The hallmark of a democratic country is that its citizens have a regular opportunity to choose their representatives through elections that are free and fair. This means elections in which basic civil liberties such as freedom of speech, association, and assembly are honoured. It also means an election process that encourages public participation and debate.
Prime Minister Harper has repeatedly insisted that only Nigel Wright knew about the $90,000 cheque to Senator Mike Duffy and that he was not aware until the story broke in the media. But as a result of the ongoing Duffy trial and the media coverage thereof we know the following:
The key issue in the upcoming federal election is, or ought to be, the kind of government system that we want to have in Canada. While a variety of factors, some inevitable, have combined to shift power increasingly to the executive branch over the past half century or more, it is beyond dispute that the past decade has seen a massive increase in this trend – as a result of actions deliberately pursued by the Conservative Party.
According to the two main opposition parties, the main issue often seems to be which one of them is promising more to help the middle class (which has been a primary focus so far in the election campaign). To its credit, the Liberal Party has also set out a fairly wide-ranging program for democratic reform.
According to the governing party, the key issues are the economy and security, both of which have been presented as matters that Canadians should be worried about unless we reelect the Conservatives. They have surprisingly little to offer with respect to these two issues, however, none of it reassuring.
In one of my books, I cite a story that has made the rounds for several decades. It concerns the “International Conference on the Elephant,” an event to which learned scholars were invited to present research papers on some aspect of the elephant. The highlights of the Conference featured four papers, from Britain, France, the United States, and Canada. They were entitled as follows:
Britain: The Elephant and the Empire
France: The Sex Life of the Elephant
United States: How to Build Bigger and Better Elephants
Canada: Elephants: A Federal or Provincial Responsibility
Rather like that small boy who grabs his marbles and goes home when the game is not proceeding to his liking, Prime Minister Harper’s behaviour is often petulant and petty. This pattern is illustrated below with examples of pointing fingers, stamping a foot, and covering the ears.
C. Richard Tindal, Ph.D is a retired Professor of Government. He taught for 30 years at St. Lawrence College, Kingston and was an occasional Visiting Professor at Queen's University. He has also written and consulted extensively about government.