Échec du système gouvernemental politique représentatif totalitaire.
The withering of Canadian democracy | Toronto Star
The question is “whither democracy?” The threat is “wither democracy.” This is about the threat.
Westminster parliamentary democracy was founded on fundamental principles: the supremacy of Parliament (the prime minister is accountable to Parliament, not the other way round); all MPs are equal, with the PM “first among equals;” and Parliament controls the public purse. These are now barely remembered, much less observed.
Canada’s democracy has taken more knocks in the past eight years than in the previous 139. It would be wrong to blame Stephen Harper alone for the assault on democracy. The first cancerous cells began to express malignant intent in 1963 when the big political parties decided they should have more money — topping up leaders’ salaries, a funded research office and other perks. The 1963 resolution did not include special powers for bigger parties but, over time, larger parties excluded smaller ones from committees and daily opportunities in Question Period. They also got a seat in the secret Board of Internal Economy to carve up the House of Commons budget.
In 1970, the Elections Act changed to require the leader’s signature on each candidate’s nomination papers. Power became centralized in leaders’ offices. Effective punishments could be meted out. A signature required can be a signature denied. Where Sir John A Macdonald spoke of his MPs as “loose fish,” these rules nailed down any loose fish. In that same time period, Pierre Trudeau set up the first prime minister’s office.
Since then, the PMO has metastasized into an elected dictatorship. Elections are contaminated by dirty tricks. Voter turnout is plummeting. Civil servants are muzzled, and the “guys in short pants” in PMO run roughshod over every aspect of governance.
We have a chance to rescue democracy. Key is to reform our voting system — eliminate the perverse “winner-take-all” system, ensuring every vote will count through proportional representation. We must reduce the leaders’ powers. Michael Chong’s reform bill, C-559, will make a major difference, eliminating the requirement of the leader’s signature. With public pressure, we can get it passed this fall. We must restore the ability of MPs to represent their constituents and not slavishly toe the party line.
This is ultimately not a partisan question. It is a call to renewed citizenship and effective democracy.
Elizabeth May is the leader of the Green Party of Canada. Her eighth book, Who We Are: Reflections on My Life and Canada, will be out in October. To add your insights and ideas about Canada and the future, please tweet @torontostar #kendryden, or comment below the story at thestar.com/kendryden