Tag Archives: parties

Out of the Playground, Into the Real World

By Jason Menard

It certainly has been hard to be a proud Canadian over the past few weeks, hasn’t it? With our political leaders sniping, name-calling, and generally behaving like kids in a schoolyard, maybe it’s appropriate that the Queen has arrived to settle down her wayward children.

With Thursday’s vote, we saw the Liberal minority stave off its own extinction with the help of a high-profile defection and a lower-profile – but, ultimately, just as important – independent vote. Belinda Stronach may have grabbed the headlines earlier in the week, but it was Chuck Cadman who had the biggest spotlight shined on him during the actual vote.

But now, we turn our attention back to the principles – and the minute hand slowly ticks down on Mr. Cadman’s 15 minutes in the spotlight. The problem is, as usually happens in these types of skirmishes, is that few look good coming out of it.

Stephen Harper and the Conservative Coalition now look like nothing more than opportunistic schoolyard bullies. Flexing their muscles, using intimidation, and generally behaving rather badly to get what they want. But, like bullies, when the tide turns – and with Stronach’s defection, the Conservatives lost a lot of muscle – they tucked their tail between their legs and slinked off quietly, without much fuss.

If this is truly a fight against corruption and the belief truly was that the Liberals are evil, then you fight the good fight, no matter what the odds. You continue the rhetoric, you use every available means at your disposal (including enticing some fence-sitting MPs – paging Mr. O’Brien – to jump ship). But now it’s clear that this wasn’t a battle based on political principle, but political gain – an opportunistic grab for power that leaves a bad taste in some mouths.

The NDP’s Jack Layton continues to look like the cat who ate the canary, secure in the knowledge that – as he’s been trying to convince us for a while now – that the NDP are a legitimate power in Parliament. The previous Conservative/Bloc majority left the NDPs somewhat powerless, but now that the numbers are more even, his party has even more opportunity to flex its muscle.

The BQ deftly managed to stay out of the fray – Gilles Duceppe playing puppet master while Steven Harper took all the hits in the public. By remaining aloof, the Bloc gets to claim moral superiority, which it can use in a future election. Ironically, a group that’s allegedly tampered with election results in the past now gets to run on a platform built on accountability.

And where do the Liberals go from here? Well, the Liberals have to shore up their East Coast support, hold on to its power in Ontario (and probably pick up a few extra seats here and there), and work like mad to make some inroads in the West. And they have to forget about Quebec.

Sad to say, it’s done in Quebec for an election or two. The Liberals were granted a slight reprieve when the eminently likeable Paul Martin took power from the despised Jean Chrétien. But any goodwill has been washed away in this sponsorship scandal. Quebec’s stable of soft separatists are always looking for a reason to jump ship, and the findings from the Gomery inquiry are exactly the springboard they have been looking for. Add to that the miserable job Jean Charest has been doing propping up the Provincial Liberal name, and there’s little doubt that the BQ will pick up many, if not all, seats in Quebec.

Martin and his party have survived the flurry of the opening rounds. They’ve taken the Conservatives’ best shots and are still upright – however wobbly their legs may be. Yet the political rope-a-dope strategy needs to move into the next phase. The Liberals have absorbed the punches and, instead of waiting for its opponents to catch their breath, they need to come out swinging.

The Gomery inquiry needs to result in some rolling heads. Martin needs to show the electorate that the sins of the past will not be tolerated now or in the future. He needs to regain the trust of those Canadians who may be inclined to forgive and forget. The Liberals need to make a concerted effort to move forward with an aggressive and generous policy that creates a positive impression on the electorate. The new budget is a great start, but implementing it effectively is the key to long time success.

Like a veteran boxer, The Liberals have been through a number of these ring wars, so smart money says not to count them out. The second round’s just starting.

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Federal Politics – The Party’s Over

By Jason Menard

As the combination of the sponsorship scandal and a minority government combines to send Canadians to an early – but not unexpected – election, perhaps it has come down to the time when we should say the Party’s over.

Essentially, the sponsorship scandal is about patronage – a tradition that’s as old as government itself. And while all the focus is currently on the Liberal Party of Canada, it’s not outrageous to say that with a little sniffing around, you’d find a foul stench or two emanating from all our political parties.

The party system has created various groups that are beholden, in part, to any number of special interest groups. Whether it’s labour organizations, religious groups, financial and business interests, or those who have been generous donors to the cause, each political party knows on which side their bread is buttered. And the only group to which these parties should be beholden – the voters – are left by the wayside.

As it stands now, the vast majority of Canadians don’t vote for a person. They vote for a party and in support of the ideals to which it supposedly ascribes. However, by voting for a national power, we compromise our individual needs for what we hope is the greater good.

It once was so easy. If you leaned left, you headed to the NDP, if you were small-c conservative, then the PC party was your choice. And if you preferred not to go to either extreme, the Liberal Party was a comfortable place to place your vote. But those differences aren’t so cut and dried any longer.

But our political landscape has changed drastically over the past two decades, moving towards regional representation – and now it’s time to complete the journey and abolish party politics entirely.

With the emergence of political entities like the Reform Party and the Bloc Quebecois, we saw clearly the importance that voters placed on protecting their own interests. Frustrated Western Canadians, tired of perceived preferential treatment of Ontario and Quebec, embraced a party that they felt was more in tune with their needs. While Quebecers, both separatist and federalist, were and are attracted to the Bloc’s unwavering focus on promoting Quebec’s best interests on a federal level.

What this shows is that people are desperate for actual representation from their Members of Parliament. And by abolishing the party system, we would be able to create a new system wherein our elected representatives would have only the interests of their constituents at heart – not those of the party to which they ascribe.

As it stands now, many people don’t exercise their right to vote simply because, rightly or wrongly, they feel that their individual vote doesn’t matter on a national level. In addition, because their vote generally goes for the party, not the candidate, they feel disconnect between the needs of their riding and the party’s overall goals.

But think of how much more interest you would have in an electoral process that sees voters choosing the individual they feel best represents their riding. Instead of looking at the party, voters would have to look at the candidate – their platform, their beliefs, and their qualifications. And then, every four years, they’d be held accountable for their activities on behalf of their riding.

Instead of one party forcing through a mandate that may be unpalatable to a significant number of Canadians simply based on majority rule, a completely independent House of Commons would have to work together, navigating the waters of governance through negotiation, debate, and – perish the thought – common sense. Best of all, this would encourage our elected representatives to continually meet with their constituencies to gauge the electorate’s opinion on issues. The average citizen’s voice could be heard more clearly by the use of plebiscites on hot-button issues!

Our government could still have cabinet members handling various portfolios and committees would still be in place to ensure continuity and effective management of government initiatives and departments. However, these cabinet positions and committees would be elected positions (by the Members of Parliament), not appointed.

And the Prime Minister? There are a number of ways to handle this. We could have interested people receive nominations to run for the post and they are voted on separately from the MPs. Or, taking inspiration from the Vatican, we could have our MPs sequester themselves to choose a Prime Minister from within their midst – signified by a puff of red smoke emanating from the Peace Tower.

Sure, there are major bugs to be worked out, such as how do we handle election funding to ensure that each and every Canadian has access to the process, and how do we balance representation by population with representation by geographic area so that urban and rural Canada exerts fair influence over the political process?

But the goal of this exercise is to develop a government of the people for the people. And really, if our politicians have to be beholden to someone, would we rather it be to us – their constituents?

2005 © Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved