19 January 2009

Analysing Canada's Democratic Deficit

There's a good five-part series (h/t Aaron Wherry at Macleans) on diminishing voter turnout, civic engagement and the associated erosion of civil discourse in and out of Parliament, the change in how political campaigns are run, the reduction in number of Canadians taking out political party memberships, the loss of political power given to representatives we send to Parliament.

Part Five ends with a list of recommendations to address the problems:
  1. outlawing attack ads
  2. eliminating party subsidies
  3. enforcing Parliamentary decorum
  4. requiring, by law, honesty on the part of politicians
  5. replacing our first-past-the-post electoral system
  6. allowing the recall of Parliamentarians
  7. increasing the education of young people

I disagree with 2; think 4, while desirable, would be unworkable; am surprised though pleased to see 5 in the list (this is a Canwest article); applaud 1 and 6; and would expand on 7.

On eliminating party subsidies,

Tom Flanagan, the Calgary academic who ran Harper's 2004 campaign, ... says he prefers the U.S. system, in which taxpayers can check a box on their tax returns, directing a small amount of money to a party of their choice.

Have written elsewhere (nobody seems to be listening) that the issue of party subsidies is much less about the health - and wealth - of parties than it is about inclusiveness of all members of the electorate. That per vote subsidy enables low income earners to contribute financially to their party of choice.

This may be a small thing to people whose incomes make donations affordable, even beneficial through the political donations income tax write-off. But it's a HUGE thing for those amongst us whose income is too low to pay income tax (so scotch that idea, Mr. Flanagan).

On educating young people,

... can't argue with that!

But the education should never stop. Citizens of this country should be educated about their government throughout their lifetime. Situations change. As we've seen over the past decade and more.

I'd also add at least one more recommendation: that the PMO be divested of some of its power.

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