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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Is Democracy Dead or Just on Life Support?


What’s happened to democracy in Canada? Is it still alive and kicking, on life support, or as many now believe, truly dead?

On the federal level we have a Prime Minister in office that believes he can simply dismiss the elected representatives of the people with a phone call any time the heat is too much for him. The public continues to rail against his undemocratic actions while the PM simply circles his hand picked team power brokers and does as he pleases.

It’s an attitude that has become more and more prevalent throughout politics in Canada. Examples of the growing belief by elected officials that they have “absolute” power can be found right across Canada and at all levels of government.

Take the example of the government of New Brunswick and its determined effort to sell off the provinces publicly owned power utility.

The Graham government in New Brunswick was elected on a platform that promised not to privatize NB Power. It was a platform plank that helped propel them into office. Now, in their first term of office the Premier and his Liberal caucus are hell bent on doing the exact opposite of what they were elected to do.

Tens of thousands of citizens have joined an online group opposing the sale and even though the group, on a per capita basis, is 6 times larger than one fighting the prorogation of Parliament, the Graham government is refusing to listen.

Protests are held on a daily basis at the Legislature and in front of MLA offices yet they refuse to listen.

Letters, emails, phone calls and public confrontations with members of the Graham government, by the hundreds, are happening daily yet they refuse to listen.

The volume of letters to local papers and the public opinion polls show that a vast majority of the public is opposed to the sale. Court challenges have been brought forward and native groups are seeking an injunction to stop the sale yet they still move forward with the planned sale.

What does that say about democracy other than sounding the death knell?

The Graham government is claiming they are not privatizing the utility because they are selling it to another crown corporation, even though that corporation is owned by the Quebec government, not the New Brunswick government. Clearly this is a case of quoting the letter of their platform over its clear intent”.

They are also claiming that their recent decision not to sell the transmission capacity is a case of them “listening to the people” but is it really? When you consider that they are not selling the poles but giving up all the capacity on those lines to Hydro-Quebec for eternity the self serving hair splitting taking place in New Brunswick is flagrant.

As with the proroguing of parliament, the actions of Premier Graham are clearly self serving. They are certainly not intended to serve the public interest.

In recent days elected MLAs in New Brunswick have even resorted to attacking the voting public to whom they should be answerable.

According to several witnesses, MLA Wally Stiles, a Cabinet Minister in the Graham government, told protestors outside his constituency office in Petitcodiac on Monday, “If you f--king a--holes think you are going to win this you had better think again! And I am f--king well going to run for the Liberal Party again!"

Stiles later got into an altercation with a resident in a local restaurant. The situation had to be brought under control by a retired RCMP officer who happened to be dining in the establishment at the time.

These sorts of incidents are becoming more and more prevalent among elected MLAs each day.

When the Stiles situation was brought to the attention of Premier Graham and members of his cabinet the only response came from Energy Minister, Jack Keir who, in addition to showing no concern about the actions of someone representing his government appeared to indicate that because this writer is a Newfoundlander I must be unemployed. Either that or when he said, “…Come on over, we'll see if we can help you land a job?” I have to wonder if he was actually offering me something to gain my silence?

Indeed, the sort of undemocratic and unprofessional actions we’ve seen in Ottawa lately are spreading like wildfire across the entire Country and it’s a slippery slope when those elected to office respond to their constituents, as both Premier Graham and his Energy Minister recently did, by saying they intend to do what they want regardless of the feelings of the public because:

“I'm not concerned. Politics wasn't a career for me.” – Minister Jack Keir

By Myles Higgins

7 comments:

NL-ExPatriate said...

True democracy means everyone is treated as equals and that has never been the case in Canada's parliamentary democracy ever.

When you consider that the provinces in this federation have no equality within the federal context. That means that the people who live in those provinces are not equal in the eyes of the federal administration.

The best we could have ever hoped for was a benevolent leader with a majority.

When you come from a minority population province in what is nothing short of Per Capita Colonialism theocracy.

Nowhere in our westminister parliamentary democracy is there equality for the provinces to promote a vision for the majority of the nation/federation. And as long as we are governed by the national PROXY parties of the Tyranny of the Majority population they will never be allowed to change it.

The only vision the national parties have is a vision for the majority of the population as outlined in our democary.

Jingles said...

Having been out of the country for ten years working because I couldn't obtain employment in my home country, re-entry shock when I returned last May was a little more than anticipated and I am still dealing with it. For the most part, it was difficult to understand what has happened to health care in this country and the political atmosphere. You are absolutely correct in your commentary, but what are we as Canadians to do about it? The system of government needs to change. The PM needs to be answerable to someone above his head. Government in Canada has become a three ringed circus and all politicans think about is getting elected so they can ensconce themselves without regard for the people who have put them there. The PM in this country has far more power than the President of the United States. That has to change. As for being unemployed....if every Canadian were to come back to Canada today who are presently working overseas because they couldn't find a job in Canada including New Brunswick where unemployment is rampent, there would be a crises. For example, there are 200,000 Canadians working in Hong Kong alone and as for Newfoundlanders....there are more Newfoundlanders working in the rest of this country than live on the Island of Newfoundland. Energy Minister Jack Keir needs to stick that in his craw for it seems, he doesn't know much about his country.

Reluctant NL Ex-Pat said...

NL Expatriate-great post.However,the only way to br ing true freedom and democracy for NL is to separate from Canada. Lets face it, confederation is a failure. I have said this before, that if NL becomes a separate country, Quebec will be forced to immediately renegotiate the Churchill Falls contract. NL as a different entity will not be bound by this or any other contract signed by NL since 1949. Therefore, with the additional billions in hydro and offshore oil royalties( Ottawa stealing no longer), NL will be very prosperous. Also, if the government of NL issues their own credit(currency)from their own provincial bank, and not borrow it into existence from private banks, we would have true freedom( look at North Dakota for a semblance of this). There would be no need for income tax( non-fiat currency )and there should be no inflation as supply and demand would increase at the same time. Why should NL go with cap in hand; we can prosper by ourselves. Can anyone out there catch the vision. Myles, thanks for your time and for your blog, as the articles are food for thought.

zeppo said...

@Jingles

The PM is not responsible at all for health care, the Premiere and provincial cabinet is. The federal government transfers large chunks of money to the provinces under the equalization formula but has no control over how it is used for health care except for very broad principles outlined in the Canada Health Act.

Lonenewfwolf said...

i agree with a new deal in the con-federation.

with the natural resources NL has per capita, a new deal could work out very well us.

we could have a guaranteed yearly income, produce more art, refine our culture and all live happily ever after on good food, wine and song.

how about that vision for the future?

now i'm not sure how the new energy gods will feel about it, but hey they could always get a job cleaning paint brushes or emptying my pony stables.

Anonymous said...

zeppo.....I know that but was referring to all levels of government in Canada which I did not make clear. Now I have thanks to you. Jingles.

Anonymous said...

Zeppo...by the way...where in my comments did I say the PM is responsible for Health Care in Canada. I was agreeing with the blogger about the mess this country presently finds itself. Jingles