Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Democracy Under Attack

Democracy is clearly under attack in Canada by those who always claim to be it's defenders, and led by the man who would be dictator.

Stephen Harper wants all the trappings of Presidential Power without the checks and balances of the separation of powers in the American system, nor the inconveniences of accountability to Parliament in our system of responsible government.

Pierre Trudeau is reported to have said that Members of Parliament are nobodies off Parliament Hill. Stephen Harper would have them be nobodies on Parliament Hill. Stephen Harper believes that the Prime Minister's Office should be the seat of all power, not Parliament.

His contempt for Parliament has been shown by his multiple prorogations to avoid facing it, his government's withholding information from and lying to the House of Commons and it's committees, its cabinet ministers doctoring official documents from public servants, and the list goes on. Indeed his government is the first in Canadian history to be formally found in Contempt of Parliament.

But Stephen Harper not only has contempt for Parliament, but contempt for the voters and the courts. His attitude to his party being found guilty of violating the laws designed to ensure that we have fair elections is to dismiss it as unimportant and simply a difference of opinion on minor regulations. Of course Stephen Harper believes the market should rule everything and that voting should be like shopping - whoever has the most money to wage the best marketing campaign, whether deceptive or not (or fought with the taxpayers money using government advertising), should get the most customers votes.

But then again, Stephen Harper does not believe that the Members of Parliament elected by the people should choose who forms the government. He seems to honestly believe there is something undemocratic about the majority of elected Members of Parliament forming a government and that only a government of the largest minority is legitimate, seemingly unaware of the principles of our Parliamentary system or the practices of the overwhelming majority of democratic countries in the world.

But the problem goes beyond the Reformatories and Stephen Harper. Unlike the vast majority of democratic countries in the world our electoral system results in a House of Commons that rarely, if ever, reflects the way the population as a whole votes in terms of party representation.

Unlike most countries in the world that have proportional representation systems Canadian elections usually result in one party having a majority of seats in the House of Commons without receiving a majority of votes in the election. This is praised because it is seen to be more efficient to have power concentrated in one party. Most other democratic countries of the world seem to manage fine with coalition governments that actually reflect how the people voted and require the different parties to co-operate and reflect the wishes of the voters.

Our system however does not just concentrate power in the hands of the party with the largest number of seats (in some cases the party with the most seats may receive less total votes than another party) but tends to concentrate power in the hands of the Prime Minister, as we have seen too well with the current Canadian regime.

This attack on democracy goes beyond contempt for Parliament and the voters - but extends to a contempt for the whole idea of government, the whole idea of the people acting collectively for their collective interests.

The Reformatories, and right wingers everywhere, like to spout the rhetoric of the evils of big government and the evils of taxation. They do not believe that the people should act collectively or spend their money collectively. They have very good reasons for being against government. When citizens act and spend through their governments they act on a one person one vote basis. When citizens act and spend individually they, in effect, act on a one dollar one vote basis, thus concentrating power in those with the most wealth.

That is the reason right wingers do not like government - because it takes power away from the wealthy and transfers it to the people.

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