30th Anniversary of the Spicer Commission and Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financing
This election falls on the 30th anniversary of the last official reports on the broad political disaffection and discontent of Canadians with the electoral process which disempowers them. The Spicer Commission on the Future of Canada presented its findings to the Mulroney Conservative Cabinet in June 1991. The Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financing followed, presenting its report and recommendations in November 1991. Both commissions documented the dissatisfaction of the people with politicians, political parties and Parliament. People raised demands for an end to the decision-making power being concentrated in the hands of a few. Many Canadians presented the commissions with proposals for a constituent assembly to enable the people to draft and approve their own constitution and electoral law.
The Spicer Commission warned, “Now we face spiritual crisis which demands we find, in a very short time, new structures we hope will last a very long time.” Referencing the over 400,000 people who participated in its hearings, the Spicer Commission concluded, “We have heard cries for change […] The cry heard most often, a cry from the heart, demanded more effective involvement of ordinary Canadians in running the country. Their anger and frustration shows and it is dangerous.”
“One of the strongest messages the Forum received from participants,” the report continued, “was that they have lost their faith in both the political process and their political leaders. They do not feel that their governments, especially at the federal level, reflect the will of the people, and they do not feel that citizens have the means at the moment to correct this.”
Another theme reported by the Spicer Commission was the dissatisfaction of Canadians with the media. Spicer reported that “commissioners were often told that the media must take a considerable share of the blame for focusing on our divisions, for not doing enough to convey basic, reliable information […] A group discussion participant in Islington, Ontario, put it succinctly: ‘Media: a major source of misinformation and confusion.'”
Two years ago, the 2019 federal election got underway with a major study from Simon Fraser University’s Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue which reported that of the Canadians interviewed, a “solid majority [61 per cent] believe government puts establishment interests ahead of ordinary Canadians.”
“Canadians believe that government is insensitive to what citizens think. A solid majority (70 per cent) say elected officials don’t care what ordinary Canadians think, and more than six in ten feel government ignores their interests in favour of the establishment,” it said.
An Ipsos poll released on September 5, 2019 reported that 67 per cent of those surveyed believe that “Canada’s economy is rigged to advantage the rich and powerful,” an increase of eight points since Ipsos last posed the question in 2016. Sixty-one per cent of respondents agreed with the statement “Traditional parties and politicians don’t care about people like me.”
Thirty years after the Spicer Commission and the Royal Commission on Electoral Reform and Party Financing, ruling elites have merely further ensconced themselves in positions of privilege and corruption protected by a cartel party system whose sole purpose is to deprive the people of any role in decision-making on any matter which affects their lives. Today, even rudimentary democratic practices are trampled in the mud. This obvious fact is what emerged from the “Leaders’ Debate” on September 8 and 9 at the Canadian Museum of History. No amount of loud, state-subsidized media coverage of the leaders of the parties which form the cartel party system running around the country, each declaring they represent what Canadians stand for, can cover this up.