Nothing will change until the system itself is changed. Democracy by its very definition means that those governed must have direct input into the political decision-making that ultimately impacts their lives. Anything else is a sham.
The “representative” system of democracy is but a pale imitation of the real intent behind the democratic concept. It has been proven time and again that the representative system can be too easily corrupted and/or high-jacked by special interest groups seeking to impose their own agendas on the rest of the populace. Political parties are the most egregious example of this.
Nor is the representative system actually representative of the electorate, since each and every political party has a “ruling monarch”, its own agendas and its own doctrines to promote, all of which can vary dramatically from the non-binding agendas and doctrines espoused during the election. This is a sad reality that Canadians have been witness to for decades at every level of governance.
Sure we can toss them out at the next election, but by then years have passed and the damage done can take decades to recover from, if ever. One only needs to reference the current assault on hard-won environmental standards to appreciate that sobering reality.
But the most damning aspect of this representative system is the legions of voters who refuse to vote, many firmly believing that their votes don’t matter anyway. Given the sort of problems, already mentioned above, that have contaminated representative governments, both in this country and abroad, they appear to be right.
Nor is the call for a “proportional” representative system any better. It just puts more snouts in the trough and leaves us with all the same problems, only with far more complexity and far more agendas being served. Proportional representation is comparable to changing the curtains, replacing the furniture and remodelling the façade, all the while ignoring the rot in the foundation itself.
Fortunately, here in beautiful British Columbia, Canada was witness to the re-birth of the true democratic process when the people of BC rallied together to defeat the HST – a tax their government had promised not to impose upon them and then, immediately after being elected, imposed upon them.
Fortunately, a previous government had left behind the possibility to challenge laws imposed upon the population – a referendum balloting system. And a former premier, the ever affable Bill Vander Zalm, took the current government to task employing the hardly ever used referendum system. Hence democracy was given a reprieve.
Yes the defeat of the HST in BC had a lot of fiscal and political repercussions, but no one can deny that this was real, home-made democracy in action. Further, if the public had been asked about the tax in a referendum before it was implemented – instead of after the fact – there would have been no repercussions to begin with.
In other words, real, honest, and effective democracy is still possible, but it requires real, honest, and effective change.
Democracy demands that the people themselves retain authority over their political decision-making processes. Turning it over to others who, hopefully, will act in our best interests is both naïve and far too costly in the long run. Who amongst us would have voted to bail out all those financial cretins who, because of corrupt and reprehensible business practices, and aided by naïve and/or corrupt and reprehensible politicians, left future generations trillions of dollars in debt?
Yes the participatory system is frustrating, time consuming, and an imposition on what little “free” time we have. Just staying informed and involved in the various issues that arise can be difficult. But the sad reality is, if you are NOT involved in your political system, you will eventually be a victim of it.
Involvement is the cost of admission to the democratic process. Involvement requires far more than simply casting a ballot.
Lest we forget, ALL systems of governance are human created! They exist in whatever form, structure and composition we choose. There is nothing about any of our institutions that renders them immutable to change and our structures of governance are no different.
But please, do not expect any of the political parties to bring about this evolution of the democratic process. Many of their adherents are far too invested in the representative system to even understand what is being sought.
No, the changes will be gradual and perhaps incremental, but change is inevitable. There is nothing in the universe that is static. Everything is in transition. It is way past time to bring real, effective democracy to this country.
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