Friday, December 12, 2008

A rough patch for the democratic process in Ottawa

Democracy has found itself in the shadows for much of this month in Ottawa, as the national political scene sees any number of machinations that haven’t exactly been providing the clarion call of the democratic process.

Democracy’s bad month started off with the surprise announcement of a coalition of opposition parties, meeting in the back rooms of Ottawa to develop their plans to claim the levers of power in the capital, without the need of a formal endorsement of the population.

While according to Parliamentary procedures they had the right to propose such a venture, the reaction in many parts of the nation suggested that it wasn’t a particularly popular move, especially in the nature of the participants from the less than electable Stephane Dion as the leader, and with the blessing and apparent consultation of the separatist Bloc Quebecois.

To a lesser degree, a good number of Canadians, including many Liberals it seems, were a little perturbed at the prospect of the participation of NDP members in cabinet.

From that cabal of the coalition sprung the second wave of democracies bad moments, as the Prime Minister rather than face a non confidence vote in the House of Commons, instead sought out the Governor General to allow the prorogation of Parliament, in effect, putting Participatory Democracy on the shelf until January 26th.

With some time on their hands and a leader clearly not capturing the fancy of the nation, the Liberals decided the time was nigh to make a change. And so with time of the essence, they decided to pass on that troublesome need to consult the Liberal rank and file and instead announced the coronation of Michael Ignatieff.

The new leader of the Liberals was put in his new position through a decision by caucus, no need for a convention, no need for any debates, speeches or policy sessions, instead Stephen Harper’s mishandling of his first days of governance, provided Ignatieff with the job he lost out on not that long ago to Stephane Dion, handed to him with not much more than hey, the job's yours.

Along the way, coalition promoter and would be Liberal leadership candidate Bob Rea fell by the wayside, having read the tea leaves and realizing that the momentum for Ignatieff had all but finished off his ambitions for the leadership. Only days before he reached his inevitable decision, he had been urging the Liberals to make sure that the grass roots Liberals and all of the nations riding associations were consulted in the leadership process and that they be allowed to have a say in the next leader of the party. Expediency it seems trumped consultation.

The Liberals chose to take a pass on that spirit of democracy and instead from a backroom on Parliament Hill, we now have a new leader for the Liberals.

With the clock now running for Stephen Harper, the final installment of democracy’s days of misery come with the Prime Minister making plans to announce some eighteen Senate positions to be filled by Conservatives. Gone apparently the long time Conservative idea that the Senate positions might be better served by elected members, with the potential of the Conservatives possibly losing their grip on Ottawa power, it’s a mad dash to the gravy train for eighteen lucky Conservatives.

Putting aside the rather unseemly bit of business of filling the pork barrels while the House is forced to sit idle due to the inability of the elected politicians to get along in any fashion, the rush for Senate seats once again should draw attention to the need for reform of that particular portion of our Parliamentary process.

But then again, judging by what has gone on over the last two weeks, it’s just another bit of evidence of the disconnect that the politicians in the capital seem to have from the folks that have sent them there.

Perhaps with the perspective of their forced vacation, they’ll return in January with a renewed dedication to being a little less autocratic and more inclined towards reflecting the wishes of the Canadian electorate, a weary portion of the Canadian landscape that is surely wondering what is in the drinking water in Ottawa these days.

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