The Herald’s yearning to see Canada maintain sovereignty is understandable. It is even justified.
But so far sovereignty has been bogged down in an elephantine bureaucracy in which fiscal accountability often appears to be ephemeral. Individual initiative gets smothered under the leaden weight of policies, procedures and dust-covered rules.
Many admit that the Constitution also needs revamping, updating and streamlining –whether that means scrapping the Senate, or finally sending these partisan appointees to the people for election.
However, with all due respect to, and sympathy for, the Calgary Herald’s position that Canadians should continue to be self-governing, long-standing problems in Canadian politics must be resolved before Canadians are ready to assume the mantle of an equal-status governance with other democracies.
Foremost among those sticky issues is accountability. Too many instances of corruption among elected leaders has been well-documented – for example the sponsorship scandal, the Conservative in- and-out election funding scheme, and breaches of the MPs’ ethic code. Or how about with rampant nepotism – the federal government refusing to release documents to Parliament, twice shutting down Parliament when it was politically inconvenient to the governing party, and impeding its citizens ability to find information through the access-to-information system.
There’s also evidence of resulting intimidation in the hierarchies governing system, both within the party and government departments – such as communications becoming so centralized in the PMO that one needs permission to put out a press release on wildlife.
Such intimidation is used vis-à-vis elements of the public that are out of favour with the government – for example recent back-to-work legislation saw a crown corporation lock out its employees so that federal politicians could screw with their salaries before legislating the lockouts back to work.
There has been a lack of transparency and accountability for the use of public money, not only as expressed in the examples above but visible in the situations in which MPs and senators maintain perks like sumptuous pensions benefits at the tax payer’s expense, all the while arguing that ordinary Joe Taxpayer does not deserve the same. MPs make $157,000 a year, Minister’s earn $233,247 a salary paid through the taxes of constituents, most of who earn less than their political leaders. Some constituents are even living in overcrowded, bed-bug ridden houses.
In the case of Minister John Duncan, the First Nations people he’s hired to benefit live under boil-water advisories or with no running water at all. Despite having thousands of bureaucrats with offices in every province and territory in Canada sucking at the public teat to solve problems like these, Duncan seems all to content to shrug and pass the buck onto chiefs, while few people outside the aboriginal community ever question just how much cash all those bureaucrats are sucking up to maintain a broken system.
Moreover, individual Canadians have not been successful in dealing with the political problems in their system. They re-elected the Liberals in 2004 after the Auditor General released evidence of corruption under the sponsorship program, and more recently Canadians returned a Conservative government to power, this time with majority power, after the party was found in contempt of Parliament.
Nor are Canadians effective at dealing with social problems in their own towns either: we see instances of substance abuse, and domestic violence, and recessions and seasonal cycles of unemployment that dampen entrepreneurial opportunities and job creation. Let’s remember that not every province enjoys the geographical luck of Ontario, which has enabled it to get into the business of manufacturing, sales. There are still parts of the country where people can only find work half the year and spend the other have on the dole. When will we admit that “have not” provinces are simply a drain on Canada’s purse strings and not sustainable or viable?
Furthermore, the federal government parties do not truly represent Canadian Citizens, for party leaders are elected only by party members; ordinary citizens do not directly elect a Prime Minister.
Also, the diverse needs of Canadians, scattered across this vast land, do not make for a comfortable one-size-fits-all model of governance. This is why we’ve seen cries for separatism and inclusion in the form of regionalized federal parties from both Quebec and the Prairies.
The Calgary Herald is a dreamer, and without dreams, nothing would happen. But the Calgary Herald must first address the staggering number of problems in the federal political system, and seek aid from other countries who know better than to re-elect leaders that have been caught playing hard and fast with the rules of democracy. The Calgary Herald must as well as clarify what a workable governance model looks like, addressing issues like Senate reform, Quebec separatism and western alienation, before Canada can become a government on par with other democracies.
The above is a tongue-in-cheek parody of very condescending commentary that appeared in the Calgary Herald. For fun your can read their original article about First Nations Self Government here.