Canadian democracy is broken

But how to fix it? Columnists Andrew Coyne and Paul Wells debate the question.

Canadian democracy is brokenOn Sept. 23, Maclean’s will present a round table discussion on the subject “Our Democracy Is Broken: How Do We Fix It?” at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts in Toronto, to be broadcast live nationwide on CPAC, the public affairs channel. Guests will include former NDP leader Ed Broadbent, former prime minister’s chief of staff Eddie Goldenberg, and author John Ralston Saul. Maclean’s columnists Andrew Coyne and Paul Wells will host the evening.

To get things started, this week they discuss what’s wrong with Canadian democracy.

Andrew Coyne: Paul, the title of our little show in Toronto on the 23rd is “Our Democracy is Broken.” This might strike some as provocative, even over the top. Surely “Is Our Democracy Broken?” would have been more, um, Canadian?

But the more I think about it, the more it strikes me as apt. Honestly, is there anything about Canadian democracy that isn’t broken? Elections about nothing, parties that have been reduced to leadership cults, a permanently deadlocked Parliament, record-low voter turnout, and overlaying everything an atmosphere of coarseness, cynicism and mindless partisanship. And that’s the good news! The impotence of ordinary MPs, the irrelevance of Parliament, the near dictatorial powers of the Prime Minister: if we were writing about a Third World country with a system like ours, we would be careful to refer to the “largely ceremonial” Parliament and “sham” elections. Only force of habit prevents us from applying the same terms here.

Oh, and did I mention our appointed upper house?

I assume you feel much the same as I do. So my question to you off the top is: which is the worst of Canadian democracy’s many flaws? Where should we start?

Paul Wells: Well, Andrew, I’m not sure the House of Commons is the worst of our problems, but I find it’s handy to start at the centre and work outward. And the Canadian centre clearly cannot hold. At least in developing countries you run into the occasional “largely ceremonial” parliament. Ceremony implies some element of decorum, at least. If ours were to become ceremonial, it would be a step up.

Take Monday’s hijinks. Jack Layton, the NDP leader who has voted against this government at every opportunity, was suddenly lecturing the other opposition leaders about “making Parliament work.” (Brian Topp, his best strategist, managed to claim with a straight face that Layton “doesn’t run with the opposition crowd.” This would be the same Jack Layton whose party has never governed.) Meanwhile, it’s Michael Ignatieff who’s taken Layton’s place as the guy who’s eager to oppose whatever the government does, before he knows what that is.

What’s most striking about all of this is that none of it is about public policy. It’s pure tactics. Layton decided to back the government because Ignatieff had decided to stop, and Ignatieff decided to stop because he had already done too much backing.

This is how it’s been for five years. You once wrote a column arguing that minority governments are good for compromise and deliberation. That sounded sensible at the time, but I don’t see a lot of compromise and deliberation going on, or at least none that’s about the goal of better governance. But here’s the hard question: is that because of the personalities involved, or is there actually anything to be done about it?

AC: Tactical manoeuvring doesn’t bother me, as such. It depends on the purpose to which it is put. I don’t care whether a party votes with the government one day, and against it the next, as long as there’s some consistency of principle that connects the two. You could probably say that about Layton. You can’t really say that about Ignatieff, and certainly not about Harper.

Is that a matter of personalities? Partly. Mostly it’s about incentives, and culture. Incentives, in the context of a minority Parliament, certainly, but a minority Parliament in a system that was built to deliver majorities. And yes, I’m talking about first past the post here. Whatever stability it may once have promised breaks down in the kind of regionalized Parliament we now have—to which first past the post is itself a major contributor. The Bloc would not have anything like the stranglehold it now has in a more proportional system.

The perpetual brinksmanship that has given this minority Parliament a bad name is likewise a peculiarity of the present electoral system, with its highly disproportionate relationship between votes and representation: every party thinks it can parlay a swing of a few percentage points in the polls into a bushel of seats. Change to a system without such winner-take-all payoffs, and people might stop gambling and get down to business.

But look: the cynicism and opportunism you decry hardly began in the last five years. Our political culture is steeped in it, and has been for decades. That takes us into some of the more deep-seated problems I mentioned off the top. For example, do our elections have to be quite such sterile, pointless exercises as they’ve become? What can we do to fix them?

PW: I knew you’d get us to electoral reform by the short route, Andrew. For the longest time I rejected the whole notion. First, because I’m always skeptical of system changes, which always seem to replace one set of problems with another set. Second, because reform advocates’ attempts to prove their preferred system isn’t incomprehensible are, reliably, grim comedy. (“You just vote six times, put your left elbow on a goat, and find a slide rule.”)

But last year’s coalition wackiness made me revisit all that. First, you’re right about the Bloc: it’s crazy to consistently give them more seats than votes, and then get mad that they’re there. Second, because what should have been a defensible deal among parties provoked a paralyzing outrage in much of the country. Voting reform would force deal-making into the open. It would at least be honest.

But good luck selling a change like that before doomsday. What to do in the meantime?

AC: I’ll accept that system changes are harder to implement, if more necessary. But about those sterile elections: here are a few eminently practical, achievable changes we could make. One, fix the debates. I might not go as far as a recent paper by the Queen’s University Centre for the Study of Democracy, which would make it illegal for the Bloc leader to take part and mandatory for the rest. But it seems obvious to me that we should have more debates—to take the temperature down, to allow more time for substantive discussion, to make room for a variety of formats, and most important, to give the media something to talk about.

There’s no getting away from it: we in the media do enormous amounts of harm every election, as part of a malignant feedback loop with the parties. And, frankly, we can’t change—we won’t stop talking about polls and gaffes and gotchas until we’re given something more compelling to talk about. That something, I suggest, is a series of debates, perhaps one a week: the spine of future election campaigns.

That in turn suggests a much more formalized role for the debates, with the rules entrenched in the election laws, not negotiated at the last minute. And rule one would be: all debates are to be in English and French, perhaps in alternating half-hours, with simultaneous translation. No more French-only Quebec panderfests.

Other reforms? End the public subsidy of political parties: whether to contribute to a political party is a personal choice, and should remain so. But make voting mandatory: it’s one of your very few obligations as a citizen, along with jury duty and paying your taxes. Last, impose some sort of U.S.-style disclaimer on attack ads: you know, “I’m Joe Blow and I approved this message.” Parties say the most appalling things in ads that they could never get away with coming out of the candidate’s mouth. Now there’s an idea: why not require that candidates themselves actually voice the ads that appear in their name?

PW: I’m not sure why party funding is a personal choice, while funding the state and deciding its nature through voting for one party or other should be mandatory. I actually find mandatory voting an interesting idea (as long as penalties are trivial and symbolic), but it won’t actually change much.

More debates, on the other hand, couldn’t hurt. I thought last year’s version was quite good, with everyone sitting down. I’m not surprised to hear that format’s endangered. No good idea goes unchallenged these days. Hey, you know who could organize at least one good debate round to challenge the broadcast networks? The major print media. If the Globe, La Presse, Canwest, Maclean’s and l’Actualité offered a forum in our pages and websites, could we do better than the networks? It might be worth a try.

Finally, it’d be interesting to turn to the provinces, which have been timid on electoral reform, for examples of more modest best practices. Decorum in Quebec’s national assembly is far better than in Parliament—why? After several years of fixed election dates in some provinces, how’s that working out? Note that I’m all but abandoning Ottawa as a source of helpful ideas. Ottawa makes that easy these days.

AC: You’re right about that. But connect the dots: Ottawa is brain-dead, because debate, the lifeblood of ideas, has been outlawed—as a glance at question period will confirm. Debate is dead because MPs have become mere appendages of their parties, which is to say of party leaders. So we start running into some of those systemic questions you’d prefer to avoid.

The irrelevance of Parliament and the impotence of the individual MP are both, I think, rooted in the decline of the political parties as democratic institutions. I’ve long been a convert to the idea that the rot set in when parties began choosing their leaders by national conventions, rather than by the parliamentary caucus. Emboldened by this mandate, leaders could lord it over MPs without fear of reprisals.

Maybe we aren’t ready to have MPs choose party leaders. But must we have leaders choosing MPs? I mentioned the appointed Senate—but the Commons is effectively appointed as well, inasmuch as candidates are required to have their nomination papers signed by the party leader.

So one part of reviving national politics is restoring local democracy. But we can’t just yet, because local democracy is a joke. In no other advanced democracy that I am aware of are nominations decided by who can raffle off the most party memberships, or stack meetings with the most instant members.

Isn’t this just an internal party matter? Aren’t parties private entities? So are corporations. I don’t see anyone saying there should be no laws governing how shareholder voters are run. Should we impose any less obligations on the organizations that seek the power to rule us?

PW: Ah. So the Prime Minister can act like a martinet, even in a minority, because the parliamentary alternative—a coalition—has dubious legitimacy, thanks to the overrepresented Bloc. And because alternatives in his own party—potential new leaders—can’t get oxygen because of leadership-selection rules. Are those the dots you mentioned?

Like you, I buy historian Christopher Moore’s argument that MPs should select their leaders. There’ll be people who call that “undemocratic,” so how about this: MPs should at least be able to start a leadership race, by declaring in some kind of qualified majority vote that they’ve had enough of any current leader.

The problem with all of this, of course, is that the one person in Canada with the least interest in changing the system is, perpetually, whoever rode it most recently to 24 Sussex. But it helps to admit you have a problem, and that’s where we’ll begin when we meet in Toronto on Sept. 23. I think it’ll be fun.




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Canadian democracy is broken

  1. I have to disagree with Andrew about removing the public vote subsidy. Many democracies have public funding of their election systems – even the US does. This system was implemented in order to use it as a replacement for corporate and unions no longer being able to finance political parties with big money. I don't think you should just remove that.

    If you want a change of the system , I'd say I'd probably accept going the route of the US, which forces political parties by a certain date before an election call to either accept the public financing system money and depend on that alone (without being able to accept private donations) or to refuse it and rely solely on private donations.

  2. I have to disagree with Andrew about removing the public vote subsidy. Many democracies have public funding of their election systems – even the US does. This system was implemented in order to use it as a replacement for corporations and unions no longer being able to finance political parties with big money. I think it's a good way to help level the playing fields for smaller parties, and I don't think you should just remove that, particularly when the Conservatives tried to do so for partisan political puposes in trying to gain a financial advantage over their opponents by crippling them.

    If you want a change of the system , I'd say I'd probably accept going the route of the US, which forces political parties by a certain date before an election call to either accept the public financing system money and depend on that alone (without being able to accept private donations) or to refuse it and rely solely on private donations.

    • Removing the public vote subsidy seems like a bad idea to me: wouldn't it lead to government by the wealthy and for the wealthy? Would people have to save up to buy their democracy?

      I suggest that political advertising of any kind should not be allowed between elections, At present, no party dares put forward any kind of policy of any kind, for fear of being eviscerated by their opponents' war rooms. (The Liberals, in particular, learned this lesson the hard way after seeing the fate of Dion's Green Shift.)

      In a few years – perhaps sooner than we would like – whatever government is in power is going to have to make some very tough choices. Unfortunately, any government that even hints at raising taxes or cutting services will be torpedoed at election time. The government that wins office is usually the one that promises the equivalent of pizza and ice cream for dinner every night.

    • I'm open to getting rid of the $1.95 / vote subsidy, although right now I do support it.

      However, if the $1.95 vote subsidy has to be cancelled to meet some higher objective, then certainly the 75% tax rebate has to be removed at the same time.

      • Couldn’t agree more. Why’s AC always riding on the per vote sub? It ‘s obvious in hindsight that Harper’s desire to end this subsidy while making nary a peep about the party rebates which favour the Cons is comletely unacceptable and nothing more than a blatant attempt to nobble the other parties. Please list off the major democracies that depend solely on private fundraising if you will Mr Coyne ; off hand i can’t think of any.

        • How about we use our $1.95 vote subsidy? Say, every time it can be demonstrated a political party lies to us, we get a portion of our money refunded. That is to say, we first give them $1.95 per vote, then take gleeful pleasure in watching for a quote or action that, taken in context, contradicts an election promise. For example, while we might not get anything on the fixed election date law itself, we could probably get the whole $1.95 back over the words the Conservatives used to sell the idea. Also, the Liberals at least, and probably the NDP and Bloc as well, would have to give back at least a portion on the coalition thing. Say a 20% per gotcha moment refund. It will either have election campaigns where nobody says a damn word, or politicians speaking honestly to us. I also like the idea of no political advertising outside of a writ period. Anything and everything to reduce spin. We have got to get political parties to at least acknowledge that depending on circumstances they may have to increase taxes.

          • Just in case you are serious about this proposal: Not in favour.

        • "Why's AC always riding on the per vote sub?"

          He's only looking out for his class…pundits, the pr and advertizing industry and strategists, consultants and political coutiers of all stripes. Those people will benefit greatly from constant campaigning and fundraising that has become an industry of its own in the US.

    • Removing the public vote subsidy seems like a bad idea to me: wouldn't it lead to government by the wealthy and for the wealthy? Would people have to save up to buy their democracy?

      I suggest that political advertising of any kind should not be allowed between elections, At present, no party dares put forward any kind of policy of any kind, for fear of being eviscerated by their opponents' war rooms. (The Liberals, in particular, learned this lesson the hard way after seeing the fate of Dion's Green Shift.)

      In a few years – perhaps sooner than we would like – the party in power is going to have to make some very tough choices. Unfortunately, any government that even hints at raising taxes or cutting services will be torpedoed at election time. The government that wins office is usually the one that promises the equivalent of pizza and ice cream for dinner every night.

    • Removing the public vote subsidy seems like a bad idea to me: wouldn't it lead to government by the wealthy and for the wealthy? Would people have to save up to buy their democracy?

      I suggest that no political advertising of any kind should be allowed between elections, At present, no party dares put forward any kind of policy of any kind, for fear of being eviscerated by their opponents' war rooms. (The Liberals, in particular, learned this lesson the hard way after seeing the fate of Dion's Green Shift.)

      In a few years – perhaps sooner than we would like – the party in power is going to have to make some very tough choices. Unfortunately, any party that even hints at raising taxes or cutting services will be torpedoed at election time. The party that wins office is usually the one that promises the equivalent of pizza and ice cream for dinner every night.

    • Scott were you part of the Brain trust at Rogers when they introduced the negative billing option?

      Chretien introduce changes to fundraising to punish the Martin Liberals. Those changes included reducing the donations from special interest groups.

      If a political party can not sell their vision, competence, trust in getting voters to open their wallets they will become bankrupt and unable to trigger unwanted elections every twelve months.

      I applaud the Liberals in getting lawyers and advertising executive to max out their donation in 2008. Use that investment wisely, the taxpayer does NOT support this subsidy.

      If and when the CPC gain their majority, each political party will again be dependent upon their supporters. A much bigger financial problem exist for the Liberals.

      Elections Canada is refusing to correct an accounting mistake and collect money owed. The courts will decide and this will cost the Liberals millions.

    • Scott were you part of the Brain trust at Rogers when they introduced the negative billing option?

      Chretien introduced changes to fundraising to punish the Martin Liberals. Those changes included reducing the donations from special interest groups.

      If a political party can not sell their vision, competence, trust in getting voters to open their wallets they will become bankrupt and unable to trigger unwanted elections every twelve months.

      I applaud the Liberals in getting approximately 19,000 members (lawyers and advertising executive (Big Fish)) to max out their donations in the first six months of 2008. Goodluck with the third and fourth quarter. Elections Canada has also another deadline for the 2006 loans from Liberals 2006 leadership. The taxpayer does NOT support this subsidy, need a link?

      If and when the CPC gain their majority, each political party will again be dependent upon their supporters. A much bigger financial problem exist for the Liberals.

      Elections Canada is refusing to correct an accounting mistake and collect on an overpayment. The CPC have already tried to send the cheque for $ 591k. The courts will decide and if this accounting mistake is corrected it will cost the Liberals millions.

      I posted this earlier

      http://www.elections.ca/scripts/webpep/fin2/summa

      As of Jun 2009 Liberals from 19,487 members and have raised $ 4 M
      " " Conservatives from 35,217 members raised $ 3.96 M

      NO other official numbers since than for July-Sept. 50% of the year is OVER.

  3. Great start to this. I've only followed Canadian politics closely for about 6 years now and the more I learn the more shabby our democracy looks. We definitely need this discussion.

    On Coyne's idea for more debates and the involvement of the Bloc. How about a debate in each province with the Bloc only involved in the one in Quebec. This would give more depth to the debates particularly on the issues that are important in each province.

  4. I think that is a recipe for the panderfest Coyne was referring to, allowing leaders to have it both ways on a bunch of issues depending on the audience.

    • It would get it out in the open before an election though. As it stands now, the parties barely address these regional issues until after they're in power and the pandering begins.

  5. Andrew Coyne: "Debate is dead because MPs have become mere appendages of their parties, which is to say of party leaders."

    Andrew Coyne: We need more leaders' debates.

  6. two simple suggestions that I think would make a positive difference:

    First, let Elections Canada absorb the admin and cost of party nominations. For all the ranting about waste of taxpayer $$$ in our system, it's often overlooked that this cost in the U.S. is borne by the taxpayers, and not the parties as it is here. That would not only reduce the financial burden on parties, it would also lessen the Leader's influence on local democracy. It would result in more contested nominations, which have been dwindling within all parties.

    Second, make our ballots preferential. Every MP would require 50% plus one to win. An alternative would be a run-off, but that might make the writ period too long. The beauty of a 50% requirement is that it requires candidates to treat opponents, and voters of differing political persuasion with respect, as their second ballot support is important to them. More importantly, it brings "consesnsus-building" down to the riding level, rather than this all-or-nothing brinksmanship we see on display during the current minority situation.

    • I like these ideas, although not having any political experience myself i’m uncomfortably aware that i have no real idea of their full repercussions.
      Much as i share AC’s enthusiasm for PR in this country, it’s a bit of a dead duck right now. Several provincial referendums have pretty well demonstrated that. So, how about a made in Canada hybrid? Preferential balloting would go some way to bringing that about – wouldn’t you say ??

      • Using the same caveat as you did, I like the preferential ballot myself. I would be interested in knowing what the full repercussions would likely be.

  7. Prediction: Of all the panel members, Eddie Goldenberg will be most vocal about supporting the status quo.

  8. Here's a thought.. if the media is the problem, then simply say the media is not allowed to report on the election other than by broadcasting/printing an accurate and full transcript of any speaking event the politician speaks at.

  9. Amen to Thwim…How about disposing of the endless train of editorials, and rely on actual reporting once again?

    What is more broken…Parliament, or the media coverage of politics?

    End media monopolies and make the media more accountable. Politics will improve when the coverage improves.

    Daniel J. Beals
    President – Kingston & the Islands NDP

  10. I have to agree, or not necessarily disagree, with most of your discussion with the exception of this: "we won't stop talking about polls and gaffes and gotchas until we're given something more compelling to talk about". It seems to me that the 'something more compelling' is there, beneath all the noise, but journalists have to take the initiative and do some digging, and recently that seems to be the strategy being employed by many of them. For a time, it seemed to me that they were willing to simply print whatever the government or opposition said, with no attempt to verify if the statements were accurate, truthful, or factual.

    • I couldn't agree more. The laziness of the media and their indifference to vision and values is often pathetic.

  11. As Democracy Watch set out in a comprehensive list more than 5 years ago, there are 90 changes that need to be made to the federal government's accountability and decision-making systems, and 30 changes that need to be made to the federal corporate responsibility system (which are also key democratic reforms).

    The list of changes is based on the best democratic practices and standards of governments and international institutions, conventions, treaties etc. worldwide.

    If these changes are made, Canada will be the most democratic country in the world.

    The provincial, territorial and municipal governments in Canada also need to be changed in about 90 ways (although a slightly different list for each, as some have already made changes in some areas, others in other areas).

    So Andrew Coyne and Paul Wells only begin to scratch the surface of the problem — hopefully the forum on the 23rd will do more than that.

    For details, go to:
    http://dwatch.ca/Clean_Up_the_System.html

    Hope this helps,
    Duff Conacher, Coordinator
    Democracy Watch

    • Isn't there a frivolous court case to go waste time and money on?

      • Richard, your unfunny one-liner reveals yourself to be the, unfortunately, dominant type of Internet commentator on Canadian politics — uninformed, but still determined to throw in your two cents (of course anonymously, showing just how much you lack the courage to stand up publicly for your own convictions (illogical, ill-informed, and irrelevant as they are)). Oh, and of course, also off-topic.

        Do you know that the Federal Court judge ruled that having the case heard and ruled on was in the public interest, as did another Federal Court judicial official last October? Do you know that this is the first such case in the world, and therefore sets several important precedents not only for Canadian law (including the 6 provinces and the Northwest Territories which have the same fixed-election date measures) but also for all parliamentary democracies in the world ? Do you know that three leading expert political science professors, and three leading expert constitutional professors, support Democracy Watch's case?

        Sincerely,
        Duff Conacher

        • Shorter Duff: The judge thanked me for bringing this case to court so that I could be tossed out into a shriveled-up heap of nothing, if only to prove the point that "nothing diminishes the GG's powers" actually means what it says.

          Uh, OK then. Thanks, Mr. C.

          • I really can't understand why you think the court ruling is meaningless — until a court ruled on the fixed-election-date measures, they had no definite meaning in Canadian law (because the case was the first ever to raise these issues, and because of the contradiction between what Prime Minister Harper and Cabinet minister Nicholson (and his advisers) told Parliament the measures mean, and what Prime Minister Harper did).

            If the judge's ruling is incorrect (as Democracy Watch and several constitutional experts believe it is), then Prime Minister Harper violated the law and the court has refused to uphold the law.

            For these reasons, Democracy Watch is appealing the case to the Federal Court of Appeal.

          • I am pretty sure that you will not find anywhere my description of the ruling as meaningless. Your case, on the other hand…

            So, DC/DW is appealing? This'll be good for a court-time-wasting chuckle. You did get the entire text of the legislation, including that inconvenient part about the GG retaining all powers and privileges regarding dissolution and calling of elections, didn't you? If not, please have another look — it might help you save on lawyer's fees for any more embarrassing posturing before a judge. And take that as free advice, one democracy watching citizen to another. I won't even charge you a commission based on the percentage of future legal bill savings for it. You're welcome.

      • Further, if you don't know these things, why are you commenting? If you do, why would you call the case frivolous (even the judge who ruled against Democracy Watch in the case didn't think it was frivolous)?

        The conclusion of your twisted reasoning is court cases that test fundamental issues of Canadian democracy shouldn't never be pursued — instead, I guess you are saying, politicians should just be believed all the time?____If so, then your twisted reasoning takes us right back to what Prime Minister Harper and Cabinet minister Rob Nicholson said about their Bill C-16.

        There would not have been a court case if they hadn't violated their own words and promise.

        So why are you not criticizing them, as they are the ones who caused the situation that raised the questions that the judge ruled were in the public interest to answer by reviewing and ruling on the case.

        Oh wait, I forgot, you are that dominant type of Internet commentator — ill-informed, illogical, irrelevant.

        Here's hoping, if you post a reply to this reply, you will stick to facts and reason.

        Sincerely,
        Duff Conacher

        • Your court case is ridiculous, they are a case of the unelected courts wading into areas where elected politicians have jurisdiction. You should call yourselves anti-democracy watch. You've gone to court to prevent elections from happening.

          • Which is it scf, are you against "elections no Canadians want" or are you against elected politicians having jurisdiction in lawmaking? Because it seems to me that Democracy Watch is standing up for the politicians who passed the law against elections no Canadians want. But whatever, carry on.

          • No, the court case was not to prevent an election from happening, it was to determine what legal effects the fixed-election-date measures have (if any).

            You seem to forget that Prime Minister Harper and Cabinet Minister Rob Nicholson both told Parliament that the measures restrict the Prime Minister from going to the Governor General to request the calling of an election in between the fixed-election dates to only the situation in which a majority of MPs has voted against the government on a significant issue (ie. a vote of non-confidence).

            All Democracy Watch was doing is finding out whether what the Prime Minister and MInister Nicholson said was true — the judge's ruling said no, they both misled Parliament about the effects of the measures.

            Democracy Watch (and several constitutional law experts) believe the judge's ruling was legally incorrect on many issues, and so we are appealing to the Federal Court of Appeal as we believe the higher courts should rule on these precedent-setting issues.

        • Any reasonable reading of Bill C-16 reveals that you did not have a legal leg to stand on.

          • Your (of course anonymous) claim makes sense if you ignore the law (ie. Supreme Court of Canada rulings) on statutory interpretation and the creation of constitutional conventions — if you do (as the leading experts who supported our case do) you would know that actually the law was entirely on Democracy Watch's side (which is why we are appealing to the Federal Court of Appeal).

            As for your statement that the case was to "prevent elections" from happening — of course it wasn't (as any person with the ability to think rationally would realize) — the case was aimed at upholding a law the federal Conservatives, and all other federal politicians (as well as politicians in 6 provinces and the Northwest Territories), as well as many other political commentators, all believe is needed to ensure more fair elections.

            Sincerely,
            Duff Conacher, Coordinator
            Democracy Watch

          • You're wasting your time replying to those two numbskulls. As far as they're concerned you're attacking Harper and these two are the type that would cheer if Harper devoured a baby on national TV.

          • Sorry Robert – I hate Harper as much as anyone. I think he is a snake and a hypocrite – particularly on this election law stuff. But no court in the land is going to rule whether someone is a snake or a hypocrite. That's just silly. And Democracy Watch has a severe tendency for silliness.

          • This has nothing to do with Harper, I don't believe in suing the government because an election was called.

          • Are you suggesting that the judge who ruled against you ignored the rule of law?

            P.S. – When does Democracy Watch elect its next coordinator? Better still, when will Democracy Watch reveal its donors?

          • You make a good point. Democracy Watch would have more credibility if we knew is funding it.

          • TW, you seem to have some tidbits to share about DW. And DW just fell silent. Care to tell the class what you know?

          • Ad hominems don't add to the discussion. It's clear your passionate about this cause, but don't let the strength of your feelings over-ride the strength of your thinking.

            And what is this "(of course anonymous)" crap? Does an anonymous criticism lose validity because you don't know who said it? If an entirely random name was applied to the criticism, does it gain any more validity?

            All that being anonymous does is prevent appeals to authority and poisioning the well. The fact that you would even add "of course anonymous" strikes me that you would be quite happy to engage in either of these logical fallacies.

            And remember, the only way for two people to communicate is for one person to lower themselves to the intellectual capacity of the other. Or as Henry Rollin's puts it, "Arguing with an assh*le makes you an assh*le"

          • Mr. Conacher, please note that I am not posting anonymously.

            However, your court case is still a waste of time.

            You have three political science profs testifying for you; that's all very well. Do you believe that no three poli-sci profs could testify against your position?

            Second, you make grand claims about the sanctity of courts to rule on the timing and legality of elections; I would remind you that you lost your case before a judge. Are you trying to say that Democracy Watch is able to make judgements about law, superior to that of a Federal Court judge?

            Will such a sour-grapes attitude characterize your response, when and if (as I expect) the SCOC also rules against your case?

    • You'd think a great pan-Canadian organization like Democracy Watch would be interested, concerned even, when the sitting government goes on the warpath against the judiciary, openly vows to ignore court decisions, interferes in the operation of delegated authorities, appoints partisans to oversee the administration of electoral law, amends that electoral law so you can vote in an election that hasn't even been called yet, engages in state-sponsored demagoguery against critics of the government, uses government advertising as carrot and stick alike with the political press, dramatically slashes the amount of time the legislature actually spends in session, attempts to starve the opposition parties out of existence, and votes itself to be the arbiter of whether access to information requests are "frivolous" or "ludicrous" (and stonewalling those which it deems to be so.)

      You'd think Democracy Watch would care about that.

      But Democracy Watch does not.

  12. Something occurred to me as I was reading comments elsewhere. There are invariably comments on posts like this on blogs and news stories to the effect that our parliamentary democracy is so corrupt/broken/whatever that there's no point in voting (it's passing curious that people who have lost faith still visit, read, and comment on political blogs and news stories). Then I realized that the target audience is not the roughly 30% of voters who support Harper and they know it. It's aimed at the roughly 70% of voters who don't support him – that's where the half of eligible voters who don't vote are coming from. Maybe it's not so much our democracy that's broken, but our ability to think for ourselves.

    • knick, I have often referred to this contingent of non-voters as the "couldn't be arsed" category. But, tell me, how can one not-support Harper so much and do absolutely nothing about it? It puts the lie to the severity of one's non-support.

  13. I have a HUGE question for you. The first taxes in Canada were paid by property owners only (not wives). Somewhere, we got really fuzzy and gave PRISONERS the right vote??? The intelligent elite were the players. Then came Trudeau …

    Mandatory voting is a TOTAL DISASTER, as most people in Canada do not have a clue about the real issues. I am one of the 10%ers who is paying for EVERYONE else, like 30K taxes. Why do I not have more of a voice than the bottle-collecting person down the street? We are not equal – I worked my butt off for 40 years and this loser did drugs. I think I should have a stronger voice, as the Libs are making ME pay for his medical bills/funeral. Democracy, as envisioned has been a farce in Canada, as we continue to seek to destroy wealth. Paul Martin and others have all assets off-shore. Any green tax will cause ABSOLUTE HAVOC. The HST will devestate Ontario and BC!

    • So, if I'm reading this correctly, you'd like to remove the right to vote of women (at least married ones) and prisoners. Because you worked for 40 years, apparently in a vacuum that didn't require a society around your job, buying the goods or services you provided. If you worked for 40 years on a deserted island with zero outside contact, you would have a point. Of course, you wouldn't pay any taxes unless you charged them yourself. Also, during one of your several weeks vacation (unless you are now retired) I challenge you to go to work for a fast food outlet, or other minimum-wage paying job. Because obviously in your opinion only those who pay 30K in taxes, you know, work.

  14. PR is not democratic. PR is not undemocratic. PR is anti-democratic.
    PR may be proportional but there is no representation at all.
    Political parties need to be abolished, not have their power over what are supposed to be OUR representatives reinforced by further increasing the demands of party loyalty.

    Tranferrable vote to 50%+1 can work, and would actually be complimentary to the financing if only 1st choices get the $. If those constantly lobbying for election reform would put that up on it’s own (without tying it to PR in an effort to get their pet left and right wing extremist fringe parties into office) it would probably pass in a landslide. It’s easy for voters to understand, and it takes power away from parties and gives it back to the voters. Last time I checked, that’s where it’s supposed to be in a democracy.

    Since we’re stuck with parties for the time being, the suggestion of having the leaders (or perhaps the issue appropriate minister/critic) do the voice for commercials is brilliant.

    A suggestion: reporting on polls limited to montly (once per week during elections,none after the Friday before the vote). Each media outlet can pick whatever day they want, and whether to report on polls conducted for/by others in addition to their own. Doesn’t mean polls can’t be done more often than that so that tracking and trends can be part of the reporting. Just a way of taking the emphasis off the horse race aspect. I’m pretty sure there was more airtime and more prominent print space given to polls in recent elections than any actual reporting on issues, parties and candiadates combined.

    Mandatory voting is just a stupid idea. An uninformed vote is worse than no vote. There may be some argument for incentivizing it with a small tax deduction, but I honestly think anyone paying attention is already voting. Reality is though, no matter how interesting some of us may find it, most people (even many that do vote) don’t follow what’s going on at all. I’ll say that again, AT ALL, not even by osmosis from background noise of the TV in the next room. The real work in getting voter turnout up is getting voters to pay attention (notice I didn’t say engaged as many have previously, that can come later). Getting them to pay attention means issues and policy, not partisanship and blatant pragmatic pandering, and the latter 2 are all we get for the most part. For the majority of those that do pay attention still, are themselves partisans or part of an interest group so we just get a feedback loop to the parties about what is or isn’t influencing voters.

    For the average citizen it really doesn’t matter who gets to live at 24 Sussex. No matter who wins:

    - All our parties are left of center (as evidenced by the debate being not whether to have a deficit, but whether it should be 55B or larger). That means higher taxes AND service cuts are coming, just a quesiton of how much of each, how soon and for how long.

    - Healthcare will remain broken, at least until the baby boomers die off or move to Florida, probably for decades after that. This is because it’s political suicide in gotcha-land to admit the truth is: we’ll never be able to afford quality care that is both universal and timely. Even under ideal circumstances, never mind with over 1/3 of our population as seniors soon.

    - We’ll get some form of carbon tax if the americans do, because otherwise we’ll get creamed when they use it as an excuse for a protectionist trade war.

    - A protectionist trade war will probably start anyway once the stock market cheerleaders can no longer ingore the multitude of elephants still in the room (example: The true number of unemployed Canadians hasn’t dropped below 15% in decades and is now approaching 30%) and the economy resumes the long trip south. The last depression wasn’t a single straight drop either. This one will make the ’30s look like the ’50s.

    I could go on, but you get the point. No matter who wins, the outcome will be essentially the same on all issues currently making political waves. Those that take an interest and vote do so only out of habit or preference of methodolgy, partisanship has long since wiped out ideology in both liberals and conservatives. If either party wants to make a big move with non-voters they need to start talking about issues that aren’t currently be discussed, and do so from a position that the other party won’t just copy with a few subtle cosmetic differences (good luck with that). Hairsplitting and name calling don’t get people off the couch to the polling station.

    • I have to disagree that those who vote do so out of habit. People don't vote for years, then one year they will head to the polls. People miss voting because they are too busy or it's inconvenient. Alot could be done to improve the numbers voting with administrative changes (for instane, to allow online voting). Yet when it comes to having inclusive voting, how else to accomplish it unless everyone has to vote? It's like these extra-mural programs at public school. If 'track and field' is optional and the gym teachers don't make kids participate, around half won't! Obviously, those kids might do very well and they are missing out of the physical exercise, and it's all down to this 'choice' model of governing ourselves. In a democracy we have that chance to learn about the system and to become engaged when we are given a chance to vote. That should just be the beginning for everyone. Yet if people don't do that first step, and see that one vote alone does not their citizenship engagement make, see that they are called to do more, the cycle of apathy will persist.

    • I have to disagree that those who vote do so out of habit. People don't vote for years, then one year they will head to the polls. People miss voting because they are too busy or it's inconvenient. Alot could be done to improve the numbers voting with administrative changes (for instance, to allow online voting). Yet when it comes to having inclusive voting, how else to accomplish it unless everyone has to vote? It's like these extra-mural programs at public school. If 'track and field' is optional and the gym teachers don't make kids participate, around half won't! Obviously, those kids might do very well and they are missing out of the physical exercise, and it's all down to this 'choice' model of governing ourselves. In a democracy we have that chance to learn about the system and to become engaged when we are given a chance to vote. That should just be the beginning for everyone. Yet if people don't do that first step, and see that one vote alone does not their citizenship engagement make, see that they are called to do more, the cycle of apathy will persist.

    • I have to disagree that those who vote do so out of habit. People don't vote for years, then one year they will head to the polls. People miss voting because they are too busy or it's inconvenient. Alot could be done to improve the numbers voting with administrative changes (for instance, to allow online voting). Yet when it comes to inclusive voting how else to accomplish it unless everyone has to vote? It's like these extra-mural programs at public school. If 'track and field' is optional and the gym teachers don't make kids participate, around half won't! Obviously, those kids might do very well and they are missing out of the physical exercise, and it's all down to this 'choice' model of governing ourselves. In a democracy we have that chance to learn about the system and to become engaged when we are given a chance to vote. That should just be the beginning for everyone. Yet if people don't do that first step, and see that one vote alone does not their citizenship engagement make, see that they are called to do more, the cycle of apathy will persist.

    • I have to disagree that those who vote do so out of habit. People don't vote for years, then one year they will head to the polls. People miss voting because they are too busy or it's inconvenient. Alot could be done to improve the numbers voting with administrative changes (for instance, to allow online voting). Yet when it comes to inclusive voting how else to accomplish it unless everyone has to vote? It's like these extra-mural programs at public school. If 'track and field' is optional and the gym teachers don't make kids participate, around half won't! Obviously, those kids might do very well and they are missing out of the physical exercise, and it's all down to this 'choice' model of governing ourselves For some things 'sign up' sheets are fine, for others, they exclude in a rather insidious way — through negligence to get everyone involved for the good of everyone. In a democracy we have that chance to learn about the system and to become engaged when we are given a chance to vote. That should just be the beginning for everyone. Yet if people don't do that first step, and see that one vote alone does not their citizenship engagement make, see that they are called to do more, the cycle of apathy will persist.

  15. It would seem pointless and distracting to have this discussion without a clear and concise exposition of the role of the Privy Council in the formulation of "elected government policy".

    Who are the senior players in the PCO policy apparatus? How do they weigh the policy options presented to government that cross many different ministries? What philisophical bias do they bring to the policy option triage? Do they favour specific economic interests in their policy deliberations?

    The professional mangers in the PCO seem to have power a dictator could ony dream of and legions of potential brown envelope distributors ready at a call to destroy the careers of ministers of senior appointees for the sake of expediency.

    Google the PCO and see what is available in the public domain about this powerful agency. When something as big and powerful as the PCO is a black hole of data, yet influences every facet of public policy the potential for abuse could be irresistable, even if the motivation is altruistic

  16. Rather than get rid of public funding how about getting rid of the ten percenters. I've received 24 todate this year. Taxpayer's pay for this and at $0.54 postage and whatever cost for printing – $1.95 is a really good deal. Also, there are families who can't afford to donate to their party of choice – the $1.95 makes them included.

    Funny, all this talk and the US are considering getting rid of the corporate funding and more into public funding. There's far too much influence by big corporate America – a vote can be bought because a party has more money – that's not democracy in the least.

  17. Get rid of the Bloc and it will be fixed.

    • Admit it. You broke democracy.

  18. Coyne keeps the head spinning, he does. Individual freedom wins when all the tax-supported nonsense of political parties (per-vote, expense rebates, and the obscene percentage of income tax credits for contributions) falls by the wayside. Then he throws individual freedom out on its rump with the canard that the lazy, the uninformed and the mischievous MUST UNDER PENALTY OF LAW show up and vote. Andrew, please reflect a little longer on what FREEDOM actually means, please.

  19. I support allowing MPs to select their leader in a Westminster Parliamentary system. But in Canada, at least, I'm no longer sure that a Westminster Parliament is what we need, despite two decades of resisting the idea of PR on my part. I'd never have said this even a year ago, for fear of parties having too much control of the system, but I support proportional representation now because what we have is ironclad party control with none of the benefits that could come with it.

    The most important step is for PR reformers and advocates (are you listening, Andrew?) to give up on the polisci wet dream of a multi-vote, multi-tasked, multi-ballot system designed to appeal to Poli 200 instructors, and instead have a simple, straight PR vote, nationwide – warts and all. Instead of trying to overthink how PR might go right or wrong, just accept that 1% of votes means 1% of seats, period, full stop, end of story. No gaming, no regions, no subregions, no % issues to manipulate, every vote is equal.

    #1 – this is simple, and everyone will get it. PR died in previous referenda because they made it too complicated, with too much compromise. #2 – this leaves parties completely free to set their lists on the basis of quality, regional representation, and diversity instead on the basis of who the moron local hack who can best buy the votes in a safe seat's nomination meeting is. Suddenly, if party X wins 100 seats, they can have 100 of their best and brightest show up for Parliament from every province if they want to. And, thus #3 there will actually be a reason for people to participate in the system across the country because the artificial and often corrupt divisions created by regional boundaries, redistribution and so on will cease to exist, giving a Liberal in Alberta just as much cause to care as a Blocquiste in Jonquiere.

    THAT would be change I could sign up for.

  20. January 28, 2009

    “If at first, the idea is not absurd, there is no hope for it.”
    Albert Einstein

    The Dire Need for Political Reform Part 1

    It's about time that we the Canadian public woke up to this political farce called the election process! Minority Governments do NOT work, they may have worked in Yesteryear, but not today!

    As we have witnessed, in today's economic chaos; it would appear that the Politicians that represent us in parliament seek their own personal agendas; and to heck with the wellbeing of the Canadian People.

    If this constitutionally acceptable election process is allowed to continue, the “Minority Government Mexican Stand-Off” will continue forevermore; plunging our nation into a much deeper economic and social abyss; and believe me it will!!!

  21. The Dire Need for Political Reform Part 2

    Firstly, I believe all Politicians should be held personally accountable for all of their decisions; maybe then they will be a little more cognizant of their responsibilities, civilly, legally, morally.

    Secondly, Minority Governments should never be allowed in our Constitution. During a General Election only two political parties should be on the ballot papers. Which two? They would be decided by a preliminary election process by the public prior to a general election?

    Thirdly, no party that considers itself a Separatist Party (from any Province) should be permitted to stand for a seat(s) in the House of Commons (not to mention the Senate).

    As constituents and members of the public, we should be respected, honored and listened to. If we lived in another country (with fewer freedoms) there would be riots upon riots along with all the collateral damage that goes along with it.

    To summarize; if any future minority government fails to please the opposition parties, then its here we go all over again. Déjà Vu anyone?

    Jeff Garner
    Ex-Civil Servant (Retired)

  22. There is a bigger purpose of democracy that is missed by Coyne & Wells and most posters.

    To quote Churchill:

    "Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried."

    Embeded in Churchills quote is the point that Democracy is not the primary goal. Rather it is the best method to select a government that looks after the best interests it's citzens. Since Canada is one of the most successful nations in the world, it is clear that our governments and current election system has served us very well.

    The proper question that any proposed change must answer is not "this is will be more democratic" but rather "how does this change lead to better government".

    I have yet to see any proposed changes that lead to better government.

  23. I just have one question about our democracy, how can a provincial party in a federal election. I think that all federal parties should have to run a cadidate in every riding to give all Canadians a chance to accept or reject them. Otherwise, the PQ candidates should all run as independents.

  24. Loved the show!! The points of view were very interesting and the opinions were terrific!! Thoroughly an enjoyable and thought provoking 2 hrs…..Thanks CPAC!!

  25. I've always thought that adding a "NONE COMPETENT TO GOVERN" box at the bottom of the ballot (instead of casting a vote for a candidate) would be a great way to give those who want it a protest vote

  26. Vey good debate tonight on TV. Let's have more of them. Would have gone to the venue but didn't know about the event!

  27. I watched the two-hour show. At no time did any panelist mention the real cause of our democratic deficit which is that the MPs represent political parties insteat of the voters. What is needed is an electoral system that would elect MPs, independent of the political parties and dependent on the voters. Proportional representation is not that system. It would only subordinate the MPs to parties even more than the current system.

    • Even more? You mean you CAN go beyond infinite?

  28. Well, I think there was some very good content, but it could have been far better. Perhaps if they had started by each identifying what they considered to be 'broken' with our democracy, it would have been more productive.

    Report card on participants
    Goldenberg – A – Nearly everything he said was intelligent and on point, original thought, only one blatantly partisan comment
    Broadbent – B – mostly excellent contributions moved the PR debate along some, only a couple blatantly partisan comments
    Anderson – B – all very intelligent and on point, no real partisan content
    Wells – (B-) – mostly intelligent but didnt really advance the discussion as much as he could have
    Nanos – C – say something of value or interest please
    Coyne- C – uninspired, I was disappointed, contributed little, mostly obvious platitudes being offered
    Saul – D – why was he even there? just promoting his own agenda, had almost no relevance to the discussion

    Biggest disappointment – no discussion on the problem of party discipline, or examining separation of executive and legislative branches of government.

  29. Just passed up a couple hours sleep to watch the re-run on CPAC overnight. Yes, I am that crazy. Mr. Saul need not be invited back for future events, but all the others had interesting things to say. As much as I appreciate the "let the people speak" element of the last half hour, perhaps "comment cards" could be submitted, and filtered, so that the moderator could pick and choose from among the submissions? There is always the trouble of those who most like the sound of their voice elbowing others aside to be first at the mike.

    All in all, a very interesting discussion and, I think, a successful experiment. Well done.

    But for heaven's sake, Mr. Coyne, stop trying to MAKE me vote. I've never missed one, and I won't, but please don't kill individual freedom a little more AND dilute the votes of those who care.

  30. I flew out from Edmonton to be in the audience for this, and I took fairly good notes, but the charger for my laptop is back in Edmonton and my laptop battery is almost dead so I can’t really access them right now; I’ll give a more complete reply later.

    However, MP independence was one of the first things that Rick Anderson brought up, the lack of free votes and the like *was* specifically addressed by Coyne and Anderson.

    Anyway, I completely disagree with those grades. Wells and Coyne were about as good as thee could have been considering that they had already outlined most everything they wanted to say either in the magazine or in their blogs previously; there weren’t many surprises and they did a solid job of keeping discussion moving. Goldenberg was probably the least well-spoken and honestly, I found his main contribution to be as a reminder that the major parties don’t have a real interest in systemic reform (Goldenberg didn’t even agree with the premise, that democracy was broken in Canada). Saul was interesting in that be was the only person on the stage who wasn’t directly involved with one of the parties or the media; his perspective was markedly different than everyone else on the stage and that was useful in and of itself. He certainly wasn’t always strong or clear with the message he was trying to deliver (his healthcare ramble is a good example, it was off on a tangent and couldn’t really be examined in any way) but his points about ideas in politics were very relevant.

    Personally, I was most impressed by Anderson; he did a very solid job of outlining the conservative case for electoral reform. I wasn’t particularly surprised by anything specific that he said as electoral reform was indeed part of the Reform platform previously and his reply to Coyne’s question on MP independence missed the point, but he clearly illustrated that reform is an issue across the political spectrum.

    My biggest complaint was that while there was a lot of discussion of issues and possible solutions, there was little discussion about how to move these proposals forward. The last audience question was illustrative: the answer from Goldenberg was “social networking” (which is nice, but isn’t going to do a damn thing to engage parties or the government since that’s not their usual channel for communication) while Saul’s answers was “contact your MP”, which is likely what the gentleman had already been doing on a regular basis and had been completely stonewalled. It was especially ironic considering that there was a fair amount of discussion about the lack of MP independence.

    Without some clear ways to move forward on what was discussed, the whole exercise is of limited use. I am quote happy that we’re even having this discussion and am very impressed and thankful that Maclean’s is taking this seriously and attempting to do something to improve what they can (media coverage), but without some way to constructively engage people with political power and influence, we’re going to be waiting a long while for reform on any of the issues raised.

    • Dear Lccyh,

      That’s some serious dedication to come from Edmonton for the panel.

      I wholeheartedly agree with you. I was let down by the answers for how to proceed. I don’t know if I was waiting for the curtain to be drawn up, and for Wayne Gretzky to roll out on a giant cake and make the announcement of a new political party or what. But I left feeling like I wish more thought was put into the ‘what’s next’ question. Keeping the conversation going, as Coyne and Wells said, is the first part. But the other responses were ridiculous. “Social networking because that’s what youth are doing that we aren’t.” Really?

      I think the columnists are correct. The only way to start anything is by talking about it. The message is a good one and I hope it can catch on virally. But I stand to be corrected.

      Talk to your loved ones. That’ll be a good start.

      Safe trip home.

      - Jordan

    • I completely agree with pretty much every single point here. It was a great discussion and it made me feel good about the fact that intelligent people (even if they are a bunch of old (or at least middling) white men, hah) are discussing these things, I felt like I was participating (sort of) in something good, but that last question was pretty revealing in a way and I hadn't considered it until reading this comment.

      It is hard to feel like an "empowered citizen"… but all we can do is participate in "the conversation" and hope that the consensus forms with enough weight behind it to bring it to fruition.

      Anyway. I look forward to the next time this happen, assuming it does.

  31. Mr. Andrew Coyne under the headline “Canadian democracy is broken” correctly states “if we were writing about a Third World country with a system like ours, we would be careful to refer to the “largely ceremonial” Parliament and “sham” elections.”

    Nowhere is the neutering of parliamentary democracy by the establishment more apparent than in my story, since it relates to torture by CSIS being covered-up by our very own government. I recently published an article on the subject “Canada's Moral Dilemma: Torture by CSIS – Symptomatic of a Crisis in Democracy”. Its URL is: http://mostlywater.org/node/73401

    I have brought this story directly to our Prime Minister, through intermediaries who are close to him, and to the JUST Parliamentary Committee. I expect that they will continue to duck it and to cover it up.

    Our institutions march to the establishment's drummer, placing deference to the authorities ahead of truth. Some might describe this as neo-fascism. But, whatever it is, it is certainly not parliamentary democracy. Roderick Russell

  32. The canadian democracy as it currently stands is nothing more than a Tyranny of the Majority for the minority provinces and a Tyranny of the English majority for the french speaking Quebecois.

    We need an Equal Senate to promote a vision for the nation as opposed to what all of the national parties are promoting now which is a vision for the majority of the population, or Tyranny of the majority pop.

    Equal to promote a vision for the majority of the Provinces in the federation or a vision for the nation if you will.

    Unelected so as not to challenge the supremacy of the elected Rep by pop HOC, and Ontario's majority.

    Appointed by the prov to rep the prov and appease the Premiers and remain non-partisan and out of the purview of the Tyranny of the majority pop national parties.

    Bilingual (functionally, Culturally) to appease the Quebecois (French speaking minority) in what is otherwise as far as Quebecois are concerned a Tyranny of the Majority English Speaking population.

    Problem is any national party that advocates equality in the senate for PEI with Ontario will never get a majority and as such it is a catch 22. Consider it has already been tried with Meechlake and Charlo9ttetown accords and failed miserably.

    So I guess we are doomed to balkanize the HOC instead of the Senate.

  33. I need a job right now to stop using food bank.Winnipeg is so poor.

  34. Nothing much new was described by either of these gentleman. Personally if you want to engage Canadians give them a choice. Not just what the political elites deem acceptable. But the option to say NONE OF THE ABOVE

    If it was Mandatory to vote (as these gentlemen state) then having NONE OF THE ABOVE on the ballot should be. If your going to force people to vote than politicians should be forced to listen to what we REALLY think.

    It wouldn't change the outcome of the election. But no Politicians could wrap them selves in the flag and proudly state they have a mandate from the Canadian people when more people voted against him then for him.

    That's why politicians won't even consider knowing what we think. It makes governing more difficult. If the full results of an election was reported with NONE OF THE ABOVE on the Ballot. It would send a clear message to the elitists in Ottawa and every provincial capital.

    Afterall they only want the APPEARANCE of democracy.

    Liberty Above All Else

  35. I strongly beleive that Canada is very broken. Our political system is irrelevant. It doesn't touch my life in any usefulway.The main purpose of government is to provide income and expense monies to a seperate class of citizens. The largest employment sector in Canada is tax collector. The money collected allows our preferred citizdens to strutt on the world stage. The reality is that wde are a small overtaxed nation attempting at great cost toits citizdens to punch way above our weight class. Meanwhile back home we are still after more than a century a nation still dependant on natural resources. Taxes are excessive and now we have an exit tax. I would emmigrate if it didn't cost so much to leave. God save us from thepomposity of our insipid leaders, their greed and uselessness.

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