A Brief History of Democracy

Friday, April 20, 2012

Democratic Despair

Help! I feel like I'm trapped in a time warp. This is the 21st century, but where I live, it feels like we are trapped in the nineteenth.

In my province, there are presently seventeen investigations being conducted by the province's anti corruption squad. It is readily apparent that public money destined for construction projects is routinely repurposed to fund the political campaigns of those who dole out the contracts.

In my city, the police are dressed like storm troopers breaking up student demonstrations protesting a 75% increase in tuition fees with tear gas and night sticks. Ironically, the Minister of Education announces that she won't meet with the largest student group unless its members denounce the use of violence.

The Premier of the province is out hustling his plan for the north, hoping that he can pull the wool over everyone's eyes long enough so that he can call a general election before the judicial inquiry investigating the links between the construction industry and the financing of political parties begins its public audiences.

And he might be able to pull it off since our electoral system uses the archaic first-past-the-post voting system in which the popular vote doesn't necessarily determine the outcome in multiparty elections. Indeed, if the opposition parties split the vote, his party could form a majority government with less than 30% of the vote.

No wonder the Premier reneged on his promise to change the voting method. It allows him and his cronies to finance political campaigns with a percentage of taxpayer money destined for public works. He gets to stay in power and his buddies get stinking rich.

In fact, his great plan for the economic development of Quebec's northern territory takes his kickback scheme to another level. Never mind limiting ourselves to repairing roads, bridges, and sewers, let us pile on the public debt in a vast infrastructure project and let future generations pay for it. This is Montreal's Olympic stadium fiasco taken province wide. It has already begun with the use of public funds to build a new hockey arena in Quebec City.

Using the only means at my disposition, I took the province to Court to contest the constitutionality of its voting system, but I forget that judicial appointments are also part of the political process. Historically, a lawyer needs to have at least ten years of practice and have made significant financial contributions to the political party in power if he or she wants to have a real chance of being appointed to the bench.

Where I live, our local deputy said publicly that he was just doing his job when he approached the Minister of Justice to seek a judicial appointment for the son of his party's chief organizer in our region. Moreover, we recently learned that the resumes of candidates for judicial appointments were routinely forwarded to the Premier with post-it notes attached indicating the applicant's political affiliation.

So, in retrospect, I shouldn't be surprised that in our case both the Superior Court and the Court of Appeal rejected our motion without even a word with regard to our expert testimony. Their minds were already made up and they engaged in post-hoc rationalization.

Thank you. Good bye. Next.

Our last hope is the Supreme Court of Canada. Presently, we are waiting to find out whether it will hear our appeal. Unfortunately, when I look at federal politics, I see the same pattern emerging: defense contractors lobby the Department of Defense for the procurement of F-35 fighter jets, the Department willfully low balls the costs (14 instead of 25 billion dollars), the government refuses to provide the necessary information, it is found in contempt of Parliament, a general election is called, the ruling party is returned with a majority government with only 39% of the popular vote.

As you can see, there are some big bucks at play and the whole system depends on being able to leverage a less than a majority portion of the popular vote into a majority government. In short, money trumps democracy.

So, what are the chances of getting the cornerstone of the entire system declared unconstitutional?

On my bad days, like the day after I saw students getting beaten by baton wielding police for protesting at of all places a university, a place where dialogue and the rigor of arguments should carry the day, not fucking likely.

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