Random Musings on the Fall of Democracy
I took in the MacLeans Democracy Roundtable on Wednesday, and thoroughly enjoyed it. There were at least half a dozen ideas and points raised that would make good blog post subjects in their own right, but rather than elaborate on each of them, I'll just throw up a bunch of random musings from the event:
1. Paul Wells described Question Period (the House of Commons one, not the CTV one) as "the malignant growth on our democracy" or something of the sort. And it does seem that QP is one of the most obvious examples of the problems in our system. So, on that count, I completely like Wells' suggestion of extending question and answer time to 45 seconds (why not a minute?), and only requiring the PM to be there one day a week.
2. It was pointed out that the only time our leaders have gone on TV in the past decade has been to explain why they should be allowed to keep governing. I like the idea of taking a page from the US and having the Prime Minister go on prime time more often to discuss the issues of the day. I know, I know, whenever you say "taking a page from the US", it means the idea won't go anywhere in Canada. And some people will be annoyed that it might bump "Dancing with the Stars" every now and then. But if Canadians saw our leaders talking about serious issues every now and then, maybe they'd be inclined to take them a bit more seriously.
3. Although those ideas are great, Wells did toss out one lead balloon - having caucus pick their leader and review their leadership. Eddie Goldenberg quite rightly pointed out that maybe having the Liberal leader always picked by Ontario MPs isn't the best thing for a national party, and I shudder to think of the behind the scenes horse trading that would go on for support. But, most of all, if you want to engage Canadians in the democratic process, you need to give them more of a say, not less of one. And giving average Canadians the right to buy a membership and vote for party leaders is a way to get them engaged in the democratic process...I really fail to see the benefit of taking that away from them.
4. John Ralston Saul tended to meander off into irrelevant rambling at least 80% of the time. But he did bring up two very valid points. First, that the problem with our debate is one of content, not tone. If politicians debated ideas, there'd be nothing wrong with raucus debate. Secondly, that young people are active in a wide range of organizations - but they need to actually join political parties and run for office so as to change our political system from within.
5. There was general consensus the media has done a bad job covering politics over the past few years...even by the media on the stage.
6. There is no problem too big or too small that Ed Broadbent doesn't believe can be solved by either tax increases or proportional representation. I'm not dead-set against PR, but I do take issue with Ed chastising Liberals and Conservatives for not leading the charge for PR. The fact is, two Liberal Premiers held referendums on the topic and let the people decide. Broadbent feels they didn't push harder because the current system benefits them. Which is true. But you also have to acknowledge that one of the reasons NDP and Green supporters are so keen on PR is that it's a system that would hugely benefit their parties. So everyone is thinking a little bit about their own best interests and I think McGuinty and Campbell deserve credit for facilitating the debate on a topic that could ultimately hurt them.