Saturday, 31 January 2015

A Victory for Canadian TV Viewers. We Finally Get the Superbowl Commercials...Starting in 2017

Canadian TV viewers have waited a long time for this.  Years and years of having to sit through boring, annoying and all too repetitive Canadian commercials during the Superbowl, while our neighbours down south get to see the eagerly-anticipated ads designed especially for the big game.  But now the unbelievable has happened.  The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission, or CRTC, has decided that starting in 2017, Canadian TV stations will no longer be allowed to substitute Canadian ads in place of the Superbowl commercials.  Can you believe it!?  The CRTC actually giving Canadian TV viewers what they want, instead of pandering to the big, monolithic Canadian corporations and the Canadian Content lobbyists, or as I like to call the, the Can-Con Heads.  For decades, Canadians have been at the mercy of the CRTC's protectionist policies of always favouring Canadian content, regardless of how mediocre it may be.  This recent decision by our national telecommunications regulator to allow the Superbowl commercials to air in Canada is a great victory for the Canadian consumer - the first of many, I hope.

Could it be that the pendulum is finally swinging away from the Can-Con Heads and towards the average Canadian taxpayer?  Perhaps, but for those of you who are looking forward to viewing those Superbowl commercials live during the game instead of having to search for them on the internet later, don't let this one small victory get you too excited.  There's still a long way to go.  After all, we're still paying for TV channels that we don't want; many of which are Canadian stations forced on us by the CRTC and backed by the Can-Con Heads.  And we're still listening to endless repeats of songs by the Tragically Hip and other Canadian artists, because the stiffs at the CRTC and their Can-Con Head supporters make our radio stations play a certain amount of Canadian content.  Canadian media consumers will never have true freedom until communistic policies like these are ended.  So allowing Canadians to watch the Superbowl commercials during the big game is just one small step.  But at least it's a step in the right direction. 

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Canada's Eroding Democracy

The older I've gotten, the less faith I have in Canadian democracy.  In fact, I would contend that Canada may be the most undemocratic country in the industrialized, democratic world.  Why?  Well, where should I start?  How about our electoral system?

Canada is one of the few industrialized democracies that still uses the winner-take-all, first-past-the-post voting system.  This is a system that allows one party that wins less than half of the national vote to hold more than half of the seats in a legislature and 100% of the power.  It's like electing a one-party dictatorship for up to five years, or whenever the Prime Minister or provincial premier sees fit to call an election.  We inherited this method of voting from our former British colonial masters.  But even Britain has begun to move away from this system.  The parliaments of Scotland and Wales now use a form of proportional representation, as do most of Europe's democracies.  Most recently, Chile has moved to adopt a more proportionate electoral system.  I can only dream of the day when a party that contests provincial or federal elections in Canada and wins twenty percent of the vote, wins twenty percent of the seats.  Then again, reforming this country's antiquated electoral system is only one change we should be making.

We also need to re-democratize the federal parliament and provincial legislatures that we vote for.  For as long as I can remember, legislatures in Canada have been ruled by fear, or more specifically by ironclad party discipline imposed by autocratic party leaders.  MPs or MPPs who don't vote the way their party leadership tells them to vote can find themselves kicked out of caucus in the blink of an eye.  This excessive party discipline has turned our federal parliament and provincial legislatures into rubber stamps, where nearly every vote is a forgone conclusion because it's almost always considered a confidence vote that can bring down a government if the nays outweigh the yeas.  And who is the most dictatorial of all party leaders?  Our prime ministers and provincial premiers, of course!  Since nearly every vote at the federal or provincial level is considered a confidence motion, the leader of the party who also heads the government must keep his or her MPs or MPPs in line.  If not, there could be a new election, and of course no one wants to risk their highly-coveted seats if they don't have to. 

The fact of the matter is that all major policy decisions at the federal or provincial level are not made by the lowly MPs and MPPs sitting in the backbenches; they are made behind the closed doors of the cabinet.  Contrast this with Israel, the other country whose political system I am most familiar with.  Ministers in the Israeli government are hardly ever in lockstep with the Prime Minister.  In fact, even though they may be in the same government, it usually seems like they're at each others' throats on a daily basis.  Descent within a government, not to mention the discord between ordinary parliament members, is always on public display in Israel.  But here in Canada, the thoughts, words and deeds of cabinet members are closely guarded secrets.  In fact, the only other forms of government that I can think of, which are more secretive than Canada's, are those of communist China and the former Soviet Union.

Unfortunately, the way government works in Canada is very unlikely to change, simply because Canadians don't want it to.  Resistance to political change is ingrained in the Canadian psyche.  Heck, Canadians have been resisting political change all the way back to the American Revolution when the residents of Upper and Lower Canada decided to remain loyal to the British Empire rather than revolt against it.  Canadians on average are just not the kind of people who want to rock the boat.  So for those of us who want more democratic elections, legislators that are accountable to us, the voters, instead of their party leadership, or more open government that doesn't resemble the politburo of some communist country, I guess we'll just have to keep on dreaming.