Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Beyond "Broken"

During the Martin/Harper minority years, people spoke of the "dysfunctional Parliament", to such an extent the Conservatives successfully framed anything less than a majority as the antithesis of "good government". In some respects our collective memories had almost forgotten how majority governments actually work in this country, we are now getting a RUDE awakening, as the Harper government operates more like a "regime" than democratic creation. A strong, stable government is really code for an almost omnipotent entity, that freely stifles debate, somehow turns 39.6% into 100% DOMINATION of everything and anything.

The inherent problem with Canadian democracy- never more stark and revealing than this moment- with each successive layer peeled away, true power resides in an alarming few. A minority vote translates to majority rule, within that minority vote a inner circle of key MP's largely frames the debate, within that group a small cadre of mostly unelected operatives within the PM's office dictates the direction of the entire government apparatus. We have a democracy which someone manifests itself into a virtual dictatorship in practice, based on dubious electoral math. Minorities might be messy, but they provide an accountability function which evaporates in alarming fashion once 50 plus 1 is achieved.

As the linked piece by Dan Gardner explains, all majorities operate like totalitarian regimes, but with this Harper government we are witnessing a new expression in terms of degree. It is legitimate to ask, what is the point of Parliament in a majority circumstance, particularly one where the government routinely shuts down even the window dressing that is "debate"? What do MP's really do in a majority? Is it fair to say they are empty vessels, essentially representing no one, standing up and down without any true power? Most government MP's are drones, programmed to perform a function, but devoid of truly diverting from the chosen course. Opposition MP's don't hold the government to any standard, at least not in ways that necessarily demands a seat in Parliament. The government doesn't like any particularly debate, they unilaterally shut it down, no true exchange, nor even the slightest indication that any legitimate suggestion would be considered. When you distance yourself from the process that brings people to power, the concrete practice of yielding power is ALARMING in this country.

There are plenty of ideas floating around to reform our system. While solutions still remain somewhat disjointed and piecemeal, the core problems are quickly coming into focus. Perhaps, if there is one "silver lining" in enduring this particular regime, their continual abuse of power will provide the tipping point for a system which isn't just sick, it's effectively dead in terms of FUNCTIONING democracy.

6 comments:

Jerry Prager said...

when that same cabal also controls over 80% of Canadian media, the spin from the PMO is nothing but propaganda. Welcome to the 1930's.

Tof KW said...

Not a good analogy. Back in the 30's the party whips were not as effective and our individual MPs enjoyed a good degree of individual power, when compared to our modern-day automatons. Also there was a change in government during the 30's.

No I'd say the closer analogy is welcome to present-day Russia ...except Putin is less ideological and more pragmatic than Harper (also the Russians genuinely like Putin).

Marpman said...

Well, to let the MP's act in the community they represent might allow them to say something against 'the message'.
Don't expect to see or hear from my MP....

bubba said...

I remember the exact same feelings through the Cretien years where the same vote % led to a Liberal majority. At that time the Liberals had a chance to do something about it and failed.Much crap was covered up and swept away and dissenting opinion was crushed.If a national party made a promise of change, put out some details and lived by it, it may make the difference. More free votes used to be a reform promise and I think that would be the best first step. But when one party or another whips what should be free votes the sysytem fails ie (Libs and cons on long gun registry or on the quebec as a nation vote). Until a free vote is a free vote for all parties a Govt will rarely pass legislation. But it is definitely no worse today than it was then, actally in my eyes it feels much better. But that may be a bias opinion.

Steve V said...

If you read the link, it argues it is WORSE now and I would concur, at least on the closing debate front. That said, the commentary is more about majorities in general and the system that allows for abuses.

sharonapple88 said...

By concentrating so much power around the PMO, MPs themselves may not be what they used to be. Considering the number of no-shows to debates during the elections, and the efforts made to hide some of their candidates from the media, you've got to wonder what the qualifications are at times for an MP beyond a pulse and undying loyalty to the party. If asked to do or think on their own, some of them might end up like moles tossed from their holes -- frozen by the light.

As for opposition, the biggest fight these days seems to be put up by the provinces. Brad Wall out in Saskatchewan stopped the Conservatives with respects to the sale of Potash Corp. Quebec, and it looks like Ontario, are putting their foot down on the crime bill.