A Brief History of Democracy

Sunday, October 10, 2010

In Desperate Need of Fresh Air

While watching the news about the rescue efforts to free the Chilean miners trapped below the surface of the earth who are patiently waiting for a rescue tunnel that would allow them to escape, I find myself thinking that this is an apt metaphor for how we the citizens of Quebec live our lives within our political system.

We too are confined. Yes, we can move about within the parameters of a society that offers the choice of either being governed by a political party rife with corruption or one that is stuck in the past with its quixotic quest for independence, but we cannot escape.

Collectively, we cannot move beyond these options and, as a result, our fundamental democratic right to self determination is denied.

This week rumors of the emergence of a new political party spread quickly throughout the mainstream media. Two former ministers of the Quebec Independence Party (Parti Quebecois), Francois Legault and Joseph Facal, who are associated ideologically with the former Premier of Quebec, Lucien Bouchard, who recently stated that he no longer believed that independence was realizable, are said to being laying the groundwork for a new party that would be a right of centre, nationalist party that wouldn't seek to establish Quebec sovereignty.

Credible Francophone nationalists wanting to turn the page on the obsession to create an independent state. Indeed, this is a breath of fresh air.

However, lest we get our hopes up, it is rare that an emerging political party can dislodge one of the two parties that offer an option of forming a government. It happened twice during the twentieth century in Quebec and has yet to happen in Canada since confederation. In our current electoral system, votes cast for smaller parties seldom transfer into seats in the legislature and when they do, rarely do they change the balance of power. Quebec has had only one short-lived minority government within the last century.

Effectively, this week's political analysis concerning the possibility of the formation of a new political party quickly transformed into the question of which of the two established parties would be more adversely affected. In other words, would the splintering off of votes in favor of the new party mean that more Liberal or PQ candidates would get elected?

So much for the breath of fresh air. Once again the dearth of viable political options within a political system that is a vestige of the British Empire stifles the legitimate expression of democratic choice.

To escape this political prison, we also need an escape tunnel.

Essentially, our appeal to the courts is a petition that would allow Quebecers to escape the confinement of being dominated and ruled authoritatively by a two party system. Already, we have lost approximately one half of the electorate who can no longer be bothered to cast their votes.

By supporting our motion to have the first-past-the-post voting system declared unconstitutional, the courts would, in effect, create the political equivalent of a path that would allow the Quebec population to move toward the capacity to govern themselves democratically.

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