Some pretty fundamental -- and frightening -- changes have gone on while we were sleeping. The voter suppression scandal is only the latest in a long list of abuses which have flourished under Stephen Harper. Michael Harris catalogues them:
How quickly and efficiently Canadian democracy has been soundproofed.
By turning the committee system into a backroom show, the Tories have pulled the wings off the average opposition MP. If he doesn’t fly in committee, the backbench MP doesn’t fly at all.
Rival political parties have seen their public funding cancelled in the name of free market principles that give an immediate and maybe irreversible financial advantage to the Conservatives.
Parliament tries to hold the government to account but that is impossible without timely and accurate costing of government programs, which the government, of course, withholds. So instead there is the daily screaming match called Question Period that only paid professionals and near relatives can watch.
Non-governmental agencies have been punished by fiercely partisan government funding decisions.
Cabinet ministers rather than departments now decide which studies get published, a ploy which carries the handy benefit of never having purely ideological government policy embarrassed by the facts.
Scientists have to raise their hands and ask permission of political toads in ministers’ offices before speaking about their work. Remember when you had to do that in Grade Three to get a pee break?
And Canadians have slept through it all, more concerned about their pocket books than democracy. Perhaps, Harris writes, we have reached the point which Lewis Lapham lamented in his book The Wish for Kings:
He opined that the ruling and possessing classes had decided that the practice of democratic government was both a risk and a luxury that they were no longer willing to finance. And he wondered about the value of free expression to people so frightened of the future that they preferred the reassurance of the authoritative lie to the truth. And why insist on the guarantee of so many superfluous civil liberties when everybody was having enough trouble just holding on to a job?
It can all slip away so easily -- while we are sleeping.