Guest Blogging - Carolyn Bennett
Prescription for the Democratic Deficit
I remember once in a national caucus meeting complaining how unacceptable it was that for many, their first experience with partisan politics was to sign a box saying that they had paid for their membership themselves - when they hadn't! I remember then saying that when we go and teach democracy in the third world, we don't teach this!
We have to practice what we preach. We have to regain the confidence of Canadians in our democratic institutions - our party, our parliament, and our electoral system.
I was at the breakfast at the National Press Club this a.m. with Rick Anderson and his Fireweed Democracy Project, Fair Vote Canada and Susan Pigott from the Citizens' Assembly on Electoral Reform in Ontario. I was very impressed with the fireweed initiative, particularly the Demokistan Case Study that beautifully asks: "if the fictional ‘Demokistan Charter' is not democratic enough for Demokistan, is it good enough for Canada?"
Last weekend at the LPCO AGM, we hosted a dialogue for those with a thirst for democracy. We served smoothies - drinks with substance!! Had a great turn-out and lots asking for more! There are 4 components....Citizen Engagement, Parliamentary Reform, Party Reform and Electoral Reform. We must move forward on all four.
The prescription for a democratic deficit begins with one thing...a true belief that we will get better policy and be better able to implement great policy if we include the people affected. We must never be seen to be consulting when it is clear that we have already made up our minds - some sort of obligation to public consultation...as occupational therapy. It only stokes the destructive forces of cynicism. There must be what Frank Graves at EKOS has called 'assured listening'. Participants must know that they've been heard even if the decision taken is not what they had asked for. As Stephen Coleman, the guru of e-democracy has said, people don't want to govern they just want to be heard. It must engender 2-way accountability.
Those of you who participate in online dialogues on these blogs are already incredibly engaged citizens. Thank you. Over the next few weeks I will be launching a robust online policy discussion, please stay in touch.
We need to begin a process that will become central to a modern Liberal party that will be connected from sea to sea to sea ... Allowing great public policy to bubble up from the trenches, find consensus and resonate with Canadians.
Allons Y !!!
You can also take a look at the paper I wrote in 2003 during the leadership race -Rx for the Democratic Deficit.
UPDATE: Carolyn jumps into the Lion's Den in the comments section.