A Brief History of Democracy

Monday, January 31, 2011

Closing the Gap Between the Quebec Government and the Hapless Governed

On Feb. 8, the same day of our Court case concerning the democratic legitimacy of Quebec's electoral system is scheduled to be heard, that is if the crown attorneys don't go on strike before, we can expect to receive yet another speech from the throne.

As a hard core democrat, you can only imagine how I look forward to being reminded once again that I live under a neo-feudal regime.

This time around -- considering the overwhelming belief that corruption and collusion are widespread in Quebec and that the people want to have a public inquiry to bring things to light but are denied because the Premier who has the support of less than one in four electors refuses to hold one -- the distance between those who rule and those who are ruled never seemed to be so great.

From a democratic perspective, we are being ruled by a tyrant.

One of the fundamental principles of democracy is isocratia, the equality of political power, where citizens are willing and able to rule and be ruled. In the present context, we are governed by someone who wants to rule but refuses to be ruled by the demos, the people.

Apparently, in our political system which hasn't evolved qualitatively with respect to the concentration of political power in the hands of an elected monarch since the seventeenth century, we have no recourse other waiting it out for another chance to elect a different monarch.

Essentially, political power is dispersed among the people for about 12 hours during election day once every four years. Thereafter, it is usurped by professional politicians.

This doesn't need to be the case even in a representative democracy. In a proportional system, once a government has lost the the confidence of the people, as is now the case in Quebec, elected representatives from the smaller parties that comprise the ruling coalition can withdraw their support and put into motion a process to oust the ruling executive. This is now happening in Ireland where the Greens and a number of independents have set out to topple the government which they previously supported.

From the citizens' perspective, pressure can be mounted from within the political party by the members that can't be ignored by the elected deputies. Although this situation doesn't represent an equal distribution of political power, the distance between those who rule and those who rule is far less than in our present system.

As for the question of stability, if things are going badly why would a population desire for the state of affairs to continue?

The idea that countries that use a proportional voting system are plagued by political instability is a myth. Research shows that on average the duration of a ruling coalition in a proportional system is only slightly shorter than a majority government in a majoritarian system.

Hopefully, this time around the judges hearing our appeal of the lower court's refusal to grant us a declaratory judgment that seeks to have our present voting system declared unconstitutional will do so by affirming the fundamental principles of democracy.

Once that is done, we can move forward with plans to put our present political system, a vestige of the British empire, behind us and into history's dust bin.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Elizabeth May to Speak at The Democracy On Trial Fundraiser

Leader of the Green Party of Canada, Elizabeth May, has confirmed that she will speak at the Democracy On Trial Fundraiser. Ms. May joins Wayne Smith, Executive Director of Fair Vote Canada, Antony Hodgson, President of Fair Voting BC, and yours truly Brian Gibb, co-founder of the Association for the Advancement of Democratic Rights as the guest speakers.

Recently, Ms. May was granted intervener status and will have her arguments presented by accomplished constitutional lawyer Peter Rosenthal during the appeal of the lower court decision Gibb v. Attorney General of Quebec to be heard at the Quebec Court of Appeal in Montreal, Feb. 8, 2011.

During the last federal general election, approximately one million electors voted for the Greens, yet the Greens and their supporters were denied any representation in Parliament. Undoubtedly, Ms. May will address this glaring affront to the values of a free and democratic society.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Electoral Reform Would Thrust Quebec Into the 21st Century

For the vast majority of Quebecers, the first decade of the 21st century was a lost decade on the political front. It's as if we are still living in the after shock of the 1995 referendum. Politics has taken on the hue of an old black and white film. In the absence of a credible guiding vision, we have regressed to an earlier time where graft, greed, and the lust for power permeate the entire political system from top to bottom, from the municipal to the federal level.

The last decade was the do nothing of significance decade. It's difficult to recall anything of importance. Bouchard retired and declared his doubts about Quebec sovereignty. We flirted with the ADQ and we endured the Liberals.

Ten years later, the mega hospital in Montreal still hasn't been built. School report cards went from number grades to letter grades and then back to numbers. There was talk of some grand development plans for the North, but nothing has gotten off the ground. Quebec City is still looking to replace it's lost NHL franchise and the Canadians didn't win the cup.

Did I forget anything? There was something about our public pension plan losing 40 billion dollars and what constituted reasonable respect for cultural differences, but we seem to have turned the page and moved on.

Moved on to what, I'm not sure. Politics in Quebec has become like an extended version of the film Ground Hog Day. Each morning we wake up and face the same choice between do we stay or do we go, and by the end of the day we still haven't decided only to wake up to the same choice the next day. Same old same old.

To break the loop, we need to cut our ties to the political system that keeps us there. The Westminster parliamentary system produces a bi-polar disorder. It keeps giving us the same options. Once in a century one of the options will change, but in the meantime politics become excruciatingly dull and predictable. No wonder less and less people bother to vote.

But things could be different. Political diversity could emerge. Everyone's vote could count. How quickly this comes about might depend on a decision to be rendered by Quebec's Court of Appeal shortly.