Canadian Politics

protester holding a sign in the 13 Heros protestGenerally speaking, I don’t like political parties.

What I don’t like is the idea of political parties in this land that is supposed to be a representative democracy.  The way a representative democracy is supposed to work, is that we vote for and elect the candidate we think will best represent us. We elect the candidate we believe will vote for or against proposed laws as we would.  So that our best interests will be represented within the halls of our democratic government.

The problem is, once elected, “our” elected representative is more likely to do the bidding of their party than they are to do what we want.  Which rather makes a mockery of our “representatation.”

The inequity of our “winner take all” political system means any party holding a majority of seats in parliament has absolute power to enact any legislation it wants.  For the entire term.

looking up at protesters and signs

Our political system is older than Canada.  Perhaps our flavour of representative democracy was good enough back in 1867, when communication and transportation were far from instantaneous, and governing a land mass the size of Canada was geographically challenging.  But with today’s connectivity and access to information, our political system is sorely outdated and hugely inequitable.  Worse, our “democracy” has few if any checks and balances to prevent abuse.  When we are cursed with a majority government, what we effectively have is a time limited dictatorship.

(The Senate is supposed to provide “sober second thought,” but partisan Senate padding has resulted in the upper chamber being transformed into a rubber stamp for the party that stacks it the most.)

Because our electoral system is so terribly broken,  when any such a majority government seeks to pass laws  we don’t approve — the only recourse open to Canadians is to apply the pressure of public opinion.  Citizens have to protest in any way we can.  All we can do is hope that our government will take heed of our concerns and correct or drop legislation that is not in the public good.

KW Voted 4 U

Last summer a great many Canadians were upset by the Conservative “Black Mark Budget”  Omnibus bill.   Under our woefully antiquated “democracy,” any majority government has the power to pass any law, no matter how unpopular.  And when many pieces of unrelated legislation are bundled together and called an “omnibus,” it means these laws are very nearly being passed in secret, because they receive only the most cursory public scrutiny and debate.  In a democratic state, at minimum legislation deserves examination and dissent must be heard, even if the system allows for bad law to be passed anyway in the end.  We deserve to know when bad law is made.

Because of the current Federal Conservative Majority, the only way to stop the Bill C-38 ominbudget from passing would have been for 13 Conservative MPs to vote against it.  An awful lot of ordinary Canadians took to the streets in protest.  People who had never lifted before lifted a picket sign in their lives waved them with gusto.   Grandparemts, parents, children.   A great deal of public pressure was in fact brought to bear.  In Waterloo Region, Peter Braid pretended not to have seen the protest outside his office, while Stephen Woodworth magnanimously offered his protesters coffee.  Still, in spite of the many protests made at Conservative MP constituency offices across Canada, not a single Conservative MP voted against Party dictates.

Not long afterward, I heard Stephen Woodworth defending his decision to vote against his constituents at the Kitchener Multicultural Festival.   In the few minutes I was there,  the Member of Parliament explained to two different constituents that he had been unable to vote against Bill C-38 as they wanted,  because it would have meant opposing the directives of his political party.  The orders issued by his party prevented him from representing the voters who elected him.

Omnibudget Protest 2012

Money Makes the World Go Around

twenty dollar bills
Things are pretty bad when a supposedly democratic government ignores the voters.  Our system wasn’t entirely fair back in 1867, but it has been gamed and fiddled with by succeeding governments in attempts to give the ruling party an unfair advantage ever since.  Is it any wonder that almost half of our eligible voters don’t even bother anymore? Canadians know all too well that all votes don’t count, nor are all votes equal.  The system is so badly broken that strategic voting is considered a legitimate option.  Something’s got to give.

The Canada that my child will inherit is much worse than the Canada I inherited. We no longer have the option of leaving politics to the politicians.  Canadians need to start talking and thinking about politics. We have to stand up for change now or things will keep getting worse.

Today’s political parties seem to spend more time fund raising than campaigning. Why do they need so much cash? Seems they all need oodles of money to pay the costs of television advertising, which gets more expensive all the time. Of course, print advertising and robocalls don’t come cheap either…

With the phasing out of the per vote subsidy, money becomes a much bigger issue, particularly for the smaller political parties.

It is always easier for the rich to bankroll their political party (and get the laws that benefit them passed) but the rest of us need some political representation too.  If you feel any political party has stood up for you, or the issues you feel are important maybe you ought to send them a donation.

Perhaps the Pirate Party stood up for privacy and Internet Freedom… or the Green Party fought for the environment… or the Liberal Party is changing the way a political party works… or the NDP is standing up for First Nations… or the Conservative Party put the abortion debate back to sleep.

If you happen to have any cash left on hand after the holidays and want to encourage the party of your choice to keep up the good work, now is the time to make a donation.  A $10.00 donation actually only costs you $2.50 after you get $7.50 back in tax credit.

This is how it works:

Canadian Political Donation Facts

Maximum political contribution limit: $1,200
Donations between 0 and $400 ~ a 75% tax credit
Donations between $400 and $750 ~ $300 tax credit plus 50% of any amount over $400;
Donations over $750 ~ $475 + 33.3% of amount over $750 (max $650 per year tax credit)
Any contributions must be made by Monday, December 31st to be eligible for 2012 tax credits.

Another thing to do is get involved. Find out when and where the local political parties meet, and go sit in. Look for your local Fair Vote chapter or Co-Operate for Canada. Read the news. Follow #CDNpoli on Twitter. Listen. Learn.

Canadians need to start talking about politics, and get involved to effect change in one way or another. We can’t afford not to anymore.

If we’re stuck with a party system, maybe it’s time to join the party.
Get involved.a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

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Whose Party is it Anyway?

Costco AdI 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.

Maple Leaf that says "Oh! Canada"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.

Conservative Party of Canada and Liberal logos
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.

"Mein Kampf" book

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.

Cover of the book RAE DAYS

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.

Andrew Telegdi speaking at the Waterloo NoProrogue Rally
Andrew Telegdi speaking at the Waterloo NoProrogue Rally

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.

Canadian Political Party Logos
Registered Federal Canadian Parties include the Neorhino Party, Christian Heritage Party, Communist Party of Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador First Party, Pirate Party of Canada, Libertarian Party, Work Less Party, Peoples Political Power Party, Green Party, First Peoples National Party, Bloc Quebecois, Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party, Marijuana Party, Canadian Action Party, Marxist Leninist Communist Party, and the NDP


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

Write to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and tell him too!
Prime Minister/Premier Ministre Stephen Harper <pm@pm.gc.ca>

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
Calgary, Alberta
T2V 5A8

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.