Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Crisis? Yep.

Recently I read Losing Confidence: Power, Politics, and the Crisis in Canadian Democracy by Elizabeth May. I picked it up at home on vacation - over a year ago - in a spurt of patriotic interest in Canadian politics. She describes what she sees as the Americanization of the Canadian system:
"In Canada, as in other modern democracies, the last fifty years have seen an increasing centralization of power, first shifting from Parliament to Cabinet, and then from Cabinet to the prime minister. We risk losing the democratic progress of centuries in wresting power from a king only to see it vested in an increasingly unaccountable and autocratic prime minster."
Certainly, living oversees has taught me more about the American system of government than the Canadian. Not only have I taught American Social Studies, I have also read several articles on American government in various reading textbooks. And then there is the fact that I have far more access to the news regarding the US than I do to Canadian stories. Obama vs. Clinton interested me far more than the most recent Canadian election - and partly because we all heard about the issues over here and could then debate them amongst ourselves.

May discusses and quotes the Kent Commission Report: "Freedom of the press is not a property right of owners. It is right of the people. It is part of their right to free expression, inseparable from their right to inform themselves." Certainly, I do not think I'm anywhere near as informed as I should be about how Canadian government works and why. May strongly points out that a lack of information is a critical problem in democracy today. She also attacks the party system: "There is something ironic about a situation where political parties have such power in a democracy, yet 85 percent of the voters are not willing to join any party." She states that parties, due to a first-past-the-post system do not even represent Canadians properly, as an increasing number of Canadian governments have had false majorities.
"Awareness of the threat to democracy must go far beyond bemoaning the fact that young people don't vote. That is the tip of the iceberg of electoral dysfunction. The most effective solution is to approve a change in how we elect members of federal and provincial parliaments. no other single step will have as many salutary impacts."
I have to say that I approve of her solution. I have always exercised my right to vote, when my residence allowed me to do so. Sure, it was exciting to vote Liberal to keep out the Conservatives, but I am definitely more of an NDP kind of girl. The most exciting time I've ever voted was in Scotland - I voted Green AND they got in. Why? Because of the proportionate representation voting system.

The book occasionally struck me as a bit biased towards the Greens, but in general, it was a fascinating and informative look at the problems in Canadian democracy today.

1 comment:

Brahm (alfred lives here) said...

Interesting, have never heard of this one, am gonna check it out, love books about politics when they are smart and current.

Thanks for posting!