No. 30September 23, 2021
– Peter Ewart –
During the 44th General Election many Canadians expressed deep concern about the Trudeau Liberals imposing a federal election on the country two years ahead of the four year term and in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic. While it is true that the Liberal government should have waited, this act of imposing an unwanted election reveals a deeper problem.
In a modern democracy, sovereign power should flow from the people and any power of government should be derived from that. The fact that Trudeau can arbitrarily schedule an election against the wishes of the vast majority of the people in what amounts to be a surprise attack on them shows that sovereign power does not lie with the populace but has been usurped by the prime minister and his party, and high state officials. Indeed, the entire political structure is set up this way, effectively disempowering the population.
Instead of elections being an opportunity for people to come together and put forward and discuss their views on issues and who could best represent them, we have the situation whereby the issues in the election are cooked up in the backrooms of the cartel parties in parliament by spin-doctors and pollsters and, with the assistance of the establishment big media, are imposed on the population. Thus elections are reduced to the level of pro-wrestling matches where the cartel parties in parliament grapple and hurl insults at each other in orchestrated ways, while the voters are relegated to being spectators in fold-up chairs.
Democracy must be more than people voting every two or three or four years and then being told to go home while the parties in parliament take over. This amounts to one day of democracy and 1,000 days or more of an effective dictatorship. A modern democracy needs mechanisms and processes whereby people have a say, where they have decision-making power, where candidates are directly chosen by the electorate rather than by party strategists and, once elected, held accountable to that electorate.
In the wake of the 2021 election, many people are talking about the need for electoral reform and democratic renewal, especially with the distortions inherent in the First Past the Post system, one example being the Liberals losing the popular vote to the Conservatives, but the Conservatives receiving 39 seats or so fewer than the Liberals. When those who did not vote are factored in, the Liberals received support from only about 19 per cent of the electorate or one in five voters, yet Trudeau claims that he has a “clear mandate” from Canadians.
And there are various other distortions such as the measures that work against the election of independents and marginalize small parties.
However, one thing we have to be cautious about is that any initiatives to reform or change the political system are not left to the governing party and the parties in Parliament. This only magnifies the problem of the people as a whole being disempowered. A process is needed in which the people have the opportunity to discuss and decide upon what political system would best empower them, whether through a Citizens Assembly of some kind or another truly democratic process.
One of the topics of discussion in the 44th General Election was the question of fixed election dates and why they are rarely if ever adhered to. A discussion in Calgary pointed out that like Stephen Harper before him, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called a snap election in spite of the fact that a law exists calling for elections on a fixed date every four years.
Fixed election dates are the norm in many countries and are considered a way to stop the governing party from calling elections mid-term when they consider it is to their advantage, catching other parties off guard, using their governing position to receive free media coverage and so on.
Canada’s fixed election law was passed in May 2007 by Harper’s Conservative government. At the time, Harper stated that “fixed election dates prevent governments from calling snap elections for short-term political advantage. They level the playing field for all parties and the rules are clear for everybody.”
The law, however, preserves the prerogative powers of the governor general as exercised by the prime minister to call an election outside the fixed dates. The fixed election law amended the Canada Elections Act, but clearly stated “Nothing in this section affects the powers of the Governor General, including the power to dissolve Parliament at the Governor General’s discretion.” (While he or she is expected to act on the advice of the prime minister, Canada’s Constitution permits the governor general to retain certain constitutional discretion whether to accept the advice of the prime minister to dissolve Parliament. The governor general represents the foreign monarch who is Canada’s head of state. In other words, it is a function which puts the powers of the state above those of any governments which come and go.
Little more than a year after the law was passed, Harper himself called an early election, on September 7, 2008. The outcome was another Conservative minority government.
At the time, the organization Democracy Watch initiated court proceedings, arguing that the prime minister had violated his own fixed election law. In deciding that the law had not been broken, the court stated that the prime minister’s power “has its roots in the historical power of the Monarch.” The court also stated that the royal prerogative cannot be limited by an ordinary law, only through an amendment to the Canadian constitution.
Once it became clear that Trudeau would call an election in 2021 there were suggestions from some circles that the Governor General should deny the Prime Minister’s request for an election. The NDP made a big show of issuing an Open Letter on the matter and debate ensued as to whether or not the Governor General has the power to disregard the advice of the Prime Minister.
What the political pundits and cartel parties did not want to discuss is that whether it is the prerogative of the Prime Minister, the Governor General, the political police or other organs of the state, all of it originates from the Crown and all of it leaves the people out of the equation. This situation illustrates well that “democratic institutions” in which sovereignty is vested in a fictional person of state are designed to deprive the people of power.
The need for people’s empowerment to vest decision-making power in the people is the most important problem which is demanding a solution today.
1. As quoted by CBC News, May 26, 2006.
The Chief Electoral Officer of Canada, Stephane Perrault, has invited all candidates in the federal election to participate in the 2021 post-election Survey of Candidates.
The aim of the survey is to get a better understanding of:
– your attitudes toward Elections Canada and the electoral process, including your level of trust;
– your satisfaction with the services and tools provided by Elections Canada;
– your perspectives on policy issues, such as technology, political financing, privacy, disinformation and campaign periods.
To read more about this upcoming research initiative on Elections Canada website click here.
(To access articles individually click on the black headline.)
Send your articles, photographs, reports, views and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org