Ideas

Dictating Democracy

Canadian voters are poised to offer up another minority government. That just might mean we are fed up with dictators.

By Ted Mitchell
Published December 14, 2005

In Canada we have a tradition of democratically electing absolute dictators.

I don't think that "dictator" is too strong a word. It is an appropriate description of how modern majority governments function. This is certainly true of both federal and provincial politics.

Once elected to a majority, parties bring in elite unelected policy advisors, select an elite cabinet, and ignore absolutely everybody else.

They ignore their own backbenchers, opposition members, intellectuals, and most of all the general public. Only interests with big money and big media deserve any attention.

If elected to a minority, not much is done beyond degenerate bickering that inevitably leads to an election and, the politicians hope, a majority government. Then the sick tradition can persist.

Voter "apathy" is, in my opinion, not apathy at all, but represents taking issue with dictatorships. As long as we maintain the "first past the post" system, you can guarantee that your vote is entirely wasted if the candidate beside your X is not elected.

If you happen to have picked a winner from the majority party, your candidate will probably be ignored and you still lose. Additionally, you also just perpetuated another dictatorship.

If you helped elect a runner-up party politician, you lose again but at least you helped fight dictatorships. Thank God for democracy, eh? This is a lose-lose-lose scenario. What better way to instill apathy in a population?

Federally, things are a little bit different this time around. Canadian voters are poised to offer up another minority government. Two in a row. That just might mean we are fed up with dictators. I am, and I will vote strategically because I do not believe in dictatorships.

It would be really nice if you could vote intelligently for the party or candidate you believe can do the best job. But my friends, that will have to wait for another day of electoral reform.

Maybe if the public keeps up the minority strategy, the politicians might realize that in order to get anything accomplished the current electoral system needs a serious upgrade.

The municipal equivalent of electoral reform is obtaining true public feedback on urban issues. Thankfully there is no party system to poison local government, but ignorance, bias, and technocracy are doing a good enough job of that.

The ultimate hubris of the urban Councillor and technocrat is that they can do a better job of city policy than citizens can. If I am ever insane enough to be in such a position, please don't let me assume this.

There is always at least one person out there who can help you do your job better than you can alone. Part of your job then, is to find them, listen to what they have to say, and improve your plans accordingly.

Take, for example, the current proposal for a large above-ground water pumping station at the "Rez", formally Highland Gardens Park. This is located along the escarpment at the southernmost reaches of Kirkendall.

Buried in my mail were a number of flyers from the City, titled "WATER PRESSURE UPGRADES IN DISTRICT H3". Doesn't that scream "recycle" to you? As my son would say, "BOHRR-RING".

Note to technocrats: use a title that conveys real information, like "PROPOSAL FOR A LARGE EYESORE IN THE MIDDLE OF 'THE RES.' If you care to comment, come to our public meeting."

But no, the approach appears to be designed for implementation. Make it look like you have consulted the public and have noted their concerns.

Claim there was poor turnout, ignore the little feedback obtained and proceed as you intended anyway. Like dude, what were you expecting with a title like that?

Are there no better choices for location than tearing up a meadow? Would not Chedoke golf course be already more developed, accessible, easier to build on, have no nearby residents and minimize the destruction of natural spaces?

Wherever it goes, how about underground? The upper level of the Res is hardly a monstrosity. A bit more cost now can pay huge dividends in future. And just maybe the golfers will appreciate a new elevated green or tee.

For this and other proposals, the City needs to seek out real feedback from its citizens. Next, it needs to have flexible plans that can be adapted to the concerns raised by residents, especially those most affected.

Otherwise, we have top-down technocracy, which is little different than the federal dictatorship.

So I urge you in whatever way you can to cast a vote for participatory democracy. The future of your freedom, your city and your country depends on it.

Ted Mitchell is a Hamilton resident, emergency physician and sometimes agitator who recently completed a BEng at McMaster University. He is fascinated by aspects of our culture that are harmful, but avoid serious public discussion.

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By Ted Mitchell (registered) | Posted None at

In the last month, fashion has swung so much that a Conservative majority is possible. Another majority now could possibly go down in history as the most self destructive thing Canadians have ever done to themselves, a true disaster for participatory democracy. Do Canadians really fashion themselves as groveling Gollums, unable to contribute to the political process? The only light in this tunnel is that the Conservative party (note the absence of the word "progressive") is so unstable that its many conflicting and divisive values will allow it to implode quickly. It is not impossible that this would lead to electoral reform faster than any other scenario.

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