The Future of Canadian Politics, a Tragedy?
Although some claim that the electoral system in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 />Canada, based on the British model, is one of the most democratic in the world, this is not the case. Canadian “democracy” has failed. Nearly 40% of Canadians did not bother to cast a vote; while this is an increase from the last time round, it is still a shocking level of apathy. The results of the election are surprising, but mean little; and as a result, was there really a point to this more than usually boring exercise? That depends on what we as Canadians do now.
A short hop across the pond to the Middle East or Northern Africa, people are laying down their lives to be granted the right to vote. Here at home, people are hardly willing to lay down their remotes to exercise that right. Why is this? Who is to blame? All of us, to be honest, are at fault, to some extent. Is it too late to fix this? Have we passed the point of no return? Perhaps not; but it will be no easy task to fix the years of damage, and after yesterday’s results, it will be years before anything can actually begin to take shape.
Youth do not vote, because politicians ignore our needs. Politicians ignore us, because we have a low turn-out. This is a self-fulfilling prophecy, and one that works in favour of those same politicians the youth complain about but do nothing to stop. For, indeed, the majority of politicians cannot relate to the “youth vote” in any way. As such, they prefer to ignore it, because they have less than no idea how to appeal to these “young upstarts.” Because the young voters are less likely to turn out and vote, they do not fear reprisals, and, being elected, continue to neglect these young constituents. Because they ignore this group, it continues to be jaded, and the new voters next time will feel just as hopeless. The way to fix this is simple, get out and vote. Find a candidate who DOES speak for the youth; get a political science major from the local university to run as an independent, for example. Someone in their Twenties or Thirties has more of a long term vested interest than some octogenarian who comes from a rich political family.
People in their Thirties, Forties, and to some extent Fifties, do not vote for a variety of reasons, but mostly because they no longer see the point. Nothing will change, no matter who gets elected, it is assumed. The MPs will give themselves a raise, argue a few hours a month, and congratulate themselves for how great a job they do at accomplishing nothing. Gone are the days of charismatic candidates wooing the voters, and making promises of quantifiable changes. Party politics dictate that our MPs really have no voice of their own, and the parties are usually led by crusty old white men from rich families with less than no idea of what really matters to Canadians. Those who do bother to show up at the polling stations tend to vote not FOR a candidate, so much as against a leader they dislike. The results from yesterday show as much, the NDP having run one of the cleaner campaigns having made history by crushing the Liberal party and the Bloc Quebecois. Everyone knew from day one of the campaign that the Tories would win the most seats, and many Canadians likely gave them a majority simply to avoid another election in a few months.
The main problem, however, with Canadian politics stems from the nature of our party system. We do not elect a representative for our riding, as such, but rather a goon to sit in that giant cage for senile delinquents we call parliament. The hope, of course, is that our minister will be in the ruling party and may get some small say in the house, at least on matters the leader does not care about one way or the other. However, by and large, unless your candidate ends up as prime minister, all he or she will do is sit there a handful of times a year and boo everything said by the opposing parties, or like a trained seal, clap and bark for their leader in hopes of being thrown a fish now and again.
The best hope for saving democracy in this country is do away with the main hindrance to it; the party system. I am not saying that we should move to a more American system, with two parties, for that is likely to be even more damaging in this country; granted, we are practically there already. Independent representatives, from each riding, forced to act in a civilized manner and discuss the issues, rather than MPs that could just as easily be replaced by birds trained to peck a “yea” or “nay” button, would give a voice to every riding. It would allow someone from Whitehorse to bring up their needs, and put it to a discussion by the rest of government. Unfortunately, there are too many ridings, too widely divergent in their needs, to make this a feasible option. What, then, can we do to solve the issues facing Canadians with regards to their lack of representative government? Is there a solution? Yes.
Compartmentalize. We already have three layers of government, municipal, provincial, and federal, with varying mandates. However, none of them are willing to work together. They are little chiefdoms, each demanding more control from the others, undermining each other at every opportunity. Why not make them work together, the way they were meant to? If each municipal government were to report to their provincial counterpart, the province would be better able to run, and to take care of the people living within it. There would be a better grasp in the legislature of the needs of the province as a whole; again, no parties, but individual representatives from the various ridings getting reports from their constituent municipalities. Now we have a streamlined provincial government, more representative of the whole, whose members are accountable not to a hard-nosed leader, but rather to their constituents, and who base their decisions on what they have heard from their municipal counterparts. Move this up a level, representatives to Parliament now get reports from their provincial counterparts, the provincial representatives from their ridings passing along the concerns raised by the municipal governments.
Sadly, a collaborative government of this type is unlikely to be formed. The ambition of the various levels of government, their innate self-aggrandizement, has long interfered with the smooth running of this country. A complete overturn of the current systems, nation wide, would be required. The average Canadian would benefit greatly, but the politicians would lose a sense of power and control which they are so drawn to. The best we can hope for, these days, seems to be that our politicians are too busy digging up dirt on each other to do any damage, and that the civil service will be left intact enough to handle the running of the country. This is not democracy. It is, nonetheless, the best option available to us. As such, the best course of action seems to be for all Canadians, even those too young at present to vote, to start paying attention. When your MP is not doing his or her job, raise hell. Next time, go into the campaign with some idea of who the parties and their leaders are, as well as what they stand for, what they have done for you lately, and what they are promising to do for you in the future.
That, or an overthrow of the government by an outside force (not something I advocate in our nation), are the only real hope to salvage some sense of democracy in this country. It needs to start today. Keep tabs on what your MP is doing for you, and if your concerns are being heard. If you send a letter or email to him or her, and get a smoke-screen response, go in and demand they listen. Otherwise, what stands between Canada and Syria or Libya, with regards to democratic rights? To be honest, not a hell of a lot. The right to vote only matters is we excercise it, and the responsibility to be heard does not end with the final ballot count.