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When the answer was more democracy


 

Excerpts from a 1988 pamphlet advertising Reform principles and policies.

Reformers believe that many of our most serious problems as a country can be traced to the apathy and non-involvement of Canadians in public affairs, and to decisions that too frequently ignore the popular will. Governments today assume far too large a role in our lives for us to allow decisions to be made solely by bureaucrats, pressure groups, and political professionals. The vast majority of citizens and taxpayers have a right to be involved. The system must provide the opportunity and the responsibility for us to do so.

We believe that public policy in democratic societies should reflect the will of the majority of the citizens as determined by free and fair elections, referenda, and the decisions of legally constituted and representative Parliaments and Assemblies elected by the people. We believe in the common sense of the common people, their right to be consulted on public policy matters before major decisions are made, their right to choose their own leaders and to govern themselves through truly representative and responsive institutions, and their right to directly initiate legislation for which substantial public support is demonstrated. We believe in accountability of elected representatives to the people who elect them, and that the duty of elected members to their constituents should supercede their obligations to their political parties…

The Reform Party believes that the excesses of party discipline can be corrected by fairly simple changes in Parliamentary rules, as have been done elsewhere. Specifically, we maintain that the defeat of a government measure in the House of Commons should not automatically mean the defeat of the government…

The Canada Elections Act must be amended to eliminate clauses which place Members of Parliament in a position beholden to their national Party Executive or Leader rather than their constituents … In addition, we urge that MP’s oath of office be amended such that they swear or affirm fundamental allegiance to their constituents as well as the Queen. We will investigate the possibility of allowing constituents to pursue some type of recall procedure against an MP they feel has violated that oath…

Reformers believe that the right to pick an MP once every four years from one of three more or less identical options has become fundamentally inadequate to protect the interest of citizens and taxpayers. The people must have a direct voice. The Reform Party will encourage the use of referenda and citizens’ initiatives…

Voters should also be able to initiate plebiscites…

We believe that this is most applicable to public policy that involves the most deeply held values of Canadians. Issues like capital punishment and abortion require a directly democratic process without partisanship or suppression. We would also recommend consulting the people on matters that alter the basic social fabric such as immigration, language, and measurement.


 

When the answer was more democracy

  1. But that's too expensive! And nobody would want it. What were they thinking?

  2. "A Conservative government will make all votes in Parliament, except the budget and main estimates, "free votes" for ordinary Members of Parliament."

    "A Conservative government will increase the power of Parliament and parliamentary committees to review the spending estimates of departments and hold ministers to account."

    Stand Up for Canada, Conservative Party Federal Election Platform, 2006

    Ah, memories.

  3. And what's your point Aaron?
    Will you reprint a few select paragraphs from Chretien's 1993 platform too?
    'Abolish the GST because it is a regressive tax, it hurts the most vulnerable, low income Canadians!'

    Referendums are still, and always will be, a fantastic idea.
    And I would be that David Emerson's constituants would have loved to been able to envoke 'recall', when he crossed the floor.

    I would love to hear from Canadians on Canadian values rather than politicians.

  4. I wouldn't have said that "cancelling the GST" was a foundational ideology to the what the Liberal Party stands for, but a policy position like no taxing of income trusts.

    Uneleted senators, fixed election dates, free votes, referenda, moving power out of the PMO and to the MPs/Parliament were are all fundamental core beliefs and a part of why Harper started up the Reform Party.

    Is there any core belief that Harper still holds?

  5. Aaron, is there any particular reason you are dusting off an over 20 year old policy paper, likely written by people who for the most part are no longer involved in politics?

    • I think the fact that Stephen Harper was the Chief Policy Officer for the Reform Party at the time makes it somewhat relevant. At least as relevant as something Michael Igntieff may have written or said 20 years ago.

      That being said, I agree with your other post wholeheartedly. This was twenty years ago and neither of those men should be expected to have identical ideas or positions from that time period. For instance I think I must have watched Weekend at Bernie's 5 times in 1989. But when I saw it on cable the other week I couldn't make it through 5 minutes. Proof that even a stuborn guy like me can evolve.

  6. Stephen Harper is still very much involved in politics, just no longer very interested in democracy. I think that is the point.

    With power, he has a very different view on democracy than he did when he helped form Reform or even, as noted above, a couple of years ago. Appointing unelected senators on his first day on the job, abandoning fixed election dates, abandoning referenda, breaking his promise to have free votes on non-budget/main estimates but cancelling votes altogether if they are a main estimate and he would lose, working hard to make committees dysfunctional (even writing a 200 page manual on how to do it) instead of giving them more power, etc.

    You could argue that there was a democratic deficit under Martin, as Harper did in putting forward the many democratic reform promises he has abandoned. It has gotten worse under Harper and partly because he has abandoned his own core principles and promises.

  7. Written by people who, for the most part, are no longer involved in politics?

    One of the more prominent ones from that era is actually Prime Minister today. A few of them are close confidents to this man.

    Hardly a thing of the past.

  8. I like the mployment insuarnce paragraph.
    "An unemployed worker is an unemployed worker and deserves to be treated the same regardless of region of residence. We will urge the immediate elimination of discriminatory UI elements such as regional enterance requirements."

  9. Fair enough. I don't know if Harper wrote this thing or not. But let's assume he did, or was a major contributor. At some point, there has to be a statute of limitations when it comes to contradicting positions you've held in the past. Things and circumstances change. People's opinions evolve over time. Is it really fair game to point out contradictions in what people thought over 20 years ago compared with today? Especially with Harper…you can go back 20 weeks and find contradictions. This just seems ridiculous.

    • Then, I suppose, all that digging up Iggy's lifetime exercice is all for naught for the Cons?
      (as in, according to your logic, there is no relevance to what you have believed many years ago to what you now believe).

      I appreciate your level headedness in such a debate. What I fail to grasp is why points do not cut both ways.

      The coalition nonsense is a great example… The advertising is more than just a headache, it's hypocracy at it's finest. In that Topp article in G&M today, we get a beautiful picture of Jack, Steve and Gilles all smiles (and dutifully under an impressive rack of Canadian Flags) signing a what?

    • Then, I suppose, all that digging up Iggy's lifetime exercice is all for naught for the Cons?
      (as in, according to your logic, there is no relevance in what you have believed many years ago to what you now believe – I'd be inclined to somewhat agree, I've said many dumb things 20 years ago).

      I appreciate your level headedness in such a debate. What I fail to grasp is why points do not cut both ways.

      The coalition nonsense is a great example… The advertising is more than just a headache, it's hypocracy at it's finest. In that Topp article in G&M today, we get a beautiful picture of Jack, Steve and Gilles all smiles (and dutifully under an impressive rack of Canadian Flags) signing a what?

  10. In fairness to Harper and the Conservatives, it was to be expected that some of the original Reform platform would have been dismissed following the merger with the PCs. Though the fact that the Conservatives were arguing for more free votes as late as 2006 does say something about the way parties promise change until they are elected…

    • I sometimes wonder if they inadvertently got the Keep and Discard lists mixed up.

  11. And don't forget:
    – offering Cadman "financial considerations" for his vote
    – in-and-out scandal
    – cancelling/proroguing Parliament altogether to save his job
    – cancelling and moving opposition days
    – floor crossers (not a big deal for Stephen "whatever works for me" Harper, but lots of his caucus made that promise)
    – trying to increase votes in Conservative held provinces at the expense of Ontario before an outcry forced him to make further changes to give Ontario better representation
    – 90% of infrastructure and stimulus funding to Conservative ridings
    – tried to retroactively reduce the maximum donor limits after the Liberal convention
    – requiring no accountability measures on his $3 billion stimulus slush fund

    The list goes on and on and on and on

  12. How about 3 years John?

    Free votes and more power to Parliament and parliamentary committees and fixed election dates and no unelected senators were all democratic promises made in 2006?

    I think though that Aaron is not referring to any specific fundamental belief of Harper's but the general response, however that is implemented through whatever policy, of more democracy and more spread of power among more elected representatives. THAT is the big change: now Harper responds with less democracy, not more. That goes beyond any specific break of any specific promise (or breaks of many promises).

  13. On that we mostly agree; my only quibble with your statement is that I would say that Harper hasn't responded with less democracy. It's no worse than it was under the Liberals.

    For example, yes he absolutely violated the spirit, if not the letter, of his own fixed election date law, but in doing so all he did was return us to the pre-Harper status quo of a PM calling an election whenever it suits him politically to do so. I would argue the same is true for the other examples you bring up. Harper may not have followed through on these promises, but that just leaves us where we were before. Of course I expected much better, so that leaves me plenty disappointed with his performance on this file. I just think it's silly going back 20 years for a point that has largely already been successfully made.

    • Surely you must agree that the mere breaking of so many of the key promises that got him elected is.

      I remember Martin playing games with opposition days like Harper has, but I don't remember Martin cancelling them altogether when it was clear he would lose the vote, nor do I remember Martin proroguing Parliament when it was clear he would lose a confidence vote.

      I also don't remember Martin secretly taping clearly private NDP executive conference calls. Or scamming Canadian voters and taxpayers with his in-and-out scam to get around campaign finance laws. I don't remember the Information Commissioner coming out with damning report after damning report about Martin's compliance with legal information requests.

      So yes. Less democracy under Harper. Absolutely.

      • I remember Martin playing games with opposition days like Harper has, but I don't remember Martin cancelling them altogether when it was clear he would lose the vote, nor do I remember Martin proroguing Parliament when it was clear he would lose a confidence vote.

        Well, actually Martin did cancel opposition days when threatened with defeat. He provoked a mini constitutional crisis by ignoring several passed motions asking the government to resign. And no he didn't prorogue, but I would argue that what he did with Belinda Stronach was the least democratic thing I've ever witnessed in Canadian politics.

        I don't think you can really make the case that the "democratic deficit" is significantly worse under Harper.

      • I remember Martin playing games with opposition days like Harper has, but I don't remember Martin cancelling them altogether when it was clear he would lose the vote, nor do I remember Martin proroguing Parliament when it was clear he would lose a confidence vote.

        Well, actually Martin did cancel opposition days when threatened with defeat. He provoked a mini constitutional crisis by ignoring several passed motions asking the government to resign. And no he didn't prorogue, but I would argue that what he did with Belinda Stronach was the least democratic thing I've ever witnessed in Canadian politics.

        I don't really have a complaint about Harper proroguing Parliament. It was only for a few weeks, and showed that the coalition couldn't even survive that long without imploding. Harper did the Liberals a big favour on that one.

        As to your other points…I can't blame Harper for the incompetence of the NDP in accidently inviting the Conservatives to their super-secret meeting. And I hardly think that allowing a bit of extra money to be spent on political advertising constitutes a serious threat to democracy.

        I don't think you can really make the case that the "democratic deficit" is significantly worse under Harper.

  14. Harper has always been about power, never about principle. This is the definitive proof.

  15. Wow, I'm a New Democrat and I actually agree with that! I think the NDP would vote for a fair number of those measures – referenda, the ability of constituents to recall their MPs, legislation based on popular petition – if the Conservatives would ever bring them forward for a vote.

    The line that "the defeat of a government measure in the House of Commons should not automatically trigger an election" is particularly ironic, as the Conservatives have been passing their policies precisely by calling every significant policy vote a confidence measure and trusting in Liberal weak-kneed-ness.

    Unfortunately, the populist aspect of the Reform Party seems to have died years before they ever came to power.

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