Sunday, 18 May 2014

Why Canadian Politics Is So Pathetic

I've been into politics and current events since my early teen years, but despite several attempts to get involved in Canadian politics since I was a teenager, it just hasn't happened for me.  Why?  Because politics in this country is just plain pathetic.  In fact, I don't know any other society in a modern, democratic country that is more averse to political change than that of Canada.  But of course, Canada's dull political scene is one of the reasons that this country attracts so many people from abroad, who want to get away from the maddening politics in their countries of origin.  In my case, however, if my choosing of places to live was based solely on how a country's politics is conducted, I'd leave Canada in a second, because too many folks in this country wouldn't know real politics if it hit them in the face.  I find almost everything about Canadian politics, from its excessive party discipline to its antiquated and unfair electoral system, to be revolting.  And unfortunately, I don't see it changing any time soon.

Any changes to politics in this country seem almost impossible to make.  Take for example the recent Supreme Court ruling that constitutional change was necessary to reform or abolish our oh-so-hated, patronage-based Senate.  Unfortunately, the folks who wrote Canada's constitution made it almost impossible to change.  Just ask former Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney.  Ever since he failed to change the constitution with the Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords, no politician has dared to open up that can of worms again.  But as I said, that's Canada for you.  And anyway, why would politicians want to change anything about the politics in this country when they're benefiting so much from it?

Why, for example, would the leaders of this country's big, monolithic parties want to give up their power to rule their backbenchers like medieval kings?  Canada's kind of ironclad party discipline is almost unheard of in other parts of the modern, democratic world.  Just look at what happened to some of the backbenchers who decided not to tow the party line:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/svend-robinson-has-been-benched-1.183777

http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2013/06/06/alberta_mp_brent_rathgeber_blasts_conservatives_as_he_quits_party.html

http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/nunziata-expelled-from-liberal-caucus/

Do you get the picture yet?  If not, then allow me to mention another facet of this country's politics that makes changes to it almost impossible: our electoral system.  Let's forget for a moment, the fact that all Western democracies, except Canada, the U.S., and the U.K. have abandoned the antiquated and unfair first-past-the-post, winner-take-all system that has allowed one-party dictatorships to flourish in this country.  Instead, let's talk about the specific fact that the current federal government has a majority of the seats in the House of Commons and 100% of the power, while only receiving 36.9% of the vote in the last federal election.  Take into consideration the number of eligible voters that didn't vote, 38.9%, and the percentage of people who actually decided the fate of this country for the next four years is actually much lower (see: http://www.sfu.ca/~aheard/elections/results.html).  And for those of you who happened to not vote for the winning candidate in your riding; well, sorry, but your vote didn't count for anything.  Our ridiculous electoral system has done nothing but keep the same kin of people in power, and as long as this system isn't reformed (which it likely won't be), the same folks from the same parties will continue to hold our elected offices.

It's no wonder then, that I came across a slogan in Toronto's Kensington Market that read, "If voting changed anything, they'd make it illegal."  Not that I agree with this.  Voting does change things in this country, just not the way our politics works.  This slogan was likely written by folks who are shut out of the political process and have no hope of ever getting their views and concerns represented on Parliament Hill.  You know, young people, poor people and anyone else who doesn't share views in the centre of the political spectrum.

The last major attempt to change Canadian politics was the Reform Party, which espoused ideas like an elected Senate and allowing backbenchers to vote of their own accord in the House of Commons, instead of having to vote the way the leaders tell them to.  But as we all know, the Reform Party ultimately ceased to exist when it merged with the Progressive Conservatives and gave up many of the principles that would have changed Canadian politics for the better.  What was the reason for this?  Well, both parties knew that if they continued to split the right wing vote, the Liberals would keep winning elections.  Unfortunately, neither party bothered to stop and think about changing the electoral system that allowed this kind of vote splitting to happen in the first place.

Ever since I was a teenager, I dreamed of being an elected politician.  I don't have that dream anymore though, because even if I were able to play the stupid game that is Canadian politics, I wouldn't be able to do anything to effect change because my party would likely kick me out.  Hence, I will never strive for elected office, at least in this country.  Besides, some of the most important harbingers of change from Karl Marx to Martin Luther King Jr. never held political office, so ironically, the best way I can help bring change may be not to get involved in Canada's political process.  I'll still vote though, because I believe that even though voting may not change the way we conduct our politics in this country, it can help change a lot of other things.  But for those people that don't vote, I can't say I blame them, especially with the crop of uninspiring politicians we have to choose from.  In fact, for those people that do vote, it's very likely that they'll be voting against someone rather than for someone, because that's the cynicism that surrounds politics in Canada.  What a shame for a country regarded by many as the best place in the world to live.  

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