Sunday, October 18, 2015

There Is A Lot Of Work To Be Done


It's beginning to look like -- after the smoke has cleared -- we will have a new and different government. Murray Dobbins writes that will mean we will get some kind of proportional representation. But he warns that:

The desperate need for proportional representation has to some extent distracted us from just how inadequate and unresponsive the rest of the system is. It has taken the likes of Harper to actually push the other parties to suddenly call for change when they have for decades supported first-past-the-post because executive dictatorship is an attractive form of governance to those who run political parties.

Given this history, it is hard not to conclude that political parties themselves are the biggest barrier to genuine, participatory democracy. Parties have, with rare and short-lived exceptions, always acted in their own interests whenever faced with a choice between that goal and working for the country. That has always been true of the two Bay Street parties and now that the NDP has drunk the we-can-win Kool-aid, they join their ranks, adopting a strategy that replaces principle with opportunism.

The current system encourages the reproduction of political clones:

If the current election-machine NDP wants to win an election it will have to do so as a liberal party that has reached an accommodation with globalization and finance capital. Little by little the adoption of Liberal and Conservative political strategy has corrupted what remained of a social democratic party. By the time they win an election on this basis they will be completely indistinguishable from the Liberals they are determined to replace.

The Liberal/Conservative mode of doing politics doesn't suit a political party that wants to change the political culture. Such a party cannot achieve change unless it becomes an integral part of the community whose values it claims to share. This is why the NDP consistently underestimates the desire for change in its support base and miscalculates its response to the politics of opportunism. If the NDP is confused about whether it’s a party of change or just another competitor on the field, it’s no wonder its potential supporters are confused.

After this election, Canadians will have to address the issue of civic literacy. In the end, the change we seek has to come from us:

If you truly want change, who will be the agent of that change? In other words, it is not so much what is to be done (make your own list) but what model of organizing can begin to accomplish it. Change doesn't just happen because millions of people say they want it. Post-election, this will be the critical task of all progressives -- take what we know is possible and use it to rebuild community, reclaim the commons and build a broad-based social movement with the power to challenge the status quo.

There is a lot of work to be done.


Rural said...

If anyone thinks that the promise (and even the implementation) of proportional representation is going to 'fix' the system then they are going to be sorely disappointed Owen. It is indeed “hard not to conclude that political parties themselves are the biggest barrier to genuine, participatory democracy.” and until said partys reduce their influence in the day to day decisions made in our parliament and bring in parliamentary reform that give the elected individual freedom to speak for the electorate little will change.

Owen Gray said...

Citizens need to remind all political parties of what "responsible government" means, Rural.

the salamander said...

.. I often wonder at the odd politeness or friendliness among Canadian MP's outside the House of Commons. On occasion I've been asked if I would shake Stephen Harper's hand if I ever met him.. and my response is usually dirt simple.. '"Why?" Why would anyone offer a sign of respect or trust to such a shrill deceiver? And any donor, MP, enabler, pollster, strategist, media hack, datawank, lawyer etc who agrees or agreed to be complicit or cooperative in such deception deserves the same contempt.

So in line with the Dobbin premise, indeed.. Canadians need to reclaim control of political public servants.. its not neccesarily the complete system that has become flawed, but rather the people we elected from within their deeply flawed political parties that are failures.. proven liars, even criminal in some cases. Its simply stunning, amost incomprehensible.. that at the very highest level of public servants..within Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister's Government and Party.. Canadians are being lied to and deceived.. and taken for fools.

Owen Gray said...

I agree, salamander. He thinks we're stupid.

Lorne said...

As your post indicates, Owen, the real task of rebuilding our damaged democracy begins on Tuesday. It is vital we all become a part of that process in any way we can.

ron wilton said...

After too many years of harper fortifying the battlements, there is a lot to be undone.

Owen Gray said...

He's done a lot of damage in almost ten years, Ron. There is no quick fix.

Owen Gray said...

This is about a lot more than our politicians, Lorne. This is about us.

Mogs Moglio said...

"This is about us." About sums it up our collective apathy is what allowed this mess and an extreme opportunist to be led by the 'bulls ring' into power and then pretty much made 'executive' decisions to ruin our country for the benefit of very few people. We can ask who are these manipulating self serving cheats or we can say where were we? To busy with the 'baubles and trinkets' these thieves supply to us in return for a latent 'I don't care attitude' they win and we are by our own submission enslaved.

Its rare these days to see young people not totally immersed in their electronic devices. Do they know anything else? If the world was ending would they be upset because they could not have their last twitting?

Owen Gray said...

It's my impression, Mogs, that the young are much more engaged this time around. It will be interesting to see how many of them voted.

The Mound of Sound said...

Harper has done a great deal of damage, Owen. That's obvious. But Dobbin points out that the damage goes beyond the Harper Cons. For the past decade, the Layton-Mulcair era, the NDP did its share to damage Canada's body politic. By abandoning the Left as the price of opportunism, the NDP (with the Liberals in tow) immeasurably aided Harper in his overarching quest to shift Canada's political centre well to the Right. The political spectrum was truncated and that cut off the oxygen needed for debate and vision. We wound up with a bunch of grey suits stuffed with wet cardboard, largely unresponsive to the public need and almost invariably pursuing their partisan political advancement at the expense of the country even as they pretended otherwise.

I'm not confident that either Trudeau or Mulcair would be much interested in the restoration of progressive democracy. That, as I've said so often before, has to begin by the reinstatement of a free press in Canada mandating the break-up of the corporate media cartel whose disaffection for the public was on plain display in their lockstep election endorsements of the Conservatives. As long as their stranglehold on the media is allowed to persist we have little prospect of having that cornerstone of democracy - an informed, politically aware electorate.

I'll be glad to see Harper gone, Odin willing, but that's pretty much were my rejoicing will end.

Owen Gray said...

We have no guarantee of a better future, Mound. But, with Harper gone, we have the possibility of one. What happens next ultimately depends on a lot of things.