Thanks to the interminable federal election campaign and accompanying media coverage, our attention has been directed for the past couple months to the federal level of government. Now that the election is finally over, can we please turn our attention to the local level – the most important level of government in Canada? You must be kidding, is probably your instinctive reaction, but bear with me while I make the case for our local governments.
In my previous blog, I noted that the door to democratic revival had been opened with the defeat of the autocratic government of Stephen Harper and the election of a Liberal Government that included democratic reform in its campaign platform. But I also emphasized the need for continuing vigilance since parties, once in office, find centralized decision making all too comfortable and rarely implement the reforms they once promised.
The election is over. You voted (or didn’t). So now you can go back to ignoring Canadian politics most of the time, right? Wrong. If we are going to have a revival of democracy in this country, your work is just beginning and your ongoing involvement is essential.
We have taken the first critical step, by voting to replace what has arguably been the most anti-democratic government in the history of this country. The widespread abuses by the Harper Government have been well documented and it was difficult to imagine any revival of Canadian democracy as long as the Conservatives remained in power. In electing a Liberal Government, we have chosen a political party that included in its campaign platform a pledge of democratic reform.
It is understood and grudgingly accepted that many politicians have only a passing acquaintanceship with the truth during the throes of an election. Sadly, it is also the case that negative “attack ads” have proven fairly effective in recent campaigns. The latest missive from the Conservatives, however, is so outrageous and dishonest that it can only be viewed as an act of desperation by a party that finds itself overtaken by the Liberals in a series of recent polls.
A Globe and Mail report provides an example of the excessive power wielded by Canada’s Shadow Government – those unknown, unelected staff in the PMO who exist to support and implement Prime Minister’s Harper’s authoritarian control over almost all aspects of federal government operations.
The recent signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will be praised by the Conservative Government as further evidence of its effectiveness in managing the economy and attacked by opposition parties and various groups for selling out Canadian interests. It is almost certain that the claims of both sides will be shown as exaggerated over the coming years. In the meantime, it is important to step back and put this new trade deal in perspective.
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.