Opinions Expressed in "Rants" while informed by Catholic doctrine, are merely the opinions of the author.
Is Canada a Democracy?
Here we go again with another Federal Election, TV coverage for which is beaten in the ratings by the much more interesting American Presidential Election going on a the same time. Once again we’re encouraged to vote, to be part of the process, to support the democracy. But I wonder, here in Canada, is Canada a democracy?
My first experience with Federal Politics took place when I was 16, in the eleventh grade; our Social Studies teacher gave us a comprehensive assignment in thoroughly following the progress of the 1988 Canadian Federal Election. In that election, incumbent Prime Minister Brian Mulroney ran as leader of the Progressive Conservatives, running on a platform of free trade with the United States, an immanent federal sales tax that he wanted to implement called the GST – this to pay off the huge deficits and national debt that prior to him and his predecessor, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, Canada didn’t even have, AND the Meech Lake accord, intended on bribe Quebec into the Canadian constitution by giving them rights that nobody else had.
Running against him were the Liberal Party, lead by John Turner, and the NDP party, led by Ed Broadbent. And there was a smattering of other political parties as well, socialists, communists, the Western Canada Concept party (they wanted the West to separate from Canada, led by Preston Manning) which had changed its platform and name to the Reform party, and let’s not forget my personal favourite, the Rhinoceros party.
Even as a 16 year old, I immediately recognized that economic interdependence with the U.S. wasn’t a good idea – “the U.S. eats all our resources” is what it amounts to. And the GST was an awesome idea. The Meech Lake accord was a real winner too (thank God for Elijah Harper). So anyway, as for the election, guess what happened:
The PC’s won 169 seats, the Liberals won 83, NDP won 43. So the PC’s won 57% of the seats, and could therefore pass any legislation they chose.
But here’s the thing – in the POPULAR VOTE, the PC’s won 43% of votes cast, while everyone else in the country who voted, 57% of the country, voted AGAINST the PC’s and their platform.
However, because the PC’s won the greatest number of seats, they passes the GST, the free trade agreement and almost the Meech Lake accord into law, in spite of the fact that THE MAJORITY OF THE COUNTRY VOTED AGAINST THESE POLICIES.
I’m no genius, but seems to me, one of the basic tenets of DEMOCRACY is that the MAJORITY RULES. The Canadian federal political system with its current set-up is too easy to manipulate, so that the majority DOESN’T rule.
So I’ve been disillusioned ever since. Since then I’ve also come to realize the influence that lobbyists have in our political system, that money elects people as well as votes. And I’ve also seen that often MP’s and MLA’s are forced to vote with their party, rather than voting to represent their constituents; that truly FREE debates and voting in the House of Commons are rare, for fear of facilitating votes of non-confidence in the governing party. The prevailing attitude among political parties is that any idea is a bad idea if somebody else thought of it. Allegiance to party runs compromises democracy.
Canada is even less democratic now – particularly now that it has even more political parties. The problem with Canada is that it’s a HUGE, SPARCELY populated country, so rather than having one culture, like the U.S., Canada has several – Maritimes, Quebec, Ontario, the Prairies, B.C., the North, we’re all COMPLETELY different from each other. It was inevitable that each distinct region would develop its own party – this is the ONLY WAY these distinct regions could have any voice at all in Ottawa at all. Ironic that in a desire for a greater voice, democracy falls further to decline.
There are other countries in the world with Parliamentary systems that have adopted a proportional representation to the number of seats – each political party gets assigned the number of seats according to the total number of votes they got. In other words, if Canada has proportional representation in 1988, the PC’s would have won 127 seats, 43% of the seats – and its ridiculous platform: free trade, GST, and Meech Lake, THAT THE COUNTRY VOTED AGAINST, would have been appropriately defeated. Worth thinking about.
Ultimately I suspect a minority government is the best kind of government for Canada – it forces the parties to be accountable, and to work together, rather than constantly oppose each other just to win political points, regardless of their actual positions on the issues.
WHAT BLOWS ME AWAY however – is the circumstances that have led to this most recent election. Stephen Harper asked the Governor General to dissolve parliament because he said he can no longer govern effectively over this minority government. BULL! Stephen Harper wants an election now because he thinks he can win a majority now. Unless it be defeated by a vote of non-confidence, he should have left his government to complete its five year term. That’s the way the rules are.
And of course what’s his name, the Liberal Leader, Celine Dion, protested the calling of this election because Stephen Harper didn’t follow parliamentary procedural law. BULL! Dion was angry because Harper called an election when he thought he could win. If at any point in the last four years, the polls had told the Liberal ticket that IT could win, he and that NDP bald guy would have pulled a non-confidence vote in a heartbeat.
I could think of a compelling reason not to vote for all the candidates in this election – but ultimately, what does it matter? I live in rural Alberta, and everybody here always votes one way.
Where have you gone, Rhinoceros party?