Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Dominoes of Democracy - Part 2

What is one of the chief effects of the Harper regime's preference for an ideologically-based policy model over one premised on logic, facts and empirical evidence, as explored in my earlier post? The decline, perhaps even the demise, of a healthy democracy in which citizens are engaged and informed participants, thereby allowing an ideologically-driven government to pursue its agenda largely unimpeded.

In today's Toronto Star, columnist Bob Hepburn writes about the state of our democracy and the growing gap between Parliament and Canadians. An interview with David Herle, former Paul Martin campaign strategist and principal partner at The Gandalf Group, a Toronto-based research and consulting company, yields a portrait of a population deeply disaffected with politics in general and Parliament in particular.

And there are ample studies and surveys to back up that portrait:

For example, a poll last fall suggested barely 27 per cent of Canadians believe Ottawa is dealing with issues we really care about.

Most people are worried about daily issues, such as their children’s education, looking after aging parents and getting decent health care. But other than writing cheques to the provinces, Ottawa has opted out of health care, education, transportation and other issues that affect our normal lives.

Instead, there is a narrow set of issues that Prime Minister Stephen Harper is pursuing and for the most part the opposition parties are adhering to them. Because voters have stopped looking to Parliament for help, Ottawa has stopped responding to their needs, Herle believes.

People are no longer putting demands on government (bold type mine) and aren’t flocking to politicians who claim they can help them,” he says. “They’ve simply given up on Ottawa altogether.”

Although I am not a person given to conspiracy theories, I have written extensively on this blog about both democracy and democratic participation, and long ago concluded that one of the secondary goals of the Harper regime is the discouragement of an engaged electorate, thereby making it easier to push through an agenda in which the role of government in people's live is minimized, one of the chief beliefs of the reactionary right. What better way to pursue that goal than to convey to people, via policy pursued through the very narrow prism of ideology and rabid partisanship, that their voices mean nothing and their engagement in the democratic process is both unnecessary and unwelcome?

Conservative MP Michael Chong, the only former member of Harper's cabinet who has ever displayed real integrity, puts it this way:...if voters have given up on Parliament, it means they have lost faith in politicians to look after their interests.

Part one of this post dealt with causes, and I would argue that Chong's observation is precisely the effect that the Harper regime so avidly desires.


  1. Our son and I were talking last night about the need to change the present regime, Lorne.

    He feels his generation doesn't have the power to change the situation. Besides, he says, between working and paying off student debt -- and ever present job insecurity -- he feels exhausted. Political activism is for those who have the time and the energy.

    The Harperites want to make sure that he and his generation continue to feel that way.

  2. What you describe, Owen, is sadly a reality for far too many. We are familiar with the term 'a disciplined workforce,' something the regime has been very adept at cultivating. I guess what is emerging now is 'a disciplined citizenry,' also, in my view, part of the overall 'method' in Harper's 'madness'.

  3. Here's an idea. Deduct-A-Vote ballots. You could allocate your vote either to one of the eligible candidates in your riding or you could, instead, select a party from which one vote would be deducted. How many of those people who don't turn out to the polls would be sufficiently motivated to vote if they could express their choice this way? How many times have you had to hold your nose to vote? I have many times and would have rejoiced at the chance to instead vote against my last choice instead of for my first choice.

  4. I like your thinking, Mound, but of course the party that stands to lose the most, the Conservatives, those great 'defenders' of democracy, might have a few objections.