In a simplistic reading, our present situation is a direct result of what happened last Thursday. That day, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty stood in the House of Commons and delivered his government’s fiscal and economic update. Presented as a national plan at a time of profound economic crisis, it included promises to eliminate subsidies to political parties, tamper with the public service’s right to strike, and fiddle with the system through which women are able to seek equal pay for their work.
It seemed designed only to corner the opposition. So challenged, the Liberals, NDP and Bloc Quebecois found themselves with common cause and interest. Enter the coalition. And under threat of forced exit, the Prime Minister retreated to Rideau in search of reprieve.
That is the short version.
In the longview, it is the latest chapter in what is now an epic and troubling story.
In-and-Out. Chuck Cadman. Afghanistan. Torture. Linda Keen. Arthur Carty. Marc Mayrand. Dalton McGuinty. InSite. Listeriosis. Crime. Science. Academia. Elections Canada. Omar Khadr. Gordon O’Connor. Maxime Bernier. Canadian soldiers. The Military Police Complaints Commission. The ethics committee. The press gallery. CAIRS. Access to information. Notaleader.ca. The federal budget. The economy. The recession.
The emblem of this government has become a furious male face screaming indignation in the arena of our democracy. At every turn, the response has been to obfuscate, manipulate and demonize. Everything has been opportunity to divide. Truth has been tangential. Ethics and morals have been deemed quaint. The Game has superseded all. Short-term political advantage is all that’s mattered. Nothing worth doing if it is not in one’s own personal interest.
Each time, it was possible to believe it wouldn’t happen again. But inevitably there was another low. And while individually these moments might seem relatively minor—at least when compared with the great political and human challenges of our time—taken together it is a dispiriting collage.
I had an email exchange with a friend who wrote that "they (all) remind me of boys in a school yard and the one-up-manship that happens there. I'm really sick of hearing about their antics." She wondered if this fiasco might send more people back to the polls.
To which I countered: "Am sick of this system. And am sick of the lot of them for protecting their chances to plunk their partisan backsides into House of Commons seats rather than protecting the right of the people to be democratically represented."
My friend is equally as disgusted with the system.
If the Liberal party truly cared about Canada's democracy rather than its own interests, it would i) allow each of its members to vote for their leader and executive and ii) begin a citizen process toward changing our voting system to one of proportional representation, a system determined by Canadians in full consultation and by referendum.
As this latest fiasco has proven, if nothing else has, proportional representation is urgently needed in this country.
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