canada and Chile. It’s lower than the United States but that doesn’t say a lot considering the US is the worst amongst the developed countries on this. Never mind not all PR countries are more socialistic, most former Easter bloc countries use PR yet have much lower taxes and are more pro free market as is Switzerland so how socialistic a country is has more to do with where they median voter sits not what system the country uses.

  4. dave constable says:

    Centrists governments and the majority have given us not only the continued pumping of zillions of tonnes of carbon into the air and the resulting degradation of our oceans, they are granting license to accelerating the process to the same old polluting industries; their media that has served them so well in the past has given us wars over control of extraction and transport of fossil fuels (as well as assorted other raw resources) is now manufacturing absolute horse apples to justify yet more wars on Asiatics, or Slavs, or Africans, or whomever they create their bs reporting about.
    Ah, but centrists are not radicals…and they are elected by majorities, like the 25% or so of adults in Canada, or the incredibly huge 45% majority that the pres elect has in USA.

    I think South China Morning Post is close to the government in Beijing, and their lead headline today leads a report that shows the Chinese government taking a fairly firm stand regarding the one China policy as the basis of Sino American relations. So, there is that. But he one that bothers me is the racist government in Israel talking up working with the president elect to ditch the Iran USA agreement, and the luring of USA into yet another war to knock off another regional power in the Middle East.
    Article floating around on the internet today by one Crag Murray, the controversial ex ambassador for UK to Uzbekistan, not only takes rip out of the war mongering wing of the Democratic Party’s ‘them bad Russian hackers,’ but claims he knows the name of the Clinton campaign insider who leaked all the e mails.

    Sure, let’s keep going the way we have been…everything is good…and I have mine ( did it all myself, dontcha know)

    • Al in Cranbrook says:

      Centrist governments over the last century and some created an economic environment that provided inexpensive energy to the masses, which in turn enabled them to feed, clothe, house themselves, get an education, receive healthcare, and raise their standard of living.

      While they were doing this, not so “centrist” governments were busing themselves with mass murder of tens of millions of their own citizens, creating world wars, and a thousand lesser wars of conquest and tyranny, all the while forcing their own citizens to either flee their nations of birth to the west to get a better life, or alternatively live in squalor, trying to eke out pathetic livings that generally involve the tearing down of forests to heat their miserable huts, and provide land to raise meager crops to keep from starvation, while birthing as many children as humanly possible in hopes at least one or two of them would survive to adulthood. As not so centrist governments were doing this, the centrist governments nevertheless stepped up to feed as many of their poverty stricken as possible with the excess of food we’ve been able to grow thanks to the abundance of affordable and abundant energy.

      Before you sell your soul to some God forsaken ideology, at least have the decency and responsibility to gather up some facts and history to educate yourself with before you belch out such inane and randomly stupid bullshit in public!

      In the process you will more than likely find out that you owe your own very existence in the world, and certainly the lifestyle it affords you and which you clearly take so much for granted, to the reality of affordable and abundant energy on which this nation was built by your forefathers…and likely your own parents!

      Keeerist, give me strength!!!

    • redraven says:

      sorry Dave. we haven’t had a functioning democracy since the G20. it was trampled into the ground by Harper and his proxies. No-one fought for it then and no-one has fought for it since.
      Someone once told me there are only two kinds of people in the world. Those who hold the loaded guns and those who dig. Out government loves to hold and or threaten us with the loaded guns we own and long ago paid for. We even have the minister for sinister threats warning us that loaded guns will be dispatched if dare protest pipelines. Yep, that’s some serious democracy right there. And Kellie Leitch is another one threatening loaded guns.
      Nope, this party not to be confused with government is very big on giving us shovels to dig with, democracy? Nah not so much.

    • Kelley says:

      Best read yet. I even understood almost everything you said. We live in a world where money rules governments and no one has the balls or authority to say go to hell. And there is more than one that bothers me…..France eliminated plastic …good move…but really, it’s a drop in the bucket. Not even a drop depending on the bucket size. And soon, very soon, if the industry lords, the 1% who control every damn thing under the increasingly sheer and fragile veil of democracy have their continued way (and really, how do we the sheeple stop them) we will all sooner, rather than later, kick the bucket.
      PS….India’s 60 Tal Mahal’s solar panels are a start…as is the bicycle that can power a small home. (Really it exists). But then the 1% will buy that bike and destroy it….like the electric car the oil industry managed to destroy way back in the hippy days. I think we’re doomed. I don’t give up, I don’t stop caring, but I think we only think we can do a damn thing.

  5. monkey says:

    Fully agree, this was a sop mainly to the FairVote who want to stop going on about how we need proportional representation even though it has been shot down in three provinces. If there is any lesson in this, we live in unpredictable times where you cannot rely on past voting patterns so all parties should have a platform based on the idea they will win they election even if the polls don’t look so good as who knows. After the surprise NDP win in Alberta, I would have thought Justin Trudeau would have figured out polling in third within 10 points of both the NDP and Conservatives does not equal a loss. Neither had insurmountable lead. Best to follow the Liberal majority report and just drop the issue and move on to more important things. Smart governments with high approval ratings burn their political capital on things that matter and will benefit the country, not on silly things like this.

  6. pat says:

    I don’t like referendums for anything but parking meters and public transit. When applied to big things the arguments polarize, and they have the tone of an ill-informed lynch mob. Always with the crass extremes of populism, and lacking insight, and thoughtfulness. Might get what you didn’t expect. We have a constitution to protect individual people from the emotionally charged extremes of mob mentality, so maybe we should consider that when tinkering with the system itself; Not that it should never change, but don’t change it just for fun.

  7. JustCallMeRick says:

    Then what do we do to prevent autocratic regimes like Harper’s, elected with 39% of the vote? I honestly felt like I lived in a country occupied by a foreign army. They tilted the scales in their favour by intimidating opponents (eg. via CRA, etc), changed Party funding rules to handicap the other parties, introducing the “unfair elections” act, and breathtaking propaganda like the Economic Action Plan…..they were close to getting away with it.
    Perhaps add some safety checks? Like set a limit of two terms as in the U.S.?

    • Aongasha says:

      Interesting fact you’d probably like to ignore Rick but still, speaking of autocratic regimes Harper won with 39.62% of the vote, Trudeau with 39.47%.

  8. BooyahBoy says:

    Democracy = People
    Autocracy = Peeple
    Trumpocracy = Poople

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