As public confidence declines representation becomes bastardized (lower in condition or worth).
Voter turnout has declined from 79% of registered voters in 1958/1962 to 61% in 2011 with only 25% of youth(under25) casting a ballot.
Couple the 61% voter turnout with the 40% of turnout required to form a majority government means that only 24% of the population at most is represented by the political party in control of the administration of government. Is this a true mandate? Do 24% of the people actually have the authority to enact their legislation over the other 76%?
In Canada, yes they do! That is the law. Is it right? No!
Is it democratically correct? That is the debate.
Regardless of the voting method used to elect the government, be it FPTP, STV, PR or any other, without voter confidence in who is elected, true representation is limited at best. Unless those in government represent the majority of the electorate, can it be called democracy? Has the government have legitimacy?
there is a broader concern about an apparent long-term decline in public confidence in politicians and political institutions. This trend was most recently documented in a report from the Minister for Democratic Reform, released on 10 September 2007. Based on extensive public consultations, the report identifies mistrust of members of Parliament (MPs) and frustration with the operation of the House of Commons as widespread attitudes. Perhaps reflecting this trend, voter participation in federal elections has declined from the levels of 75% to 80% typical of the 1950s and 1960s, to 61.5% in the 2004 election, for example, and 64.7% in 2006. Moreover, political engagement by young Canadians has fallen to extremely low levels from a traditional 50% voter participation rate to around 25% in recent elections. These figures have led to concern about an impending legitimacy crisis relating to Parliament and politics.
Canada needs to regain trust in government. People need to trust their representatives. Our representatives, Members of Parliament and Members of Legislative Assemblies, need to be accountable to those whom they represent.
The Fair Elections Act proves one basic truth of Parliament. All attempts to improve or reform the House, the Senate or elections, only leads to making matters worse. When interviewed, Parliamentarians will spiel off a litany of wrongs along with ways to amend procedures. In 2003, the Library of Parliament conducted a survey of MPs called, “The Parliament We Want“. In over 12 years since not a single recommendation has seen the light of legislation. Why? Political Parties do not want change. Political Parties and their Politics have such a hold over Parliament, The House of Commons, the Senate and Elections, that Members of Parliament are not permitted to speak to the concerns of their constituents. And that is not democratic – that is a problem!
Reform was the reason the Conservatives were elected, what happened? All their motions either died on the floor or like the Fair Elections Act is no reform at all. The Liberals and NDP had near 6 years of minority government prior to 2011, what reforms did they propose? Nil, Nada, Nothing! NDP say they endorse Proportional Representation. Why then have they never brought the matter before the House? The Liberals, after 2011 election made a lot of noise over PR, now that they may form the government in 2015, Justin Trudeau has abandoned the notion.
We, the Canadian electorate, may have only one shot at bringing about reform to Parliament and elections and it won’t come via any particular party. Canada needs a contract between Members of Parliament and their Constituency. As of now, Candidates for election are under contract to their riding associations, hence, to the party. They are required to do the party bidding. We need to change that. MPs must be accountable to their constituents first, not the party.
Too much power in the Prime Minister’s Office
Nowhere in all the western world’s democracies has a Head of Government extracted so much power that he/she may overrule the elected assembly. No other democracy would concede the degree of control over the elected body such as been given the Prime Minister of Canada. Not in the USA, not in any European states nor Great Britain itself from which Canada inherited our Parliamentary system. This injustice has become so ingrained that a culture of corruption threads itself throughout the whole administration to where permissiveness has become a detrimental component of our political landscape.
The Prime Minister of Canada has almost dictatorial authority over Parliament from; choice of election candidates, to choice of cabinet, to size of cabinet, to Parliamentary schedules. The PM is able to compound non-related legislation, limit debate, appoint committees, appoint the Senate. At the Prime Ministers discretion he controls government advertising and the releasing government information -and the list can go on.
Over the last several Government administrations, the Prime Minister’s Office, PMO, has been usurping many of the checks and balances within Canada’s Parliament to the point where there is a definite deficit to democracy itself. The huge bureaucracy subsequent Prime Ministers have added within their powers is exceedingly costly both in dollars and in lack of democratic procedures. This unfettered rule over Parliament has eroded the trust the people of Canada have in our elected institutions. Time after time politicians from all parties and stripes have rallied against the exorbitant powers of the PMO but, through the years and several administrations no attempts to curtail the PMO have been introduced. For years all parties, Liberals, Conservatives, NDP and Greens, have with all vehement denunciation promised change but, in all those years no change has come.
When Parliamentarians won’t initiate the changes needed, then the voters must. Canada needs change.
The one defining essential of democracy is the collective will of the nation. For that one needs discernment. Without the ability to evaluate and be considerate of the common interest, how can one represent. Government exists for the interests of the governed, not for those who govern. Sovereignty, the power to rule, is invested in the people, that is democracy. Those who have been duly elected to rule are the servants to the people by whom they were elected.
The fundamental duty of those elected is to improve and maintain the equality, rights and freedoms of those they serve. To be of service is to practice helpful activity, to make fit for use, to supply with assistance, to provide the means for necessities or services. For that one needs to be humble. He/she without humility cannot effectively serve.
To be of service is to be a humanitarian. One must be committed to finding common ground, to building peace, to advocating for the rights of all and advancing human freedom. To be a member of government is to lead, support, and collaborate within a broad network of efforts, ideas, and organizations that seek a common vision for a nation and further more, a world free of conflict and injustice.
“…. there really is a cultural, social, political and even moral choice we need to make together about what kind of public arena we want to have.”
Not wanting to be cynical but, most politicians are not in politics for the right reasons and are strictly in government on the back of their political party. To be fair, most are good and meaningful individuals who have now found themselves in collusion with a dysfunctional political system. The question voters must ask each candidate for political office, “Who are you in politics to serve?“
This year could well be our last chance to introduce change in Parliament before the next federal election expected in 2015. Change must come from the grassroots because the truth is, Parliamentarians and political parties flatly outright refuse to bring about reform. They will talk about change, express their wish for change but, when it comes to acting on change, Nothing – Nada – Zip!
Samara shines light on Canadian democracy and encourages Canadians’ participation in public life. We know there’s something wrong with our politics and we know people are opting out in growing numbers. So what can we do about it?
Amplify Citizens’ Voices
Decentralize power, refocus on citizens
Connect MPs to the constituency
Redesign Parliament to make it relevant to Canadians.
Our country deserves a Parliament geared to the 21st century. Canada and Canadians have changed dramatically over the course of the last century and a half. By comparison, our parliamentary institutions have not kept up with the pace of change. Today, Canadians rightly expect a democracy founded on the needs of the times, and the message has been received loud and clear. Every political party represented in Parliament has, in one way or another, expressed its support for democratic renewal and parliamentary reform.
Citizens expect a greater voice and inclusion in public deliberation than is currently the case. Citizens want public engagement to be representative, informed and reflective.
Our message, based on our consultations, is this. In weighing the many options we have before us, and in making decisions on the future role of Parliamentarians, we should keep in mind that the reforms should aim to:
lead to more meaningful work;
look to the future, not the past;
enhance Parliament’s oversight of government activity;
enhance Parliament’s contribution to policy debates;
strike a balance between the adversarial and the consensual aspects of our democratic system;
focus on committees as an immediate priority;
make Parliamentarians knowledge-brokers; and
strike a new bargain between Parliament and the public service.
That is, in short, the Parliament we want. Parliamentarians ask, and Canadians deserve, nothing less.
Why has nothing changed, nothing improved? 12 years and Parliament has digressed.