August 6, 2004, The Halifax Herald Limited

Archaic political system in need of repair

NOW THAT most editorialists and commentators have weighed in and had their thoughtful say about the results of the June 28 federal election, I'll put my words of wisdom about it on the table for comparison.

First and foremost, the Liberals were not handed a mandate by the electorate. That can only be given by the majority of voters - something that no Canadian government has had since Brian Mulroney swept the nation in 1984.

This brings us to the dreamers who advocate a form of proportional representation that would give a political party a bloc of seats based on the number of votes it garnered during an election. Can you imagine the political mess Canada would have today if such had been in place for the last election? Each party, including the Greens, would have seats and the veto power that entails. No business would get done.

I suggest that this group study the Israeli and Italian experiments with such a system. The gridlock in decision-making experienced by both countries because of it should propel them to promote other ways. For instance, where no candidate captures a majority, have a run-off between the two top candidates. The end result would be representatives elected by majorities.

Now, on to party failures.

Liberals: When Paul Martin called the election before resolving the sponsorship scandal, ignoring the fact that because of it his party was trailing badly in Quebec and doing poorly in polls across the land, I deduced that he had lost his marbles. He was begging for defeat, which, if not for the Conservatives being afflicted with "foot in mouth disease," would have been his.

Calling an election under such circumstances raised many questions in the minds of the electors, including one about Martin's good judgment. Foremost among other questions was: Did he call it because he knew that the inquiry would eventually lead to his own doorstep? If Martin hopes to become an effective, trusted prime minister, he must provide the answer forthwith.

My advice to Martin, if he's innocent: Accept that Canadian voters won't forgive until they know all the facts. Thus, focus on clearing up all questions about your personal involvement in the scandal by immediately creating an independent entity to investigate it. If not so inclined, resign, and call a Liberal leadership convention. Failure to act before the next election will see a Liberal defeat, not a legacy you want to leave behind.

Conservatives: In a Jan. 22, 2004, column, entitled "How much Tory tolerance lost in merger?" I stated, "Too much unfavourable baggage from the past is stuck" to Stephen Harper. It proved to be right on. Because of that baggage, the Liberals owe the fact that they are governing to his leadership. In all probability, if Belinda Stronach had won the Conservative party's leadership, Canada would have its first duly elected female prime minister.

My rationale for reaching such a conclusion: During the last 10 days before the election, the party's old Reform element came out of the closet in force and began to make radical, far-right statements about bilingualism, abortion and, probably most harmful, using the notwithstanding clause of the Constitution to deny minority rights or, worse, to nullify court decisions that weren't compatible with what they believe to be Conservative party social philosophy.

Not surprisingly, their outrageous statements placed Harper in the untenable position of trying to distance himself from positions that he had once endorsed, or at least paid lip service to. Which raised in the minds of many electors the issue of trust in him. Obviously, as the election result attests, they didn't buy it.

Now, if Stronach had been leader and had repudiated their statements, it would have been believed because it is well known that she is a fiscal conservative, not a social one. If they hope to someday govern, the radical members of the party must accept and respect the fact that Canadians are not fans of social conservatism.

NDP: Not electable as constituted. Canadians are slowly but surely drifting away from the keystone of NDP philosophy - a belief that interference in everything by the state is positive. In fact, citizens are accepting that in most cases, it is just the opposite. Mr. Layton, new thinking is needed for survival.

Bloc Quebecois: The party would have been reduced to a rump if Martin's Liberals hadn't called the election until after they had favourably resolved the sponsorship scandal. To show appreciation, Gilles Duceppe should adopt Martin as his party's patron saint because it owes its healthy position to him! The before mentioned highlights once again the fact that this country's archaic political system is badly in need of reform. The present apparatus is prone to corruption and manipulation, has no effective checks and balances, etc. That such an archaic system runs so well is a monument to the integrity of the vast majority of our politicians! However, it only takes a few to abuse it; the next scandal could be mind-blowing.

Daniel N. Paul


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