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Who should political power flow from?

Peter Ewart
Peter Ewart

BY PETER EWART

Special to the News

In the last few weeks, many Canadians expressed deep concern about the Trudeau Liberals imposing a federal election on the country two years ahead of the four-year term and in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic.  Yes, it is true that the Liberal government should have waited.  But this act of imposing an unwanted election reveals a deeper problem.

In a genuine democracy, sovereign power should flow from the people and any power of government should be derivative of that.  The fact that Trudeau can arbitrarily schedule an election against the wishes of the vast majority of the people in what amounts to be a surprise attack on them shows that sovereign power does not lie with the populace but has been usurped by the prime minister and his party, and high state officials.  Indeed, the entire political structure is set up this way, effectively disempowering the population.

Instead of elections being an opportunity for people to come together and put forward and discuss their views on issues and who could best represent them, we have the situation whereby the issues in the election are cooked up in the backrooms of the political parties in parliament by spin-doctors and pollsters and, with the assistance of the establishment big media, are imposed on the population.  Thus elections are reduced to the level of pro-wrestling matches where the political parties in parliament grapple and hurl insults at each other in orchestrated ways, while the voters are relegated to being spectators in fold-up chairs.

Democracy must be more than people voting every two or three or four years and then told to go home while the parties in parliament take over.  This amounts to one day of democracy and 1,000 days or more of an effective dictatorship.  A modern democracy needs mechanisms and processes whereby people have a say, where they have decision-making power, where candidates are directly chosen by the electorate in a riding, rather than by political parties, and, once elected, held accountable to that electorate.

In the wake of the 2021 election, many people are talking about the need for electoral reform and democratic renewal, especially with the distortions inherent in the first past the post system, one example being the Liberals losing the popular vote to the Conservatives, but the Conservatives receiving 39 seats or so fewer than the Liberals.  When those who did not vote are factored in, the Liberals received support from only about 19 per cent per cent of the electorate or one-in-five voters, yet Trudeau claims that he has a “clear mandate” from Canadians.  And there are various other distortions such as the measures that work against the election of independents and marginalize small parties.

However, one thing we have to be cautious about is that any initiatives to reform or change the political system are not left to the governing party and the parties in Parliament.  This only magnifies the problem of the people as a whole being disempowered.  A process is needed in which the people have the opportunity to discuss and decide upon what political system would best empower them, whether through a Citizens Assembly of some kind or another truly democratic process.

Peter Ewart is a writer based in Prince George, BC.  He can be reached at: peter.ewart@shaw.ca

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