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The Canadian Election: Another Black Eye for Democracy October 16, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in About Canada, Canada.
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The results are in, and disappointing is not strong enough a word.  The Tories have increased their minority by around 20 seats and probably would have been able to form a majority government if they hadn’t been awash in a series of scandals, including bribing a dying MP for his vote and a major cabinet minister leaving secret documents at the home of his ex-girl friend, a women with biker gang and mafia associations.


I have a mantra that goes like this: genuine democracy is by nature not possible if there is only political democracy without economic democracy.  And, of course, even the degree of political democracy in some nations hardly qualifies in terms of the word’s origin, which comes from the Greek, meaning “the people.”


In Canada, the winner-take-all system (as opposed to proportional representation) gave the ruling Conservatives a near majority with only abut 38% of the popular vote.  In other words, 62% of those who voted would have preferred a different government but are stuck with one that happens to be little more than a shadow of the U.S. neocon right wing Bush/Cheney conspiracy.  In a Toronto Star poll, when asked if they were happy with the results of the election, 65% said No.  In other words, about two thirds of “the people” were in effect disenfranchised by this election.


One could argue that they played by the rules and won fairly.  But for me it is the rules that I have a problem with.  I like to cite Bob Dylan’s “money doesn’t talk, it swears.”  Given the huge concentrations of capital, including in the communications industries (radio, television, the press), the principle of “one person one vote” becomes a hollow farce.


Non Canadians may not be aware that Canada’s ruling Conservative party was, in effect, hijacked by a merger with the ultra-Right Reform Party in a matter that is somewhat parallel to the take over of the U.S. Republican Party by the Radical Christian Right.


The Liberal Party made a disastrous leadership choice in Stéphane Dion (lowest Liberal popular vote since 1867!), who had slipped through the middle between Michael Ignatieff (an academic and a Canadian who had lived for decades in the U.S. and is notorious for having flirted with the notion of justifying torture under certain circumstances) and Bob Rae a former and largely discredited Premier of the Province of Ontario who left the social democratic New Democratic Party (NDP) to join the Liberals.  One of these two are most likely to replace Dion and face off against Harper in four years.  Hardly anything to look forward to.


A couple of years ago, the CBC had a nation-wide poll asking Canadians to cast their vote for the person they considered the greatest Canadian of all time.  The hands down winner was Tommy Douglas, who as NDP Premier of the Province of Saskatchewan introduced universal health care in that province, which led to it being adopted by the federal government.  Canadians are not necessarily a passionate people, but don’t ever try to take their health care system away from them.


And yet, fuelled by a hostile media and the political pundit culture, Canadian voters gave only 18% of their votes to the NDP, whose leader, Jack Layton, is heads and shoulders in intelligence, compassion, and transparency above the leaders of the other parties, and whose policies are the most favourable towards lower and middle income Canadians, environmental protection, withdrawing the Canadian military from the fiasco in Afghanistan, etc.  Although the NDP picked up several seats in this election, their representation in Parliament with 18% of the vote amount to just 10%.  The Green Party, which garnered 7%, has no representation whatsoever.


Another sad irony is that, again fuelled by the corporate media and the pundit class, somehow a large percentage of voters are convinced that in the midst of a serious economic crisis, the very Conservative Party under whose watch the crisis has occurred (and which is ideologically joined at the hip with the U.S. Republicans, who are the big culprits) is consider the safest bet to handle the problem.


I hold the notion of democracy as sacred as anyone; it’s just that over a lifetime of political study and activism, it has become crystal clear to me that “formal” political democracy, with periodic elections, is a far cry from the real McCoy.  Yesterday’s Canadian election has once again confirmed this belief.


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