At the heart and soul of democracy is debate. It is how we learn about the issue at hand, to hear differing views, even if we do not agree with them, in order to make a decision that serves our best interests as individuals. Without this deliberation we have a form of tyranny, which imposes ideals upon denizens within a society.
Canada is not a democracy, in the true sense of the word, but, rather, it is a representative democracy: we choose people who should represent us when making decisions for our society. Recently, however, the Trudeau government has decided to limit the debate around proposed legislation, which should raise concerns. Though they profess that this will increase the efficiency within Parliament, we, as citizens will have to place a trust in government truly working for us.
It is difficult to place a trust in any government that breaks promises, is not clear in its intent during elections, or is just disingenuous, and calling this “politics” only leads to further distrust in our political system. Party politics, the desire for power by one group over another, has played a key part in undermining our efficacy in the political system here in Canada, and Canadians no longer feel their voices matter, nor can they see any level of accountability, especially when majority governments can push through any legislation.
It would seem that the checks and balances of our political system have been subverted by the current system of government. Parliament is supposed to oversee the actions of the cabinet, but this rarely happens with a majority government. The senate, though initially designed to curb our liberal democracy, could play a constructive role in our legislative process, but it too is mired in party politics. And finally, the residual powers held by the Governor General have long since been reduced to being a rubber stamp for legislation. Though as citizens, we may challenge our members of Parliament to represent our views, again the party system takes precedent. Only the media is left to question the government, and its credibility has sadly been undermined through perceived partisanship.
As one can see through diminishing voter turnout, faith with our political system is waning, and our system is in need of reform, but whom do we trust to make these changes? This is why debate is important, because, if nothing more, it creates the illusion that our system is working, even if it is marred by political partisanship. It allows us, as the enfranchised, to learn of the issues of the day and to develop our own views on these matters. But without these discussions, the questioning of the intention of our politicians and the political system, we are no more enfranchised than the slaves in the original Greek democracy, and Canada’s democracy has become debatable.
John Kennair is an international consultant and doctor of laws who lives in St. Albert.