The Strength of our Democracy

Good Sunday Morning,

Paddling for the Peace and the Inlet

Saanich_Paddle.JPGIt’s Friday night and I’m charging the batteries of my sloop as I start to write this. By the time you read it, a small crew and I will have joined some of you at the paddle for the inlet flotilla in Brentwood Bay to draw attention to that pristine environment and the peril it faces from the proposed pipeline and floating gas terminal. While we were paddling for the Saanich Inlet, Elizabeth was up near Fort St. John where she said this:

"The Paddle for the Peace has defended the natural beauty of the incredible Peace River for the past 11 years, and First Nations have been defending it for centuries”

Elizabeth goes on to point out that Site C had an excellent environmental review under the pre-2012 Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. That review established that the project would cause permanent environmental damage that cannot be mitigated and that Site C would also cause permanent loss of treaty rights to Treaty 8 First Nations. The Royal Society of Canada, our premier scientific academy, has described the Site C Joint Review Panel report as the strongest and most negative review to be ignored by government.

The previous false majority government used it's absolute power to not only gut our environmental review process but also to issue all permits for Site C during a two-week period, in the middle of the federal election. One might presume they did this just in case they would loose their grip on power.

The Committee meets again

160707_ERRE_Mayrand_Elizabeth.jpgThat's why electoral reform matters to all of us. If climate change is teaching us anything it's that it can't be about us versus them anymore. We no longer have the luxury of building ideological fortresses and ramming through our agendas before being turfed out of office. That old paradigm is totally insufficient to solve this global challenge. We need to find new structures with built in checks and balances and develop a new collaborative approach to decision making. All of us face the danger, all of us will reap the reward if we succeed in solving it. Even those that are actively denying this compelling reality will have grandchildren who can look forward to brighter and more secure future.

So it was interesting that I saw how some of the discussion last week at the meetings of the Electoral Reform Committee was driven by folks that simply could not let go of that outdated paradigm. Instead of looking for ways to find common ground they were entrenched in cynicism and a single minded focus on an agenda that had nothing to do with fixing our Electoral System. It felt like we had hired a mechanic to fix our car and then all he wants to do is tell us that we should spend ten times as much as it would cost to fix it, to first ask all the members of our family if they think the car is really broken and needs a new carburetor. Isn’t that what we pay the mechanic to figure out?  

A system that repeatedly allows 39% of the voters to put in place a government that has 100% of the power is clearly broken. To short sighted eyes it might seem like a windfall when the power falls into their lap but it’s still broken. The prize of absolute power might be too seductive to let principle stand in its way but it’s still broken. In a famous quote from Al Gore he points out the underlying challenge of climate change. “It’s very difficult for someone to understand something if his paycheck depends on him not understanding it.” I would argue the same holds true for electoral reform. People who succeed under the divisive, polarized politics of first past the post have little interest in altering the status quo.

And yet the electoral reform officer reminds us that it is the job parliamentarians to grow and strengthen our democracy by considering deeply not only the consequences of their actions but also the consequences of their inaction. "The very strength of our democracy lies within our ability to question its functioning and to seek ways to improve it."

And this is what we have a right to expect from the Special Committee on Electoral Reform. For anyone to act in a way that is contrary to their own personal self interest takes courage, it takes commitment, and it takes an adherence to a higher set of principles. We celebrate this kind of behaviour in our families, in our religions, in our team sports and in our military. Why would we not celebrate it, indeed expect it, in our politicians? Why would we not applaud that a false majority government has set in motion a process whereby they will pass legislation to end false majorities for all time.

That is the expectation raised by our current prime minister and this week’s appearance by Maryam Monsef before the committee has further raised those expectations. The decision to implement real change to our electoral system will be made by this government holding a majority in the house. The committee is simply charged to gather a broad spectrum of information and advise the government on the best, made in Canada system they should enact.  

Special Town Hall, July 18th

defense.jpgIt’s all part of a paradigm of responsible government through citizen engagement, long championed by Elizabeth and now increasingly permeating the ethos of parliament, that lies at the core of our Green values. Another example of this is the town hall scheduled for July 18 at the Mary Winspear Centre. Elizabeth has invited Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defense, the Honourable John McKay, to hear from you.  

Canada has a proud tradition of courage as a peacekeeper on the world stage. A tradition that in recent years has been subjugated to a persistent fear of terrorists. And as Elizabeth reminded us in this speech at the hanger in May of 2015 fear never makes for good decisions. This is our chance to ask questions and hear first hand about the role Canada’s military will play on the world stage in the years ahead. Come join us.


Have a glorious week
Thomas.


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