Thursday, December 31, 2009

Prorogation of Parliament: Further Proof that Canada is the Fossil of the Year

During the Copenhagen Summit, Canada had the dubious distinction of being selected as the fossil of the year for its failure to respect its obligations under the Kyoto Accord and its underwhelming targets for further Green House Gas reductions. Locked in our colonial past, we have difficulty letting go of concepts and practices that are more appropriate to 17th and 18th centuries and embracing a mindset suited to the context of the 21st century.

For instance, look at the manner that Parliament was suspended yesterday. The Prime Minister of a minority government, which has the support of less than one-quarter of the electorate, telephoned the representative of a foreign monarch to request that Parliament be prorogued, and the request was granted thereby suspending the work our Parliamentarians should be carrying out on behalf of the people.

In short, we are locked into a constitutional arrangement that bypasses any notion of a modern democracy in which the majority of the population exercises its democratic will. Instead, we are ruled by the regime of the strongest man who plays by the political rules set out in Britain during the Middle Ages.

In this arrangement, the strongest man is the one who actually controls and dominates the most territory, and it is he who in principle exercises the power of the crown that has dominion over the entire territory. Over time, military campaigns were replaced by electoral campaigns in order to determine to whom the subjects within a demarcated territory owed their fealty.

Transposed into the 21st century, here in Canada we are still looking to find the man who can control the majority of the parcelled territories as determined by the results of the electoral wars. The Prime Minister of the day has control of the greatest number of parcelled territories, also know as electoral districts, but doesn’t control an absolute majority of the districts. As a result, he can be deposed by the leader or group of leaders from opposing political clans, with the caveat that another political battle must take place, otherwise known as a general election, to see which of the aspirants to the crown controls the greatest number of districts. To the winner go the spoils of victory, sovereign control of the entire territory, until the next electoral battle is called, usually at the whim of the strongest man, or sooner if a pretender to the crown dares to topple a strong man who controls less than an absolute majority of the territories.

With regard to controlling a parcelled territory, fealty is an all or nothing proposition for the subjects within the district. It goes to the winner of the electoral battle determined by the aspirant who garners the most votes. No majority is required, and the winner will in turn pledge his fealty to the leader of the political clan to whom he owes his victory.

These are the basic rules which govern Canada. They are archaic at best.

So, the question arises, how is Canada to take its place amongst other modern democracies of the world? The correct response it that it cannot take its place amongst modern nations until it replaces its crown-in-parliament governance. To do this, Canada must move beyond its simple winner-take-all electoral campaigns that allow a minority of like-minded individuals to usurp political control from the majority.

If we continue to live under the regime of the strongest man, we will be perpetually focused on the contest to seize the crown, leaving us unable to participate meaningfully in negotiations that require a perspective that transcends notions of territorial sovereignty.

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