A Brief History of Democracy

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Welcome to Taking on the System

Our political system in Canada concentrates power in a relatively small political and financial elite. This is done by using an electoral system that is profoundly undemocratic. Majority governments are formed with the support of less than one quarter of the electorate.

Moreover, more than ever, Canadians are feeling that politicians advance the vested interests of the few before the well-being of the many. Indeed, that's how the system was designed to function.

Yet, a growing number of Canadians refuse to accept this outcome and demand qualitative change to the electoral system so that it brings about electoral results that accurately reflect the popular vote. No less than four referendums have been held in Canadian provinces in which a competing model that offered more proportional results was offered as an alternative to the first-past-the-post method. In a fifth province, Quebec, draft legislation was tabled that would have introduced elements of proportionality into the province's electoral system.

In each instance, efforts to make the electoral system more equitable were thwarted. For the most part, dubious practices were implemented by the ruling political party in each respective province to ensure that the status quo remained. These practices include pathetic public education campaigns, the imposition of supra majority thresholds, and conducting the referendum in a manner where it would next to impossible to meet the required participation rates.

Despite these setbacks, it is evident that the problem remains and that our politicians left to themselves will not change the system.

Having foreseen the unlikely probability that politicians would act in a manner contrary to their self interest, we decided to go another route and deposed a motion in the Quebec Superior Court in 2004 that sought to have the offending articles in Quebec's Electoral that are responsible for bringing forth such a discriminatory voting method to be declared null and void. Essentially, we are asking the Courts to determine whether the voting system in use in Quebec and across Canada respects the equality guarantees inherent in the voting rights protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The wheels of justice move slowly but surely. To date, to use a hockey analogy, we are tied at the end of the first period. We won the first stage, having our case ruled to be admissible, but we lost the second stage, the Court did not rule in our favor in the first instance. We are now at the beginning of the second period, waiting for our court date to be set for our appeal to be heard. We anticipate because of the game changing consequences if our motion were to succeed that the case will eventually be heard at a third instance, the Supreme Court of Canada.

Now that we are just a few months away our next court date, I've decided to maintain a blog that chronicles the judicial process and the roller coaster of emotions that myself as one of the principal plaintiffs experiences.

Having set out on the long voyage of a Charter Challenge that is now nearing an end, I'd like to share with you my observations on how our political and judicial system functions and what happens to an ordinary citizen who dares to take on the system.

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