"Imagine a country," James Travers wrote in Saturday's Toronto Star, "where Parliament is padlocked twice in 13 months to frustrate the democratic will of the elected majority. That country is now this country."
Travers then offered a litany of examples illustrating how the Harper government -- which rode to power insisting that it would be accountable -- has undermined democracy in Canada:
Imagine a country where the national police commissioner skews a federal election and is never forced to explain.
Imagine a country that writes a covert manual on sabotaging Commons committees.
Imagine a country where parties that win the most federal seats are dismissed as "losers."
Imagine a country where party apparatchiks decide who in a nominally free press is allowed to ask the Prime Minister questions.
What is remarkable is that all of this has been accomplished so openly -- and, as Jeffrey Simpson wrote this week -- with so little public support. The Conservatives, except for brief spikes, have consistently been able to muster the support of between 31% to 33% of the population:
The only time conservative forces were weaker than today came in the arrival of the 1993 election of the Reform Party (including Mr. Harper) a development that shattered the political right for more than a decade. Today, therefore, the Harper Conservatives are the weakest united right wing government or party the country has seen in our life time.
How does one account for this startling and sad turn of events? Certainly a divided and inept opposition has something to do with it. Mr. Layton and Mr. Ignatieff have more difficulty cooperating with each other than they do with the Prime Minister. And Mr. Duceppe has skilfully exploited both Mr. Harper's and Mr. Ignatieff's ignorance of the way Quebec works.
But underlying everything is the public's distaste for another election. And, given the pettiness of what passes for debate these days, that is -- somewhat -- understandable. Nevertheless, if the government has been allowed to subvert parliamentary democracy in Canada, it is because its citizens have chosen to look away and go back to tilling their gardens. They may soon be surprised by what they have sown.
This blog entry is cross posted at The Moderate Voice.