What Democracy, Eh?

By: Greg Vezina

We have lost our most basic fundamental, democratic rights to biased-polling based, follow-the-leader, horse-race, media-manipulated, divide-and-conquer, major party, and partisan politics.

A few decades ago, MPs and MPPs were listened to by their leaders, they by and large represented their constituents, and political party names were not even on ballots in federal or provincial elections.

Party membership approved the policies leaders and candidates campaigned on and they were generally implemented by the winners with the power to do it.

Today, most party members have become little more than cheerleaders and campaign backdrops.

The leaders’ offices in most parties in Canada, in or out of government, manipulate local candidate nominations, conventions, party executive elections, party policies and constitutions, dismissing or not allowing appeals.

Ontario Progressive Conservative Party Premier Mike Harris won a huge majority in 1995 after his Common Sense Revolution promise to pass provincial and municipal citizen referendum laws that were drafted and circulated for public comment by 1998, yet he never did it.

Federal NDP Leader Jack Layton had opportunities with three minority governments in which he could have pushed party policies for electoral reform, but chose instead to make a deal for a joint effort with Conservative Opposition Leader Stephen Harper to crush the Liberals, helping make Harper Prime Minister and Layton Opposition Leader.

Would-be local candidates filed complaints and lawsuits relating to irregularities in more than a dozen riding nominations of the Ontario P.C. Party in the lead up to the June 2018 provincial election, and there are still several ongoing police investigations.

The BC NDP’s 2017 election gender policy stipulated that any departing NDP MLA must be replaced by a woman or “equity-seeking candidate” so only a male from a racial minority group, First Nation or the LGBTQ community would qualify, prompting the married white male Mayor of Invermere, BC, with a one-year-old son to identify himself as bisexual.

We had two Trudeau Liberal Prime Ministers promise electoral reform as did Jean Chretien in between them. Way back in 1919 they adopted a proportional representation policy at their convention.

Justin Trudeau’s supposed feminist policies include quotas for cabinet members and are mandated to apply to all tax policies, but they don’t when it comes to the greatest barrier to their entry in politics: money, primarily non-refundable federal political tax credits, which widely favour wealthy men, especially white men.

Only fifty percent of non-refundable federal political tax credits are claimed annually, but over ninety nine percent of Ontario’s fully refundable political tax credits are.

All 183 incumbent federal Liberal MPs are being exempted from running in local nomination races for the upcoming 2019 election.

In Manitoba you can legally “decline your ballot” by writing that on it, but in Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta where they also allow declined ballots, you have to do it publicly giving up your right to a secret ballot.

A recent 2017 ground-breaking ruling by Ontario Court of Appeal Justice Ian Nordheimer in a case involving judicial review of the federal NDP’s refusal to approve a leadership candidate determined political party activities are reviewable by Courts.

Ontario P. C. Premier Ford is appealing the September 10, 2018, decision by Ontario Superior Court Justice Edward Belobaba that Ontario’s Bill 5, which transformed the political process of municipal elections already underway in Toronto, was both unconstitutional and it undermined an otherwise fair and equitable election process, concluding "The province has clearly crossed the line."

Ford recalling the legislature to use the Notwithstanding clause in the Charter to pass the Bill to decrease the number of councillors as planned, does not mean he will actually be able to do it before the now legally mandated election of 47 Toronto councillors on October 22, 2018.

Court delays to prevent implementing Ford’s amended Bill before then will likely be met with back-stop or Trojan-horse provisions within it taking effect the day after the election allowing the newly elected council to be dissolved, new elections being called, and may include new surprise municipal term limits.

Canadians should be pleased to know that judges in our courts appear increasingly willing to act in the public interest against the vested and special interests, especially when ruling on matters that pit crass politics against real democracy, eh!

“Crickets”, the Judge said!

Vezina is co-author of Democracy, Eh? A Guide to Voter Action and Leader of Ontario’s None of the Above Direct Democracy Party.