Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Sad Saga Of Our Declining Democracy Continues

During the past year I have written many posts on the sad spectacle of a Canadian democracy in decline, citizen cynicism and apathy rather than vigorous engagement becoming the default position of more and more Canadians. I have also offered the opinion that this is in large part the result of practices purposely pursued by our political 'masters', most egregiously by the Harper regime, so as to leave the field pretty much clear for the 'true-believers' to exert a disproportionate influence on election results when they turn out and the rest of us tune out.

Extreme partisanship has relegated the public good to an afterthought, an example of which is highlighted in Martin Regg Cohn's column today in The Star. He writes about how the clash of politics has impeded anti-bullying legislation that was supposed to proceed smoothly as a response to the suicides of gay students, but has instead degenerated into open displays of bigotry, taunting, tweeting, sulking and shouting (or heckling, as parliamentarians call it).

An even more penetrating assessment of the price we all pay for the debasement of the political process is to be found in Chantal Hebert's column today, also in The Star. Entitled Ballot box seen as dead end rather than means to an end, Hebert first uses the ongoing Quebec student unrest to advance her thesis that our elected representatives are no longer looked upon as a viable source of representation, a notion which, when you think about it, strikes at the very heart of democracy:

Their movement increasingly boils down to an extreme manifestation of a widespread disenchantment toward Canada’s elected institutions; one that is leading alienated voters of all ages and in all regions to see the ballot box as a dead end rather than as a means to an end.

Hebert then turns her sights on the Harper regime:

In the national capital, a government elected with barely four in every 10 votes a year ago has since been going out of its way to disenfranchise the majority that did not support it.

Over the opening year of their majority mandate, Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have moved to discourage civic dissent — in particular but not exclusively on the environmental front.

They have replaced federal-provincial dialogue with diktats and adversarial litigation.

They have placed themselves on a collision course with the courts over the place of the rule of law in the exercise of ministerial discretion.

The concept of ministerial responsibility has been reduced to a quaint historical footnote and parliamentary accountability is on the same slippery slope.

In the House of Commons, the government has moved to stifle the input of its opposition critics at every turn, systematically curtailing debate on bills or more simply subtracting legislation from competent scrutiny by cramming it inside inflated omnibus bills.

It should surprise no one that governments who treat the rule of law as a pesky inconvenience will eventually breed the same attitude in those that they purport to legislate for.

Hebert ends her piece by referring to ours as a debased democracy.

I have one questions that burns in my soul - Is there anyone or anything that can reinvigorate us at this point to reclaim our birthright?


  1. An excellent post, Lorne. It's now or never.

  2. Thank you, Owen. I guess all we can do is keep doing whatever we can.