Even when I was a kid (and, yes, they had indoor plumbing back then) I understood that democracy, as we embraced it, was something of a work in progress. It was never truly complete. It was something that should advance and expand. Every now and then something or someone would come along, a game changer for democracy. In my lifetime it was Trudeau with his Just Society and his Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
But as a history buff I also knew that Western democracy was an evolutionary thing that had suffered plenty of setbacks over the centuries. There's been no shortage of would-be leaders who chafed at the restraints of democracy until they swept them aside. And even the most democratic society accepts suspension of rights and freedoms as sometimes necessary in emergency situations. Unfortunately this affords an opportunity for undemocratic types to exploit fears so that the public may accept the indefinite loss of democratic freedoms. Hitler did it. So did Bush/Cheney with their Patriot Act.
In Western civilization there doesn't exist a single right or freedom that hasn't been paid for, in blood, often more than once. Nor does there exist a single right or freedom that can't be quickly revoked or stolen if we are not vigilant in our defence of it. For there's true value in those rights and freedoms - power and money to be had.
Today in North America democracy is not flourishing. It is being economically and politically undermined, it's declining power siphoned off to an emerging oligarchy. Instruments of democracy are being harnessed into the service not of the public but of special interests, almost entirely corporate. We are witnessing the gradual union of political and corporate power which was, to Benito Mussolini, the very essence of modern fascism.
A voting public is a hurdle to anti-democratic forces but far from insurmountable. There are various means by which the public franchise can be weakened. Why chase informed consent when misinformed or manipulated consent will do just as well? Consent, like just about everything else, can be manufactured with the right tools and enough money.
Three of those tools, the hallmarks of anti-democratic charlatans, are secrecy, deception and fear. Hide your purpose, create in your own supporters a misapprehension of facts and make them fearful or distrustful of those who stand in your way. Every despot and would-be tyrant understands those techniques and never hesitates to employ them. With them he weakens, sometimes subverts, existing democratic institutions and their connection with the public. He insinuates himself between those institutions and the public. He becomes the public face of those institutions. In this way he comes to rule rather than merely govern.
We seem to have just such a Ruler in Canada at the moment and he's expected to be our overlord for the next four, perhaps five years. His alone will be the face of the government. As in any organization, underlings will be appointed to carry out his will but their every step, their every word will be prescribed by their overlord. They will do as he directs them to do, they will say what he directs them to say if, indeed, they say anything at all.
Officially he is prime minister but that is a title he does not deserve. He has no love, no faith in parliamentary democracy. He has repeatedly shown his abject contempt for Parliament. It does not suit his imperial ways. If he could not honour Parliament while leading a minority government, why would he honour it now that he is relieved of all restrictions? With a sophomoric popinjay leading the opposition, the Ruler will have no need to engage Parliament at all. He may rule by fiat.
Watch for the Ruler to move boldly and swiftly. Henceforth his only real opposition won't be in the House of Commons much less the Senate but down the road, in the Supreme Court of Canada. The Ruler will be desperate to reconfigure Canadian democracy and to do that he will have to ideologically pervert the highest court of the land. He will seek to transform it into the political waterboy like its counterpart in Washington. A Supreme Court with a majority beholden to the Ruler instead of the country vests complete power in the Ruler.
This promises to be a difficult, possibly even dangerous, four or five years for Canadian democracy. We will be challenged to find ways, outside of the doldrums of the Commons, to uphold and defend our democratic legacy. The same forces at play in the United States won't pass up the opportunity to empower the Ruler to achieve the same ends in our country.