- Jim Coyle wonders whether or democracy is in decline, and cites as evidence the utter disconnect between the primary functions of elected representatives and the way politics are covered in the media:
(R)eal influence and authority has left the precincts — drifting inexorably over recent decades into first ministerial offices, where cabals of unelected appointees make most decisions that matter and tell elected members what to say and how to vote.- But it's worth putting the concern about the disempowerment of elected representatives in context. And while the Cons' rejection of accountability in budgeting serves as a typical example of the executive decreeing that Parliament shouldn't be able to know what Canada's government is doing, it does seem noteworthy that Con MPs joined the opposition parties in agreeing that there's a serious problem to be addressed.
Luminaries such as economist Don Drummond have far more access to premiers, and far more sway over public affairs, than any mere MPP.
In exit interviews of federal members, conducted in 2011 by the Samara democracy research organization, MPs characterized themselves as “potted plants” and “clapping seals.”
Their greatest frustrations, they said, usually came from the arbitrary demands and punishments of their own parties. Many admitted to voting for bills or measures with which they did not agree.
They said the politics most commonly seen by the public “did little to advance anything constructive.” The most useful work by MPs was done away from the spotlight, they said, in caucus or in the less-partisan environment of committees not much covered by journalists. What is showcased, instead, is theatre, posturing, stonewalling and, too often, vicious personal attacks.
- No, we shouldn't put too much stock in the results of the federal by-elections called today for votes on November 26. But it's well highlighting how the Cons' spin about them lacks any basis in reality - and Kady is up to the task.
- Finally, Gerald Caplan writes about Canada's developing culture war:
(T)here’s something larger going on here. There’s an irreconcilable clash of cultures. There are two diametrically opposite ways of seeing the world constituting a profound conflict of values. So not only do the two sides disparage each other, they can’t begin to understand each other.
It’s a good bet that Rob Ford enthusiasts and Omar Khadr antagonists are mostly the same people and that both are part of Stephen Harper’s original and most reliable base. This 30 per cent – although not necessarily the support he has received beyond them, especially in the last election – disproportionately opposes abortion, gay marriage and gun control and denies global warming and evolution. Many, paradoxically, belong to the 99 per cent. As in the U.S. and Europe, culture often trumps class. They resent more successful peers rather than the 1 per cent.
These are the new conservatives, threatened by a world where the only certainty is constant dizzying change. They find less and less in common with other Canadians who in turn find them baffling, strangers in a strange land. The two groups can barely connect with each other. This is not the Canada we once knew and no one knows how to deal with it.