During the Martin/Harper minority years, people spoke of the “dysfunctional Parliament”, to such an extent the Conservatives successfully framed anything less than a majority as the antithesis of “good government”. In some respects our collective memories had almost forgotten how majority governments actually work in this country, we are now getting a RUDE awakening, as the Harper government operates more like a “regime” than democratic creation. A strong, stable government is really code for an almost omnipotent entity, that freely stifles debate, somehow turns 39.6% into 100% DOMINATION of everything and anything.
The inherent problem with Canadian democracy- never more stark and revealing than this moment- with each successive layer peeled away, true power resides in an alarming few. A minority vote translates to majority rule, within that minority vote a inner circle of key MP’s largely frames the debate, within that group a small cadre of mostly unelected operatives within the PM’s office dictates the direction of the entire government apparatus. We have a democracy which someone manifests itself into a virtual dictatorship in practice, based on dubious electoral math. Minorities might be messy, but they provide an accountability function which evaporates in alarming fashion once 50 plus 1 is achieved.
As the linked piece by Dan Gardner explains, all majorities operate like totalitarian regimes, but with this Harper government we are witnessing a new expression in terms of degree. It is legitimate to ask, what is the point of Parliament in a majority circumstance, particularly one where the government routinely shuts down even the window dressing that is “debate”? What do MP’s really do in a majority? Is it fair to say they are empty vessels, essentially representing no one, standing up and down without any true power? Most government MP’s are drones, programmed to perform a function, but devoid of truly diverting from the chosen course. Opposition MP’s don’t hold the government to any standard, at least not in ways that necessarily demands a seat in Parliament. The government doesn’t like any particularly debate, they unilaterally shut it down, no true exchange, nor even the slightest indication that any legitimate suggestion would be considered. When you distance yourself from the process that brings people to power, the concrete practice of yielding power is ALARMING in this country.
There are plenty of ideas floating around to reform our system. While solutions still remain somewhat disjointed and piecemeal, the core problems are quickly coming into focus. Perhaps, if there is one “silver lining” in enduring this particular regime, their continual abuse of power will provide the tipping point for a system which isn’t just sick, it’s effectively dead in terms of FUNCTIONING democracy.