Bill C-51 will deepen and widen Canada’s democratic deficit into an abyss. Is it possible to stop it?
From the beginning, Green Party leader Elizabeth May has led the opposition against Bill C-51. Happily she has been joined by the NDP and every other party in voicing serious concerns, although the Liberal Party has fewer concerns than any other, and say they will actually vote for it. (No, I don’t get it, either.)
From the very beginning, the Harper Government made it clear it would fast track Bill C-51.
Bill C-51 was even presented to the Senate before it even cleared the House of Commons, something that is certainly unusual, and possibly even unprecedented. Even there, an MI5 intelligence expert (one of Canada’s “Five Eyes” intelligence ally) condemned Bill C-51 roundly before at the Senate hearings. In the past, Canadians have seen the Senate’s reluctance to provide sober second thought, so we really can’t expect anything more than it’s usual rubber stamp of Harper Government Policy.
The Parliamentary Committee meant to study Bill C-51 was severely limited in the number of submissions the Government would allow. An NDP filibuster made it possible to slightly expand the scope of the presentations, but it still fell very short of the mark. Nevertheless, most of the experts on the array of issues covered by this omnibus bill were not allowed to even speak to the committee.
Rather than silencing opposition, this policy had the opposite affect: the experts made an effort to wade through and dissect this law in a way seldom seen any more. Since the committee couldn’t hear their opposition on this incredibly important issue, the experts have presented their findings to us, the Canadian public.
Legal scholars Craig Forcese (University of Ottawa) and Kent Roach (University of Toronto) began by presenting their findings online, as they found them. Former Prime Ministers, Supreme Court Justices and finally the entire Canadian legal community rose up against this dreadful draft legislation. Canadian Privacy Commissioners — past and present — spoke strongly against Bill C-51. Civil Liberty groups, Conrad Black, Rex Murphy, the Communist Party of Canada and even a group of business owners have all come out against Bill C-51 in the strongest terms.
In the beginning, ordinary Canadians were told this law would make us safe from terrorism, when in fact this claim has failed to rise above the rhetoric. Instead of being supported with evidence, the expert evidence demonstrating that stripping Canadians of Charter protections will in fact make us less safe. As a result, ordinary Canadians held rallies and Days of Action across Canada to raise awareness. When Canadians learn the import of Bill C-51, we oppose it. Now that ordinary people have the facts, support for the bill has plummeted and the vast majority of Canadians are in opposition to this bill.
Because Bill C-51 is not a partisan issue, it’s a Canadian issue. This law would be un-Canadian.
And yet none of this seems to have dampened the Harper Government’s determination to fast-track the Bill. The deepest flaw in our electoral system is that a party with 39% of the vote can gain 100% of the power. When a party has 100% of the power, it can pass any law it likes. (This is why we need Proportional Representation.)
Rather than scrapping the bill outright, the Harper Government’s domination of the parliamentary committee instead flexed it’s dictatorial muscles by defeating every amendment presented by every other Canadian political party with representation in Parliament. The only amendments to the law have been the three 3 cosmetic changes in an unconvincing effort to demonstrate the Government had in fact noticed public opinion opposes the bill.
And yet The Harper Government continues to spread misinformation about this bill through its response made by the West Vancouver – Sunshine Coast – Sea to Sky Country MP. John Weston claimed Bill C-51 made “modest changes” which would “bring our government up to the level of other western democracies” without providing a scrap of substantiation. Then he attempted to discredit Ms. May with an ad hominem attack, then he concluded with a false claim that Bill C-51 would provide “judicial overview.”
This was Ms. May’s response.
Mr. Speaker, let’s be clear, this bill does not contain a single element of judicial oversight.
It does allow a CSIS agent to go to a judge and obtain a warrant– but does that judge have the overview and the oversight to continue to monitor the way that warrant is used?
And no other modern democracy — NONE — anywhere — would allow a judge in a secret hearing to give a warrant to violate the constitution.
Although I am not a lawyer, my reading of the Charter suggests this is all that will remain of our rights and freedoms if Bill C-51 becomes law.
For this reason, I sincerely hope that Bill C-51 is withdrawn by the Harper Government. To this end, I sincerely hope Canadians will continue to call or write or email our MPs (you can print your own post card here) — even Conservative MPs — or sign the petition or petitions of your choice, and encourage others to do so as well. If we keep silent, our Charter will become a ghost of itself, our civil rights a sham.
For this reason I lend my own voice to Ms. May’s plea that her colleagues in the House of Commons will reject this bad law.
I’m only an ordinary citizen, maybe I’ve gotten it wrong. But the experts have out the evidence out there. Because the experts know why Bill C-51 must be scrapped. Please watch the video (it’s only ten minutes) and hear for yourself.
My flag photo is released under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License;
Roger Duhamel‘s rendering of the Canadian Parliament Buildings is Public Domain. The image is from the Canadian Bill of Rights, which was originally under Crown Copyright, which expires 50 years after publication.
Canadians don’t want a two party federal system — we’re far too diverse.
That’s why we’ve embraced the notion of being a “mosaic” nation, a stark contrast to the American “melting pot” culture, where everyone is expected to fit into the homogeneous mold. But my Canada has found unity in diversity — we are a confederation of different peoples and different cultures. It’s no surprise we have so many political parties.
Unfortunately our antiquated electoral system disadvantages both independent candidates and the smaller parties, making it very difficult for them to represent citizens in Parliament. For a long time the Green Party of Canada failed to achieve a single voice in parliament — even with the support of almost a million Canadians. But when governments in power have the ability to change rules and riding boundaries to their own advantage, its no wonder the more powerful parties are able to secure seats in parliament with a many fewer votes. But persistence can pay off, and we now have two GPC parliamentarians, and we’ve seen what a difference the addition has made.
But the Canadian tragedy is that there are still far too many of us without any representation at all. but in reality, any electoral system that fails to provide representation to three quarters of the eligible voters can hardly be called a “representative democracy.”
Too many citizens give up on our unfair political system in frustration. The reasoning goes: why waste our time voting if our votes don’t count? When almost half of the eligible voters don’t vote, support for the smaller parties waxes and wanes, and fewer votes determine our election outcomes.
But many Canadians are stubborn, too. That’s why many smaller parties continuously jump through the bureaucratic hoops necessary to retain their official “Registered Party” status. These small political parties may not be able to have official standing in the House of Commons, but they nonetheless represent a great many of our citizens and residents, many of whom are among the most politically active members of Canadian society. These Canadians work for significant programs, and fight for real solutions to the major problems facing Canadians, including proposals for democratic reform.
This is why so many Canadians keep on “wasting our votes” by voting for the candidates and parties we want to send to Ottawa. Even when we understand that supporting one of the smaller parties is unlikely to secure us representation in parliament, a great many Canadians continue our dogged support of a wide variety of diverse smaller political parties. Because we believe that Canada should truly be a democracy, most Canadians believe all Canadians deserve representation in Parliament.
Even though our badly outdated winner-take-all electoral system makes it nearly impossible for the smaller parties to install MPs in the House of Commons, they can still speak for us.
This diverse group of political parties will come together to voice their particular concerns and objections and outline their commonly held reasons for opposing Bill C-23. All these parties are unanimous in their opposition to Bill C-23, and like the many Canadians they represent, they want to see this Unfair Elections Act withdrawn in its entirety.
Unrepresented Canadians and Small Parties without House of Commons seats share the challenge of being heard. This is why citizen journalists, bloggers and even mainstream media (and citizens, too) need to attend this press conference, and share their views on this vitally important topic.
Date: Friday, April 11, 2014
Time: 10:30 am Ottawa Time
Place: Charles Lynch Room, Centre Block, Parliament Hill
For further information contact the party of your choice:
Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party of Canada, 416-462-9541
Canadian Action Party, 519-852-8279
Christian Heritage Party, 819-281-6686, 1-888-868-3247
Communist Party of Canada, 416-469-2446
Libertarian Party of Canada, 613-288-9089
Marijuana Party of Canada, 514-507-5188
Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada, 416-253-4475
Party for Accountability, Competency and Transparency, 416-567-6913
Pirate Party of Canada, (877) 978-2023
Progressive Canadian Party, 905-853-8949
Although these small parties have yet to overcome the artificial barriers inherent in our unfair First Past The Post electoral system, they do in fact speak for much of the effectively disenfranchised Canadian population. In a real democracy, all voices must be heard.
That’s is why all Canadians deserve to hear what they have to say. Note: Although I am unable to attend, Whoa!Canada is willing to publish submitted event coverage & photos here.
Although M. Duceppe is quite correct in stating that he can not hope to be Prime Minister of Canada, it is because thus far his party exists only in La Province du Québec. Even winning every possible riding in La Belle Province can not garner enough seats to form a Canadian Federal Government. If Mr Duceppe wishes to be Prime Minister of Canada, he first needs to extend his base of support beyond Quebec’s borders.
The New Democratic Party of Canada has fielded Candidates across the country. This means that enough NDP MPs could be elected to form a federal government. Which would transform Jack Layton into the Prime Minster of Canada. Not impossible.
The same is true for Elizabeth May. The Green Party of Canada (GPC) has fielded candidates all across Canada. If enough Green Party candidates are elected, as the leader of the Green Party of Canada, Elizabeth may would become our Prime Minister.
This is why the televised Leadership Debate was such a travesty. The arbitrary rules set by the consortium are in fact meaningless. In a first-past-the-post democracy, it does not matter who formed the last government. That’s old news. Just because they have been elected in the past doesn’t mean they will be elected again. That’s history. All the leaders of all registered parties should have been included.
Every election is a fresh start, as Anne of Green Gables would say, “with no mistakes in it.”
Because no one has been elected, all the candidates are supposed to start on a level playing field.
Canadians have been under the apparently mistaken impression that the Elections Canada mandate was to ensure a fair election. To ensure as level a field as possible. Yet it seems Elections Canada was powerless over the televised Leadership Debates. The way the “debates” were conducted was left entirely in the hands of “the consortium.” This utterly unaccountable media consortium decided that the only leaders allowed on the televised debates would be the ones with elected representatives.
Previous governments have written laws allowing these unaccountable media corporations to define the terms of election broadcasts. This places the broadcast media in control of what the electorate is allowed to see.
More than ever before, this election is being held at a time when the unaccountable consortium of broadcasters is a special interest group.
Who is in charge of Canada’s mainstream media “consortium”?
Ahem. Bell Canada Enterprises just happens to own the CTV Network, The Globe And Mail, much of Canada’s land and cell phone networks, as well as a huge chunk of the Internet backbone. The supposedly arms length CRTC has failed Canadians by granting the gigantic Bell more and more control over the Canadian media when in fact a good regulator would be breaking it down into smaller parts to diminish the unhealthy stranglehold this corporation has over the Canadian digital economy. Usage Based Billing is just one of the perks that Bell has attempted with the assistance of the CRTC.
Suffice it to say that Elections Canada should be calling the shots, not media special interest groups.
The deliberate exclusion of Green Party candidates by the media in the supposedly non-partisan meetings seems the recurring theme for this election. The media supposedly “covering” these all candidates meetings and debates is actually controlling them.
Then there was the “Kitchener Centre Forum” put on by the Greater KW Chamber of Commerce at Kitchener City Hall on April 21st. This forum only invited four of the seven candidates registered to run in this riding. Stephen Woodworth (Conservative Party of Canada), Karen Redman (Liberal Party of Canada), Peter Thurley (New Democratic Party), and Byron Williston (Green Party of Canada) were allowed to attend while Mark Corbiere (Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada), Alan Rimmer (Independent), and Martin Suter (Communist Party of Canada) were excluded.
Canadian media coverage used to be equitable to all the candidates.
Instead of fair election coverage, Canadians are getting scripted debates and reality TV.
up close and personal: local level debates
I missed the first Kitchener-Conestoga all-candidates meeting in my riding since it conflicted with the televised leadership debate.
What I heard went on revealed it to have been something of a travesty. Albert Ashley, the Green Candidate was absent altogether (out of the country), making the “All Candidate” meeting short one candidate. Like the televised “Leadership Debate”, this local debate was rigidly controlled by the media companies, in this case, Rogers Cable and The Record newspaper. Apparently candidate answers were limited to 30 second sound bites, making the answers, for the most part, shorter than the questions.
The published Record story downplays the fact that the incumbent Albrecht’s ‘office’ had been caught out for registering his opponent’s domain name and putting spurious content online.
What would have been a major scandal back when we still had a watch-dog press, instead came out in the Record as a partisan whitewash. The characterized this breach of ethics (if not law ) as “website pranks.” In fact it is very close to Identity theft, and may well constitute libel or fraud in the business world.
Apparently Harold Albrecht laid off the responsibility for this attack on “an overzealous volunteer,” named by the Record as “his former chief of staff Jeff Chatterton.” Apparently Albrecht offered to sell the domain names to Liberal Candidate Bob Rosehart.
A closer look reveals Jeff Chatterton is no eager innocent, but rather a former journalist who hung out a public relations shingle and cut his teeth in damage control for the City of Walkerton during the Walkerton water crisis. Chatterton’s bio indicates he has made a career of characterizing scientific findings in opposition to his corporate client’s interests as “junk science.” According to Chatterton’s Facebook Page, the tag line for his company, Checkmate Public Affairs, is “Keeping clients OUT of the news – and doing it alarmingly well.”
Which makes me wonder what other improprieties are conducted in Mr. Albrecht’s office that can be blamed on underlings.
What ever happened to personal responsibility?
Possibly the most disturbing thing about the article is the Record implication that the Green Party candidate’s absence is spurious. Scheduling an all candidates meeting for a date when one of the four candidates is out of the country, and then blaming that candidate for the absence is masterful politicking.
But it is not what one would expect from an unbiased media.
The Elmira All Candidates Meeting
Put on by the “Greater KW Chamber of Commerce,” and again run by the media, this time the local 570 News Radio station. There were perhaps 200 to 300 seats, all filled, with an additional 50 or so standing room only attendees.
This indicates a far larger turnout than expected. (Interestingly, I also heard that Tuesday’s Kitchener-Waterloo All Candidates meeting was also standing room only, but their reported overages were in the hundreds.)
The format of the meeting was to pose a series of questions, which each candidate had the opportunity to answer. And at the end, “if time permits” they said they ‘might’ take questions from the audience. In other words, the corporate radio station decided the questions to be asked, while the citizens in attendance would only be allowed to pose questions on sufferance.
[They did, in fact, take audience questions at the end, and the moderator made a bee line to a young man in a suit whose first question exposed him as an embarrassingly blatant conservative shill.]
While it is may be reasonable to applaud a panel of candidates when introduced at the outset of such a meeting, it is wholly inappropriate to applaud each answer.
Since time was supposedly an issue, no applause should have been allowed. Interestingly, the applause was loudest and absurdly long for the only professional candidate, the Conservative incumbent, Harold Albrecht.
The applause reminded me of those talent programs where the loudest cheering section, not talent, decides the winner. It doesn’t matter how talented or not the participant is, the contest is won by how many friends they can bring. This bit of showmanship is important only as a demonstration of political power.
Which is, of course, precisely why applause should not be allowed at an ostensibly non-partisan political meeting held during an election. I wonder how much that influenced the trickle of attendees who walked out though out the show…
The theme of all answers given by both the Conservative Party incumbent and the Liberal Party challenger was to attack each other’s ruling party record. Of course the Conservative cheering section applauded Harold Albrecht’s Liberal attack-answers just as the Liberal cheering section applauded Bob Rosehart’s Conservative attack-answers.
The worst of it is, both cheering sections were right. Every bad Liberal deed that Albrecht pointed out was true, just as every bad Conservative deed Rosehart mentioned was. The problem is that the partisan cheering section doesn’t seem to care that the team they cheer … er their party … has done bad stuff, too.
Many who blindly pick a leader and a party will follow them no matter what bad deeds they have done or are going to continue to do. They have made a choice to allow someone else to decide what to think and who to vote for, and are not going to change. And that’s their right. Where it becomes a problem is when they pack a hall and engage in an “applause battle” in an attempt to exert peer pressure, itself a form of bullying, to pressure others to vote for your team… er, party.
Since the NDP and Green Party haven’t ever had the opportunity to rule, they weren’t included in the slagging match, and had no choice but to answer the questions. The Green Party’s Albert Ashley made it clear that his candidacy was last minute, so he was really just getting up to speed, and clearly not as conversant with his party’s platform as the other candidates. He did manage to crack up the audience with the observation that no one had hijacked his domain name. NDP candidate Lorne Bruce answered all the questions posed concisely and well, something not often seen in a campaign.
Ironically, one of the key topics was the decisions that lay ahead for the Region in regard to the expansion of public transit. The implication was that these decisions for the region would be made at rarefied stratas by the rich and powerful who do not have to actually use public transit. Which may explain why both Conservative Harold Albrecht and Liberal challenger Bob Rosehart champion the sexy LRT expansion option, rather than the more prosaic NDP intention to expand bus service to ensure citizen access before adding luxury bells and whistles.
But clearly, any citizens actually needing public transit have been excluded from the Kitchener-Conestoga all-candidates meetings.
As it turns out, a third All Candidates meeting was added for the Kitchener-Conestoga riding tonight. When I first heard, I thought it would provide an opportunity to allow citizens reliant to transit access to the electoral process. Silly me. This one was held in New Hamburg, and again without and public transit access. I didn’t attend this one.
Since all four candidates are on Facebook, yesterday I asked them all this question:
What are you doing to compensate for the fact that the only “All Candidates Meetings” held in Kitchener-Conestoga were held in venues inaccessible to Public Transit?
I do understand that time is short, and social networking is anything but universally adopted. It takes time to master, and there is an election to run. So I don’t hold it against the two candidates who have not yet responded. Still, the responses I did receive were interesting.
First, I need to mention that I included the link to my Voter Apathy article with the question, as I felt it provided background on the disenfranchisement of voters. And three of the four candidate facebook pages allowed the link to be posted.
The only one that didn’t was Harold Albrecht’s. His Facebook page is also the only one that does not allow visitors/fans to initiate content. So the only way to post my question was to attach it to an existing Harold Albrecht status as a comment. So I did.
Imagine my surprise when someone other than Harold Albrecht responded for Mr. Albrecht. This is the exchange:
What are you doing to compensate for the fact that the only “All Candidates Meetings” held in Kitchener-Conestoga were held in venues inaccessible to Public Transit?
Laurel – Harold is no more to blame for All-Candidates Meeting locations than you or I. He simply goes where the meeting is held, he doesn’t organize them.
I asked what he will do to compensate for the fact no “All Candidates Meetings” are being held in transit accessible venues. How is he reaching out to the citizens that rely on public transit?
Harold, your re-election office is less than 2km’s to my neighbourhood. Haven’t seen you or any or your team door-knocking.. how come?
@Laurel, I’m reaching out to citizens with or without access to public transit the same ways: advertising, doorknocking, a website, this facebook page, and participating in All-Candidates’ Meetings. As was noted above, I do not control w…ho invites me to attend ACM’s.
@ Greg, it may be that we’ve knocked on your door and missed you, or it may be that we haven’t reached your neighborhood yet. It’s physically impossible for me to meet in person at the doorstep with the 100,000+ citizens I’m privileged to represent, but as the thousands of people I’ve had the privilege to meet during this campaign will attest, I’m trying my best.
At the time I received the defensive answer from Jeff Chatterton I had no idea who he was. Possibly a zealous Albrecht booster, but more likely a staffer. Having discovered he was Harold Albrecht’s “former campaign manager,” the speed and firmness of his defensive response makes me seriously wonder how “former” his association with Harold Albrecht really is.
The other response I got was from the NDP candidate, Lorne Bruce.
What are you doing to compensate for the fact that the only “All Candidates Meetings” held in Kitchener-Conestoga were held in venues inaccessible to Public Transit?
Laurel, I understand how you feel about this issue. Many of my campaign staff use transit as well. Because we do not plan these all candidates meetings we have very little say in where they are held. The best we can and have been doing is organizing car pools for those who do not drive. There is one debate left in New Hamburg on Tuesday. If you would like us to try and arrange a carpool give us a call or email @ 519-569-4040 email@example.com and we will do our best.
It was refreshing to hear someone wasn’t making excuses, but putting an effort into addressing the inequity.
All in all, I am left feeling quite disturbed about the way this election is being run.
Why are business associations and media special interests allowed to dictate the course of the election process?
It is disturbing that previous governments have granted so much unaccountable power to corporations. They have put in place election rules and legislation that allows this undemocratic manipulation. If these practices continue, we are likely to end up with some new form of corporate feudalism. Personally, I’d rather see a restoration of democracy.
The Conservatives and Liberals are more concerned with attacking each other than Canada’s problems.
Perhaps because they are responsible for many of them.
Four Canadian political parties have fielded enough candidates to form the 41st Federal Government. I think it is time for a change.
[note: Public figures and their staff are fair dealing to quote particularly during an election; private citizens, however, are not. I have included Greg McLean’s permission to include his question, which I thought particularly germane to the Voter Apathy issue.]
I am happy that the writ was dropped before Bill C-32 was passed.
Is that a bad thing?
Of course it mans we have another federal election.
Copyright Reform Apathy
Not so long ago, Jesse Brown did a Search Engine podcast called So Bored of Copyright. He wasn’t alone in thinking that Bill C-32 was likely to be pushed through no matter how atrocious simply because everyone is tired of arguing about copyright. The thinking, shared by many other Canadian activists was that our elected representatives just want it to be over. I understand how difficult it is to fight the same fight over and over again. But still, there was a disturbing willingness to settle for bad law just because everyone is tired of it.
Copyright law will impact on every Canadian. Our existing copyright law may not be perfect, but it isn’t as though we are a lawless nation of pirates, no mater what the USTR says to get a trade advantage. So I’m happy Bill C-32 is off the table, even if it does mean we’re having another Federal election. And I’m sure it will be back, but the longer it takes, there is less chance that we’ll end up with a copyright law benefitting special interest groups to the detriment of Canadian Culture.
Some people are tired of elections.
We’re having them too frequently, apparently.
Yet there are places in the world where there are no elections. Or where the election results are preordained.
Other people are unhappy because elections are expensive.
If we have a minority government, it stands to reason that we will have more elections. It is much harder to run a minority government because the government can’t operate in a vacuum. They have to build a consensus. And sometimes even listen to what the citizens want. And if they want to do something that the people think ill advised, we have some possibility of preventing it.
Then some people think majority government is a good thing. Talk about an expensive proposition.
Say what you want, our run of minority governments has meant very little in the way of patronage spending. While majority governments are always awash in patronage. That’s got to be worse.
Even with a minority our federal government managed to find a billion dollars for the G20.
Can you imagine? How many fighter jets would we have bought if there was a majority government? Wait a minute… fighter jets? Excuse me? If we want fighter jets, why don’t we build our own, shall we? You know, like the AVRO Arrow?
Citizens can’t afford NOT to have elections. We need as many as it takes.
I’ve heard some people are saying they will vote for the Conservative Party of Canada just to give them a majority, just to be done with this election business.
You know what?
If you want to vote for a political party you don’t support, that is your democratic right.
You can use your vote to improve this great nation of ours, or you can waste your vote. You get to decide.
You can vote for the candidate you believe will do the best job for you, or you can vote the way someone else tells you to vote. It is entirely up to you.
You can vote strategically and vote for someone you don’t want to elect. It seems to me that strategic voting is always about voting for someone else;s candidate, never your own. That seems to me just as big a waste. But still, it is your right to choose.
You can spoil your ballot, which won’t count. Or not cast a vote at all.
A great many of us are frustrated because we’ve been ignored for so long. Many of us have given up because the people we vote for are never elected. In the Conservative stronghold where I live, Liberal candidate Andrew Telegdi lost his seat in the last Federal election by 17 votes. And one of the most powerful members of the incumbent government “tweeted”:
The thing to remember is that when we abstain from voting, our voice, however small, is completely unheard. Abstaining from voting doesn’t “teach them a lesson,” it gives them our power. It makes it easier for fewer people to determine our government. All voter apathy does is to make electoral inequity worse.
You have the right not vote. But every vote not cast means that fewer votes hold greater sway. I am well aware Canadian votes count for more or less depending on geographical location. That’s bad enough. If you, like me, live in a place where your vote only counts for a fraction, blowing it off makes it worse. What government does affects all of us.
Debate and Democracy
This election will impact on us all too. Although we are desperately in need of electoral reform, we have to do the best we can with what we’ve got. So although it is your right to vote or not, I hope you decide to vote, and more, to vote the way you believe is best.
I’ve been trying to get the final proof of my novel done, so I’m spread a bit thin. Still, there’s been a flap about the proposed televised Federal Leadership Debate. The decision (by who?) has been made to exclude Green Party Leader Elizabeth May.
The story they are trying to sell is that her exclusion stems from the fact no Green party member has yet been elected. Naturally this speaks to the issue of Electoral reform, since nearly a million Canadian citizens cast Green votes in the last election without electing one.
The thing is, we might have bought that argument had Elizabeth May not participated in just such a debate in a previous election. Excluding her now is not only grossly unfair, but a sign of just how well she did last time.
Unlike our American Neighbors, Canada is a multi-party country. So long as our nation subscribes to party politics, I’m inclined to think that any leadership debate ought to include the leaders of every registered political party. The point of an election is that the slate is wiped clean. No one has been elected yet for the 41st Parliament. So all the candidates – and leaders – ought to be treated as equals. I’m sure that former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney would be happy to tell you what a difference an election can make.
It is in our own best interests to stand up for our democracy. The leader of Canada’s fledgling Pirate Party hit the nail on the head when he tweeted:
I don’t like the idea of paying a membership to a retail store chain to pay for the right to shop there. No matter how good the deals are.
Not because I’m made of money; certainly not. But once you pay, you have a vested interest in shopping there. But you remain a customer without any influence on what products the store will carry. If the retailer I patronize stops carrying the brand I find essential, I want the freedom to go somewhere else. I don’t want to have to weigh that against how much money I’ll lose by walking away from my “membership”. For myself, I much prefer freedom of choice.
And I feel the same way about political parties.
I do not now, nor have I ever, belonged to a political party for much the same reason. Even if political parties had established ideologies I don’t think it would make sense to belong to one.
If anything I am prejudiced against both Conservatives and Liberals, because the one thing both parties have done pretty consistently is pander to big business– which helps line their war chests with enough cash to run ridiculous media campaigns. However, if either of these parties start actually looking out for the rights of citizens instead of corporations I might be inclined to swing their way.
The actions of a political party don’t always reflect their stated ideology. Sometimes a political party doesn’t have an ideology beyond wanting to be in charge. Like the Conservatives. Or the Liberals.
And you can’t really tell if the one you vote for will really do what they say until they actually get the brass ring. Or if the party leader actually believes the party ideology. Say what you want about Adolph Hitler, at least he honestly laid out exactly what he wanted to do in his political platform Mein Kampf.
The whole “party” system produced the idea of “strategic voting”. Therein lays madness. Under First Past the Post our votes mean so little already we should never even think about voting the way someone else wants us to vote.
Take for example the NDP accidental majority government in Ontario a few years back. It was a clear case of voters “voting against”, and no one was more surprised than the NDP to find themselves with a majority. They spent pretty much their whole term trying to appease business interests at the expense of ordinary people. Certainly they did real damage to Ontario’s health care system. Even so, they did not go far enough to make Corporate Ontario happy. In essence, the Ontario NDP government ended up annoying everyone and pleasing no one, effectively ensuring that it will be a very long time before the NDP will be able to come to power in Ontario again.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper certainly brings home the realization that a party leader can make a huge difference in how a political party behaves. And isn’t it interesting that after the NDP’s resounding ouster it quickly became apparent that the NDP provincial Premier Bob Rae was in actuality a Liberal in NDP clothing.
Certainly Mr. Rae is now thoroughly ensconced in the upper echelons of the federal Liberal Party of Canada. Personally, I don’t think it was a Liberal plot, I think Bob Rae just took the easy way to establishing “a name” in politics. Because although the NDP is considered one of the three main Ontario parties, it is not one of the ruling parties. Everyone acknowledges that the Bob Rae majority was totally unexpected from all quarters.
But Bob Rae got himself a “name” on the NDP nickel, saving himself from obscurity he may have had in the Federal pond he swims in now. It is much easier to rise in the ranks of a party that almost never wins than it is to rise in the hierarchy of one of the alternating ruling parties. I would expect that there is a lot of attrition due to burnout among the non-ruling political parties. It has to take a lot of stamina to run an election campaign knowing your chances of winning are slim to none. I know how depressing it is to go out and vote every time for candidates of parties who aren’t likely to get elected.
I had mixed feelings about Prime Minister Jean Chrétien for example. (OMG: he was YOUNGER than my Dad! No way!) As a mom I was furious our Prime Minster would punch out a protestor. Not exactly my idea of a leader responsive to the people he is supposed to represent.
Let’s teach our kids that even a bully can become the Prime Minister. The BS about the GST didn’t particularly thrill me either: adding an entirely new tax requiring a bloated bureaucracy which eats up the bulk of the generated income was not even close to a good deal for Canadians.
On the other hand, Prime Minister Chrétien was the only politician with the chutzpa to keep Canada out of an ill advised war. Had he chosen to stay on as the Liberal leader I might well have ignored all the patronage scandals etc. and voted for him forever just to keep our Canadian soldiers safe from being killed off in an uncalled for foreign war being waged solely to prop up a bad American president.
Wouldn’t it be ironic if that same war might bring down our Prime Minister because of the torture scandal. It isn’t as though Prime Minister Stephen Harper is doing anything to bring our troops home.
In my own riding a local politician I very much respect (because of what he does) is Andrew Telegdi. He made quite a rousing speech at the Waterloo NoProrogue Rally, explaining that he lost the last election by 17 votes. Too bad… first past the post. But I won’t vote for him because my biggest fear right now is that we will end up with a backlash Liberal majority government. Should that happen I am not remotely confident that the Liberals won’t end up giving up sovereign Canadian right to craft our own domestic laws on incredibly important issues like copyright and the Internet.
With minority governments there is a possibility that the government will at least consult with the citizenry.
What it boils down to is that the party system does not work in the way that we think it does.
When we think we are electing candidates we are really electing a party.
Write to your Member of Parliament and tell them what you think about premature prorogation or anything else! You can find your MP with this lovely link – it will also help you find out who your MP is if you don’t know. It’s time that Canadians started letting them know what we think about how they represent us. Find your Member of Parliament
The government gives more weight to postal mail: you can mail your comments without a stamp!!:
The Right Hon. Stephen Joseph Harper, P.C., B.A., M.A.
1600 90th Avenue Southwest, suite A-203
Canada badly needs electoral reform. Take a peek at the Non-Partisan Fair Vote Canada site to get information some ideas of electoral reform. All Canadians need to join in these non-partisan discussions.