Saturday, 30 November 2013

The Reform Act and a Parliamentary Culture Shift

Michael Chong’s proposed private member’s bill – his Reform Act – has received considerable attention since it was first announced, attracting high profile praise from the likes of columnist Andrew Coyne and equal measures of dismissal from, of all places, the federal New Democrats. As Coyne rightly describes it, should even some of its apparently rudimentary measures come into force, the bill could be nothing short of the first shot in a growing salvo. It could be the tipping point in a much larger spate of democratic reform. Importantly as well it refocuses public attention away from the distraction that is the Senate, instead focussing on the genuine democratic deficit in the House of Commons. Yes, the Senate is unelected, but its abolition would contribute little if anything to enhancing our democracy. Something more necessary is required.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Dumbocracy Botch: Democracy Watch's Civic Illiteracy Strikes Again

Democracy Watch and its feckless founder continue to display a profound and stunning inability to grasp the
basic workings of the institutions they seek to improve. For a group that vocally claims to promote basic civic literacy among the general population it continues to demonstrate that as an organization it lacks the collective expertise, wisdom and common sense to fulfill its own mandate. Indeed, the more successful Democracy Watch and its Canadian campaigns are, the more irreparable damage will be done to our collective understanding of how Canadian democracy actually functions.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

The Myth of Fiscal Conservatism

I’ve always been curious and more than a little perplexed by the phrase “I’m a fiscal conservative”. It’s confusing because it is most often expressed by individuals who vote (Progressive) Conservative and feel that what is a seemingly self-evidently contradictory action – yes, I’m pro-choice, no I’m not anti-gay – needs immediate explanation. “I’m a fiscal conservative” is an almost defensive posture.

It’s also fundamentally at odds with reality. Our big-C Conservative governments are rarely if ever fiscally responsible in the sense of responsible management of public funds. Federally the record is quite clear. The fiscally conservative party is actually the Liberal party. The last two Prime Ministers who managed to balance the budget did so because they both inherited a surplus from the previous government. In both cases they were quick to squander the fiscal breathing room.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Poppies, Politics and the War for Remembrance

It has become an almost inescapable reality that the history of Western states is bound up with their military heritage. The degree to which this is the case waxes and wanes as popular sentiment shifts and power changes hands. Britain, France and Germany are dotted with monuments to the wars of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries while the history of the United States is, perhaps more so than most other states, bound with war through the revolutionary origins of victory over its imperial masters in Britain. Closer to home, most cities in Canada are likely to have a Cenotaph or some memorial to the ‘Great War’ of 1914-1918, subsequently expanded to include the Second World War, the Korean conflict and, most likely, expanded again to acknowledge peace keeping missions and the recent war in Afghanistan.