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June 27, 2002 Halifax Herald

For responsible government, look south

I'LL START this rant against the Canadian political process, caused this time by the current Liberal leadership "crisis," with a positive by giving a well-deserved pat on the back to Alexa McDonough, a politician who has proven that party leadership and arrogance are not entirely the norms.

It takes a true statesman/woman to recognize the end when it stares them in the face and have the good sense to gracefully exit. A tip of the hat to you Alexa!

Although I disagree wholeheartedly with your unwavering belief in the benefits of uncontrolled socialism, I never once doubted your integrity and sincerity.

Before turning to the subject of Canada's dysfunctional political system, I'll take a pot shot at Buzz Hargrove, one of Alexa's most ardent critics. He, like most other labour leaders, enjoys the comfort and perks provided by a very generous salary.

Yet, from his comfortable pew, he depicts himself to be a champion of the poor and downtrodden. If this is indeed the case, one would think that he would be out battling tirelessly to end the gross wage disparity that unions have helped create in this country between the haves and have-nots - the gap between minimum wage earners and upper scale union workers and management is now so wide that the mighty Mississippi River looks like a narrow stream in comparison.

It would be uplifting to see a plan come out of unionism, with Hargrove the chief architect, that would in the end provide a livable income for the poor by capping the income of the upper haves until the gap closes to a reasonable level.

It's not more government handouts that the able-bodied poor need, it's justice - the means to live by self-reliance.

Now for the country's ongoing political circus. In the history of democracy, no political system has ever become so out of whack with the principles of democracy as ours.

Certainly, nothing today, outside of dictatorships, could rival the archaic political process Canada has in place. In fact, it has grown so imperially archaic that it excludes the citizenry to the extent that it would fit in well with the politics of the Middle Ages.

The degree of exclusion is well illustrated by the shenanigans of the prime minister and the leadership hopefuls, unveiled by the current split in the Liberal party. They are carrying out the spat, with an eye toward courting Liberal party members, as if the general population didn't exist.

Perhaps the most disturbing feature of the party's spat is the sheep-like acquiescence - except for Paul Martin - to Chrétien's order to would-be successors to stop campaigning.

I watched in awe as Allan Rock, Sheila Copps etc. went before TV cameras and declared in words of this nature: "We must obey because the welfare of the party comes before all else." Not one of them uttered the key words that a true democrat must utter in a democracy: "The people's will must come above all else."

And, if the results of the latest polls are to be believed, the people are speaking quite clearly: Chrétien must go and Paul Martin must replace him, contrary to the protestations of the now impotent cabinet leadership candidates.

However, because there isn't any mechanism included in the present system for the people to have their way in such matters, we must, like sheep, leave the fate of our country in the hands of those who love to play political games.

Canada's dysfunctional political system is not something to be proud of. In fact, such things as the firing of Paul Martin, a world respected finance minister, is downright embarrassing, to say the least.

I believe such is cause for radical change. For inspiration, let's look south of the border.

However, before we start, I'll respond to the anti-American rhetoric that my suggestion will inspire from the supporters of the imperialistic system.

Over the years I've read many of your protests about how we are culturally different from the Americans. The bull sometimes borders on the nauseous, because we're not. We watch the same TV, like the same sports, talk the same talk, have the same dreams of building a great life, etc.

The only stark difference is in political practices. It's so glaring that it's like the difference between night and day - they have a responsive, responsible, accountable democratic system. We don't.

Check this out! In the States, there are four separate branches of government to inspire accountability, the executive, the Senate, the House of Representatives and the courts. And, overseeing it all, as a watchdog, is a very independent and vocal news media.

If you doubt the effectiveness of this, the late President Richard Nixon's case should set you straight. In Canada, we have one level, thus the party in power has a free hand to govern itself as it sees fit.

The Americans also have recall, term limits for presidents, etc. as ways to hold their politicians accountable. They can, if they choose, without joining a political party, participate in the process. In Canada, the political party, with loads of vested interests to protect, is the engine that oversees it all. Citizens are reduced to being ineffectual spectators.

This raises the question: Can our system be made democratic? I'd venture to say that such can only be accomplished with the utmost difficulty.

The present system, because it gives the party in power free rein to do almost anything, creates imperial rulers.

And despots don't usually give up their thrones without a heroic fight.

Daniel N. Paul

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