150 years ago this month, civil war was consuming the United States of America when, after the battle at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on November 19, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln delivered a most famous political address which contained this even more famous phrase:
“that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Is Canada embroiled in Civil War? Technically – No. Politically – yes. Is Canada governed democratically, “of the people, by the people, for the people”? Not but by a huge stretch of definition. Does Canada need a political “New Birth”? Absolutely. A democratic Canada cannot survive without a governmental, “New Birth”, a redevelopment of the way Canada governs itself. Canada needs to get back to the fundamental principals of democracy, of the people, by the people, for the people.
What then is the problem? Political Parties. It is the political party influence in the system of governing Canada that is bringing this country to ruin. Every politician knows the system smells bad, but, none are willing to own up to being part of the problem. The Canadian voter is feeling more and more disenfranchised with each election. Today, the senate and senators are being pointed to as who to take the blame. It is not the Senate which stands in the way of democratic good government, it is the factious antics and policies of the political parties.
Lester B. Pearson stated, on the presentation of Canada’s new flag, Feb. 15, 1965:
“May the land over which this new Flag flies remain united in freedom and justice; a land of decent God-fearing people; fair and generous in all its dealings; sensitive, tolerant and compassionate towards all men; industrious, energetic, resolute; wise, and just in the giving of security and opportunity equally to all its cultures; and strong in its adherence to those moral principles which are the only sure guide to greatness.”
“adherence to those moral principles which are the only sure guide to greatness.” That is where Canada is failing. Politicians for a great part have lost their moral compass. They fail to remember whom they serve putting the party ahead of their constituents. Individually, near every politician is a good and moral person who entered the political arena with full and good intentions. So why now are they so factious, become so partisan even to the point of willing to tell and repeat lies in Parliament. It is all for the Party, the particular political brand without which they lose all the perks they now hold in the House. They will lose the electoral help, moneys and guidance offered to those who follow the “Party Line”.
The former Liberal House Leader, David McGuinty once said. “The Conservatives will promise whatever it takes to be elected, and once elected they will say anything to hold onto power while turning their backs on Canadians.”
That statement can be said of all political parties, be they Conservative, New Democratic, Bloc or Liberals, not only federally but provincially also. What is more alarming, as the years and elections roll by, David McGuinty’s words have become more and more true and telling. “Promising action but never delivering, muzzling critics, stifling information, ignoring the voices of Canadians, choosing ideology over fact and party politics over what’s best for Canadians.”
How true, how true, Damn, How true
The huge problem with the damage Steven Harper and his Conservative government have done and is still inflicting upon Canada is; We don’t have a restore button on Parliament. After the next election when Harper is possibly voted out of office, Canada can’t just chose a restore date like on a computer and revert programs back. Any vestige of trust the average Canadian had in Parliament is gone. The environmental damage he allowed and encouraged is to a large part permanent or at best a long time in reparation. The manufacturing jobs lost through his and his Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty’s incompetence are lost forever. The diplomatic hole he has dug for Canada is at least a generation in re-developing. The widening rift he developed between Government and First Nations is an insult to Canada and all Canadians. The complete loss of trust from youth toward politicians of any stripe will become a Harper legacy.
In 2006, Stephen Harper once told an American right-wing think tank, “You won’t recognize Canada when I get through with it.” Sadly, this boastful prediction is coming true. Canada is becoming more Fascist than Democratic. Huge omnibus legislation. Curtailed debate in Parliament. Enemies lists. Sanctioned opposition. Muzzled scientists. Payoffs to “friends”. Limited disclosure. All the items Harper once called undemocratic and campaigned against in order to get elected, he now endorses with great zeal.
So, how do we fix Parliament? Very simple. Limit the influence political parties have on Members of Parliament.
Both the Conservatives and the NDP are pointing fingers at the Senate as the Big Bad Wolf. The problem for the electorate is, we will never get a politician to legislate placing dampers upon political parties. It is against their own interests. What is more, the media will never help promote any change that takes the derision out of Parliament. Derision and conflict are the two biggest sellers of political news. Derision makes headlines, headlines sell papers. Conflict creates interest, interest draws viewers. The more readers and viewers, the more advertising dollars. A smooth, thoughtful, open deliberation parliament is not in the media interest. There is little story there.
In fact, much of the blame for a factious Parliament is the fault of the media. Political parties need the media to deliver the message. Without conflict, the media won’t freely deliver the soundbites each party needs. Add conflict and the media will flock and fight for the story. The more controversial the item, the more often the broadcast, the more prominent the placing. Who is right and who is wrong is not at issue. Pundits may debate all they want, political parties only care that they are seen. It is called “Branding”, and the brand is all that matters.
But all that must change if Canada is to be the great country of Lester B Pearson’s vision, “fair and generous in all its dealings; sensitive, tolerant and compassionate towards all men; industrious, energetic, resolute; wise, and just in the giving of security and opportunity equally to all its cultures; and strong in its adherence to those moral principles which are the only sure guide to greatness.”