Sunday, November 4, 2012

I’ve Been Pondering Canadian Democracy Again.

I’ve been thinking about Democracy in Canada again.  With two Provincial Legislatures currently prorogued and yet another omnibus bill in Ottawa I’m thinking that Democracy in Canada is in very poor health and someone is stepping on the IV line.

If we ignore the Senate for the time being, our government systems are pretty simple.  Periodically we have a vote to determine who will represent our ridings in the Legislative House.  These candidates represent various political parties and the party with the most seats is declared the government.

Generally the party with the most seats in the Legislature becomes the ruling party in the House.  It has happened that the party with the most seats has lost the confidence of the majority of members and the second place party has taken over the reins, but that is not a common occurrence.

The leader of the governing party is given the title of Premier in the provinces and Prime Minister nationally and is considered to be the nominal Head of State for their jurisdiction.  Our actual Head of State is currently Queen Elizabeth II because that is the way our system works.

Basically the way it works is that the Power comes from the Crown and is utilized by the Government which is selected by the People.
Now the people should be very important in this because there are so many of us, but we’re not.  The only time politicians are interested in us is when they are trying to get us to vote for them.

Now I said that the party leaders are nominal Head of States because in our system they are only considered to be “First Among Equals”.  What this means is that Stephen Harper’s voice carries no more weight in the House of Commons than Tom Mulcair’s or Bob Rae’s or Elizabeth May’s or even Rob Anders’ voice.

But this is basic civics, your kids will probably know this stuff better than I.

But we don’t live in a Democracy.  We live in a benevolent dictatorship.

The Supreme Soviet Harper Inner Circle (HIC) decides on what laws should be proposed and tells the Head of State.  The Head of State tells the membership and they in turn vote according to the dictates of their leader.  Pretty much sums it up, at least in a Majority Government.

Now we try to pretty it up with Committees and Private Member’s Bills but nothing happens unless the leadership of the Governing Party decides that it should happen.

What do I mean? 

Well, the last time we had an omnibus bill foisted on us there were almost a thousand amendments proposed.  Not one of these amendments was acknowledged.  They were all shunted aside and the omnibus bill was passed in the same form that it was originally tabled. 

Not one word was changed.

That’s pretty darn good for a document consisting of hundreds of pages and dealing with God knows how many issues.  The guys who wrote it up must be super geniuses.  Maybe they have business cards that say Wile E. Coyote, Super Genius or Jim E. Flaherty, Super Genius?

Did I mention that this particular omnibus bill was a Budget Bill?  So is the current omnibus bill in Ottawa.

What is so special about Budget Bills you might ask, well they are indeed special.  Traditionally Budget Bill votes are “whipped” votes.  Members are not allowed to vote their conscience or their constituents’ wishes.  They must vote to support their party.  For a traditional Budget Bill this is not such a big deal, it’s mostly nuts and bolts and about how the taxes get divvied up between departments, but omnibus bills have a nasty tendency to have lots of other things in them as well.

Our current omnibus Budget Bill contains the delisting of many lakes in rivers in Canada that were listed as “Navigable Waters” before.  What does that mean?

The Act applies to any interference of navigation
– in, on, over, under, through or across
Canadian navigable waterways.

Among the rivers delisted is the Thames River in Ontario.  In Chatham there are docking facilities on the Thames right in the middle of the downtown area.  There are two draw bridges in Chatham to allow for tall masted sail boats to access this area.  Now the draw bridges will no longer have to be maintained and if someone owns property down river from Chatham they can build a bridge across and not have to worry if it impedes navigation as the Thames is no longer “navigable”.

Now the MP for Chatham Kent (Dave Van Kesteren) is a member of the Harper Party and he will have no choice but to vote in favour of this bill even though it is detrimental to his constituency.  There are other rivers in his riding that will be affected, but it matters not, he gets his marching orders and will do what the party says.

The irony here is that during the War of 1812, the Thames was an important battleground.  There was a going ship building industry in the area and the Thames was an important waterway, so important that the British tried to defend it.

The Indian leader Tecumseh died in one of these battles.  He’s mentioned in the 1812 ads we’re inundated with.

But since the Navigable Waters Protection Act (NWPA) is included in the Budget Bill for whatever reasons there will be no debate and no action.  No mere MP has a chance of standing up to the Party Leadership of his own party, especially not in the House of Commons.

In a Democratic country the Budget would include budget measures only.  Any changes to the NWPA would be handled in their own bill.  It could be discussed and debated and voted on, and if the local MP decided it was not in the interest of his constituency he could vote against it even if that vote would be cast against his own party’s bill.

You see, in a Democracy we would elect a candidate to represent us in the Legislature.  But that no longer happens.  Today we vote on which party gets to ruin run Canada for a few years and we get a party representative to tell us what a great job they are doing in Ottawa, or Toronto, or Edmonton or wherever.

It’s really too bad.  We have a pretty good country here and if we let the people run it we’d probably do okay.  Party politics is ruining our country and we are basically powerless to stop it.  Let’s face it, the government has always been run by parties and for the foreseeable future, they always will.  Only the government can change the way elections are run and they’re not going to kill the cow when they get the milk now are they?

Sorry about the civics lesson, if I messed it up let me know.  If you can see a solution to this morass, give me a hint.  A return to responsible government would really be refreshing…

Cheers! BC

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