The ideal liberal democracy, the one we are supposed to strive to be, is one that follows a three part construction: the rule of law, a moral concept that is founded around justice, among other virtues (moderation, prudence, and fortitude); accountability, through a strong civil society, reporting to the people, and a diligent media; a representative government that looks toward the well-being of all its citizens. These three positions interact to maintain a stable and balanced society, checking the powers of each, but more importantly limiting the powers of ‘the state.’ Of course, this is a paradigmatic theory, one which we most likely will never see, solely because we are not perfect as humans.
This does not mean that we should not try to be better, yet many so-called democratic countries, including Canada, are falling short in their endeavours.
The previous Harper government was remiss in its level of accountability to both parliament and the Canadian people. This was partially why they were ousted from power at the last election. Yet, it has recently been reported that the Trudeau administration is also is failing in this respect (remember, the Liberals campaigned on government being more accountable). Such hypocrisy seems to be a constant within Canadian politics.
The recent controversy surrounding Finance Minister Bill Morneau, among others, for failing to use a ‘blind trust’ regarding his investments, further undermines our trust within our governmental leaders. Their simple argument surrounding such loopholes may be within the letter of the law, but they transgress our inherent sense of justice and fairness.
This also raises another question, looking at the ties of our government leaders and their links to ‘big business’. How many decisions over the years have catered to those interests, at the expense of the Canadian citizenry? We have seen the handouts with corporate welfare and the recent decision not to tax stock options as examples. These acts raise the question of whether Canada is more like an oligarchy than a democracy, especially as many politicians retire to the Boards of those same companies.
We have recently seen with Bill 62 in Quebec the placating of populist interests, which is a flaw of democracies, known as the Tyranny of the Majority. Such actions transgress the rule of law and various Canadian values, yet the decisions surrounding this were made because they were politically expedient, serving various political interests, both provincially and federally.
All of the actions undermine our faith and confidence within our governments, creating a cynicism for politics in general, brushing these actions aside as the common practice of government. Surrendering to such thoughts means that we have already given up. But in recognizing our shortcomings as a country, we can strive to do better. We can demand better, for there is always hope that we can evolve into a healthier democracy, a healthier Canada.
John Kennair is an international consultant and doctor of laws who lives in St. Albert.