April 3, 1998 Halifax Herald

Now our democracy has a chance to flourish

Chances for a long overdue overhaul of democratic institutions and practices in this province have been greatly enhanced by the results of the March 24th election.

A minority situation forces a government to become subservient to the wishes of the people. For a welcome change, the Party is relegated to playing second fiddle.

Therefore, now is the time for voters to demand the changes required to make the system responsive to their collective will.

For starts, the house should consider election reform. Here are some suggestions. The Elections Act should be amended to restrict the right to vote to Canadian citizens. This is a requirement in federal and municipal elections.

I was ticked off when the enumerator inquired of me if I was a Canadian citizen or a British subject. Get this! Under the present regulations, foreigners from 54 countries can come here, stay for six months, and vote in a Nova Scotia election. This includes visitors from such exotic places as India, Zimbabwe, Malaysia and Australia.

I presume the governments of those Nations would laugh a Canadian back home if he/she attempted to vote in their elections. Also, most would not be overjoyed at seeing their citizens classified as British subjects.

The election results clearly indicate that serious consideration should be given to holding run-off elections. On March 24th, only 17, or a little over 32%, of the 52 candidates elected received absolute majorities - 7 New Democrats, 7 Tories and 3 Grits.

Among those elected with absolute majorities were the three Party leaders, Robert Chisholm by 1,192 votes, John Hamm 1,152, Russell MacLellan by a scant 35. If run-off elections were part of the system, 35 seats would be up for grabs. Twelve Liberals would go up against PC opponents, four Tories would take on NDP rivals and nineteen New Democrats would face Liberal opponents. The end result would reflect majority rule.

Let’s look at political patronage and BST. :

These notes are for the NDP and Tories. Rewarding political hacks with plumb jobs at taxpayers expense is corruption at its worst and, as such, it has no place in a modern Nova Scotia society. The election results have produced a golden opportunity for your parties to put an end to political patronage for all time. Therefore, combine forces and force the government to end it by legislation.

Both parties now have the power to exact positive change in the BST. Accordingly, it is expected that their promises to deal with the negative effects of the BST be honoured.

The Russell MacLellan government must bring in a balanced budget as promised. If not, that government must be defeated and the door opened for the NDP to demonstrate if they have the wherewithal to govern.

Politicians who make promises, as an expedient means of gaining power, must be held accountable for not keeping those promises. The fate of Mr. MacLellan is a good example of what happens to those who don't. In the case of federal broken promises; voters who think that Jean Chrétien got away unscathed with breaking his election promises should think again. Contrary to popular belief, Canadian voters didn't condone what Chrétien did. The reason he was re-elected was that they didn't perceive any credible alternatives.

Let an ethical, charismatic conservative, a person who has no previous connection to Mulrooney, take over the federal Tories and I believe that the PM's so-called popularity, and Preston Manning's too, would take a nose dive.

And let’s see some humility.

For some strange reason, many of the people we elect to public office, something especially true of Liberals, quickly acquire a degree of arrogance that turns them into insufferable asses. Shortly after being elected, many of them begin to view the electorate as mindless peasants who must, without question, follow their dictates. These attitudes belong in an age when kings deemed themselves to have the Divine right to rule, not in a democracy.

The results of the March 24th election clearly indicate that the citizens of Nova Scotia will no longer tolerate arrogant behaviour from politicians. If the power brokers of political parties don't pay heed to this, their future is defeat at the polls by the indignant citizens - for decades to come.

One of the best ways for politicians to get back to basics is for them to remember that Nova Scotia is a small realm. Its not much bigger today than it was in the days when Bob Stanfield often answered his own phone.

To begin to make amends with the voters, politicians should get rid of a lot of the middlemen and women who separate them from the public. The voter must be dealt with directly. Getting in touch with one's MLA, a cabinet member, or even the premier, should not be the exercise in persistence that it is today.

The saddest result from the election was that voter participation slipped to 69 percent. I hope that those who have come to think that they have no influence on how government is conducted will take heart from the election results and vote the next time. We the people, have the power, but it is useless unless we exercise it. The days when political parties think they can dictate to us, instead of us to them, can be ended forever if we the people enforce it.

Daniel N. Paul


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