An interesting half-hour discussion this morning on the state of Canadian democracy, heard on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's morning radio program, "The Current". Recently social conservative backbencers have openly complained that the Prime Minister's Office is stiffling their right to represent their constituents on issues such as abortion law and sex selective abortion of girls reportedly practiced in some ethnic communities. They claim that they have been told that these issues are not welcome on the floor of parliament and will not be debated.
Brent Rathgeber, a Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) representing Edmonton, Alberta speaks on the first segment of the audio-clip (hit the "Listen" button of the link below). Rathgeber is not himself a social conservative but believes that fundamental principles of democratic governance are being violated by his own party. Conservatives, he claims, have traditionally stood for freedom of speech and freedom of open debate.
Conservative Backbenchers muzzled?
The last segment, beginning around minute 16, is an interview with conservative pundit Andrew Coyne. Coyne has some interesting points to make about the general state of health of Canadian democracy today. Party discipline, he notes, has grown across all party lines in recent decades. But why? I have asked myself this very question quite a few times lately. Is Canada moving towards an American style presidential system and away from British style adversarial parliament? A recent article by Mr Coyne in which he compares the Canadian and Australian parliaments suggests this might be the case.
Coyne concludes his article with the stirring lines:
"This did not begin with Warawa, in short, and it will not end here. The
question is whether opposition MPs will join the fray. The shuttering of
Warawa’s motion, after all, was an all-party affair: it was his motion
this time, but it could be theirs next. There’s a fight worth having,
here, but it isn’t Conservatives vs. Opposition, or pro-life vs.
pro-choice. It’s for the freedom of all MPs against the dictates of a
system that, as in no other democracy, has vested all power in the party
The distortions of the democratic process are everywhere if one takes the time and effort to look and see. In this blog we have examined recent efforts on the part of the Harper governement to silence scientific debate relating to the hazards of fossil fuel use (climate change in general and potential biohazards resulting from extracting and refining Alberta tar sands). See the internal blog links at the end of this article for links to these articles.
In his interview on "The Current", Coyne described the perncious current practice - borrowed from the US? - of utilizing omnibus bills to ram through federal budgets without debate. Listen to the audioclip of the link below, Backbench MPs muzzled?, beginning around minute 16 for the Coyne interview. Obviously "pragmatism" or "efficiency" are invoked to justify this undemocratic practice: modern goverments have simply grown too large, too complex and too interconnected in their functioning to afford the luxury of longwinded debate..
Backbench MPs muzzled?
The following article, published Easter Sunday in the New York Times by Canadian academic Prof. Thomas Homer-Dixon, sounds an alarm for citizen's on both sides of the border.
Prof Homer-Dixon in a short, 8 minute, interview on the CBC newsprogram: "As it happens", 2 April, 2013. This spoken statement of his position, I find particularly eloquent.
own analysis of the state of democracy in Canada and the world is more
"structural" and perhaps more pessimistic than conservative pundit Andrew Coyne's. I perceive the
disenfranchisement of the citizen / the disempowerment of civil society as an inevitable byproduct of technocracy.
One's actual starting position on the political spectrum appears
irrelevant. Technocracy operates it centralizing of power and regulation
of information flows whether one begins from the Left - marxist
Communism - or from the Right - fascism and its antechamber, the modern
corporation controlled State. Wherever one starts from, one ends up in
the same place. Chinese taoist philosophy says that the tao (the nature)
of water is to seek sealevel. All rivers flow to the sea. I see Fascism as
the tao of industrialisation. "Republican values" - in the French
revolutionary sense of "republican": liberty, equality, fraternity and
representative government arose prior to the industrial reveolution (and
technocracy). The Great Historical Question: would such "republican" values have risen if the industrial revolution
had occurred in the first half of the 18th century instead of the first
half of the 19th century..
To cut to the chase."Every cloud has a silver lining". Bad
things shake people up, forcing them to consider new and better
ways of living, of doing things, of making a buck. Consider the New
Economy we are entering in this dawn of a new century, the post peak oil
economy. Cheap oil is running out. What is left will cost more and more
to discover, extract and refine. Environmental impacts will worsen.
This all looks bad for our energy junkie lifestyles, certainly. But the
New Economy also offers the (potential) promise of reversing the trend
toward antidemocratic centralization which industrialisation and
technocracy have installed. If we play our cards right we will find within ourselves the
wit and wisdom to grasp this opportunity to re-empower our local
communities, our families, our lives and to offer our children a future in
which hope still lives.
internal blog links:
Harper muzzles Conservatives' Right Wing?
Harper muzzles Environmental Science?
This link gives numerous internal blog links
climate scientists speak out