Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Hey Canada, Step Into the 21st Century: Stop Outsourcing Governance of the Nation

I get the Empire Loyalist thing.  The way we go about running our society is firmly anchored in our colonial past.  Canada is a proud member of the British Empire.  Well, the world has changed a lot since the demise of our historical progenitor.  The UK is no longer a world power.  It no longer matters what Britain thinks or does within the existing global order.

As a result, we are on are own.  We have to be making on our own decisions and we should do so with a decision making process that is made in Canada, a Canada that exists and preferably thrives in the twenty-first century.

 As a former colony we should know a thing or two about wealth extraction, particularly our natural resources, a process carried on principally for the benefit of those who do not reside here.  Sure, some of the wealth does trickle down, but for the most part, the most important economic activity centered on the depletion of our natural resources (oil, minerals, and forestry products) creates wealth disproportionately for the directors of foreign corporate entities.  In other words, the lion's share of the profits are funneled offshore.  It's been that way since the Hudson Bay Company and the Canadian Pacific Railway Company planted their corporate banners on Canadian soil and opened the land up for business.

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In order to keep the natives from getting restless (I'm talking about the millions of people who came here as economic refugees and their descendants and not the First Nations Peoples since they were taken care of by all together different and by far more cruel means) they are allowed to participate marginally in the electoral process that installs another corporate entity, otherwise known as a political party, that administers the affairs of the Dominion.

Importantly, it must be kept in mind that this process has never been democratic.  Canada is not a democracy.  How could it be democratic if it inherited its political institutions from the UK, which still to this day has a hereditary monarchy, no written constitution, and a bicameral parliament in which the upper house is still called, get this, THE HOUSE OF LORDS!  Rule Britannia.

In keeping with corporate rule, a political party is most definitely a corporate entity.  Its leader is the chief executive officer: he signs the papers of all those who would be candidates; if he forms a government, he chooses who will be his cabinet ministers; he appoints people to the Senate; he names judges to the Supreme Court; hell, he can unilaterally declare war if he wants to.  With such concentration of political power in his hands, small wonder that in reality the federal government in Canada is run out of the Prime Minister's Office.

At first glance, it may appear that Canadians are electing those people who will represent them in Parliament.  In reality, however, since all those who are elected to Parliament vote as they are told to vote by the party almost all of the time, what they are really doing is participating in the process which will see the governance function vested with the citizenry transferred to the Prime Minister, who for the most part becomes Canada's elected monarch, assuming the Crown's Royal Prerogative while governing the land.

As a result, a general election in Canada is in fact a contest to see which of the political parties will win "the contract" to administer the state.  Thereafter, having effectively transferred their sovereignty until whenever the Prime Minister calls the next election, (yes there is a law that stipulates that general elections are supposed to take place every four years, but because of the Prime Minister's Royal Prerogative, he is not obliged to abide by it) Canadians then stand on the sidelines and watch how power is wielded by the man to which the contract was awarded.  

Importantly, since the object of the exercise is to outsource the governance function and not to  democratically elect the people's representatives, it matters little that the political party that wins the contract rarely has the support of the majority of the electorate.  Most often, only forty percent of the votes cast is sufficient to award the contract to a single political party.  Yes, that does mean with a participation rate of about 60% (the eligible voters that actually cast a ballot) in a general election, the political party that has been chosen to run the country in reality does so with the support of less than 25% of those who are eligible to vote.

As you can imagine, such institutional practices have democrats in Canada wringing their hands and tearing out their hair in disgust.  Yet, Canadians seem to be quite content with the how the voting system performs its function: all four referendums that were held to change the first-past-the-post method at the provincial level did not gain sufficient support to go ahead and make the change.

I do not believe that is the unwavering respect for the Westminster parliamentary system that prevents Canadians from abandoning what is truly an outdated political institution.  Instead, I think the majority of Canadians prefer to be called upon only once every three to five years to make a political decision.  Let someone else sweat it out while we concentrate our efforts on our individual concerns.  If things get really bad, we can simply award the governance contract to another competitor.  That way we really don't have to keep on top of things like concerned citizens in other countries that enjoy democratic rule.  Who's got the time?

That being said, regardless of the Canadian desire to cede the political decision making to someone else, the present political landscape no longer lends itself to false-majority rule (plurality of seats won in Parliament).  Five out the six Parliaments have resulted in minority governments.  Moreover, it now appears that each of the three contenders for the crown have more or less the same support, perhaps two or three percentage points more for the leading party than the third party in the contest, well within the margin of error.  Finally, it could easily happen that the party that receives less of the popular vote than one of the others will form the next government because of the vagaries of the first-past-the-post voting system.

Perhaps, it is time Canada modernized its political institutions, beginning with the voting system.  Unlike Senate reform, it is entirely doable, no constitutional amendment needed.  Indeed, both the Liberals and the New Democrats have stated that if elected, this general election will be the last to be held under first-past-the-post. 

What remains to be seen is what type of voting system will replace the present one.  The New Democrats propose a proportional system that would make each and every vote an effective vote.  In such a system Canada would be moving to a more consensual form of government.  The Liberals, on the other hand, favor the alternative vote, which will keep Canada in a majoritarian/authoritarian system of government, much like Australia, which uses the alternative vote for its lower house, but elects its upper house with a form of proportional representation.

Could this be the last Canadian general election held under first-past-the-post? 

I bloody well hope so!!!



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