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October 28, 2017 2:56 am

Mike Duffy trial – we have come full circle again

Monday, August 17, 2015 @ 3:44 AM

By Peter Ewart

Ten years ago it was the scandals associated with the Chretien Liberal government’s “Sponsorship Program” (brought to light by the Gomery Inquiry of 2005).

Ten years before that in 1994, it was the Airbus scandal and the controversial brown paper bags of cash handed over to former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney at hotels in New York and Montreal.

Ten years before that in 1984, it was the Turner Liberal government’s patronage appointments to the Senate and other plum government positions.

Today, in 2015, ten years after the Gomery Inquiry, it is the Mike Duffy trial and the revealing of even more lies, deception and cover-up by the ruling Harper Conservatives.

And so it is that about every ten years, the rot and corruption of whichever government is in power overflows the garbage can and spills out into the public arena to stink up the politics of the country.

This doesn’t mean that there are not lots of other smaller scandals during the intervening ten years. For example, the Harper government has had many mini-scandals since it took office, as have previous governments. However, with those ones, the party in power is usually able to wrap them up in perfume-scented plastic bags and disappear them down the maw of the garbage can.

How can we break out of this circle of rot and corruption? It is clearly not just a question of throwing out the reigning party and electing another. Yes, the Harper government deserves to be defeated, just as the previous Liberal and Progressive Conservative ones did. But what will stop the newly-elected government from simply filling up a new garbage can?

Clearly the problem runs deeper. Indeed, it is systemic in nature. The opposition parties are calling for electoral reform such as bringing in a proportional representation or alternative ballot voting method. While there may be some improvements over the current first-past-the-post method, a fundamental problem remains.

And that is, under the current party-dominated electoral system, the Canadian people are kept out of any real input or decision-making. Instead, the political parties in Parliament (and especially the governing party), have a monopoly on power and operate together as a cartel that keeps Canadians marginalized, reducing us to the level of mere spectators watching a highly-scripted reality show.

Unfortunately, as experience has amply shown, governing political parties, which are private organizations backed by private interests, are prone to corruption and influence-peddling .

There is much talk about the importance of “checks and balances” on government power. However, as many observers have noted, the existing “checks and balances” are not working and are becoming increasingly disfunctional. As a result, we move inexorably towards more dictatorial government and the erosion and snuffing out of our rights.

We do need “checks and balances” on government power, just as we need more transparency and accountability, rather than the existing garbage can politics. But how can this be achieved?

We need a profound reform and renewal of the electoral process, one that will institute new mechanisms to expand and deepen democracy, empower Canadians, and enshrine our right to be decision-makers on fundamental issues.

Instead of major decisions being cooked up in the backrooms of government and faraway corporate offices, and then shoved down the throats of voters, the citizens of Canada must be brought into the process, whether it is on economic development, security, taxation, resource extraction, health care, or other issues that impact our lives and futures.

This is not simply a matter of having referenda on issues or other isolated reforms but rather a profound restructuring of the political process.

Garbage cans operate in the dark. True democracy brings light, transparency and accountability. The best check on government is the people themselves – the governed become an integral part of governing. But we need an electoral system that can bring this about.

We need to break the circle.

Peter Ewart is a columnist and writer based in Prince George, British Columbia. He can be reached at: peter.ewart@shaw.ca





Firstly the Duffy trial is not about Duffy and his expenses, although that is technically what he is on trial for.

The real scandal here that the Prime Minster used his powers of appointment to appoint senators to be used for electioneering and fund raising events, all the while expensing their costs to the tax payer. This was under the full knowledge and direction of the PMO and gave an unfair advantage during the last election showing not just the corruption of a governing party, but rather the corruption of the democratic process.

It should not be forgot that the Duffy scandal is about using tax dollars to pervert and steal our elections for private partisan interests.

And on the issue of our failing democracy. With the inclusion of international settlement tribunals in our trade agreements we no longer have a democracy… they out sourced the decision making to the City of London bankers. Our constitution has been sidelined and our democracy has a new master.

When our democracy began we didn’t have political parties in the legislature, and in BC we didn’t get political parties for nearly a half century. The notion of political parties themselves was seen as a form of enabling corruption. The political parties themselves was an outgrowth of international forces on our democracy… first in business and then socially.

If we want to take back our democracy from the shadows, then we need to dis-empower the party system and its hold on power.

I see the proportional representation system as a form of guaranteeing political party power over our system, so I strongly oppose that form of electing representatives to power. I am encouraged to see the NDP electing their local nominees via the transferable ballot as an endorsement of a truly democratic way of running an election process.

I think the way to take the power out of the party system is for the first step to implement the transferable ballot process for local representation. This allows for more candidates with a viable chance at getting elected and thus running… giving choice to the voter and thus no clear winner on the first ballot, and therefor a consensus chance for any candidate to clear the 50% majority.

Once we have elected representatives that owe their election victory to their local riding, rather than the party, we can use a sovereign government to empower the legislature to appoint positions based on parliamentary votes rather than party appointments. Corruption would then have no place to hid and no patron to protect them from their crimes.

I’ll stick to Mr. Ewart’s story and say that if Mr. Duffy had not been greedy and taken the $32 G this would have been wrapped “up in perfume-scented plastic bags and disappear them down the maw of the garbage can.” Duffy’s greed is the only reason we are hearing about this and every decade is a good time for a change just wish that could be done provincially as well.

People on the left support proportional representation because it gives them a seat at the table that they might not ever get with the first past the post system.

There is actually nothing wrong with our system of Government, in fact it is among the best in the world. Only those on the outside looking in, like a kid with his nose to the window of the candy shop, would think differently.

There was a couple of columns written by the Associate editor of the Citizen Arthur Williams on the subject of the Westminster system. One dated July 15 and one the 16th. Well written and very educational. I strongly suggest that people read it.

There is nothing wrong with the system, the problem lies with voter apathy, and the inability for a large number of Canadians to understand that they can join any political party in the Country and start to make changes. There is no piano tied to our asses. We can do this starting to morrow if we chose to, however it seems people are not inspired.

Having people who are politically motivated and trying to change the system for ideological reasons in not the answer. The answer lies with working with the system that we presently have and making our elected representatives more responsible. This is where the answer lies.

Join a party and get involved. Changing the system is a cop out that will only create a bigger problem down the line.

Socialism is a failed experiment. We need to move forward.

I disagree. I think voter apathy is a result of people not feeling a connection to the limited choices they have in a party centric system that represents the party power brokers first and foremost.

I honestly don’t like any of the national party choices. They are all flawed… but if I could vote for an independent on my first ballot and their support would track to another party or candidate in building a majority on second choices then that works for me.

I think changing the system to a transferable ballot would mean more people would run, thereby no one candidate getting a majority on the first ballot with more choice and more independents running. I think the transferable ballot takes the power of a party whip out of the political system because the voter base becomes transparent.

With a transferable ballot we have a legal source of statistics on where the source of ones elected support arrives from. Under the party centric first past the post system, the base of support is all subjective.

Under the transferable ballot the smaller vote getters get eliminated, and their voters second choice is distributed, history gets a record of the irritations of voter choice in the aggregate that can be seen by the gains of the leaders as the looser fall to the way side.

It would provide a clearer picture of representative accountability and show over time the shifting alliances of various factions within the political scene as they join forces to build a majority thereby encouraging the consensus building process that bring into politics the full spectrum of voter choice and support.

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