Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Three Eras of Canada's Democracy or How We Got to Where We Are Today.

I first voted in the 1968 elections when Pierre Trudeau and Trudeaumania led the liberals to a massive majority and I've watched Canadian democracy evolve, not always in a good way, ever since.

I've witnessed three political eras in my lifetime.

There was an Era of Rights and Freedoms, the years of Diefenbaker, Pearson and Trudeau.  Some might not realize it but Diefenbaker was a true champion of human rights.  Pearson brought Canada to the world stage as honest broker and peacekeeper.  Trudeau, of course, patriated the constitution and left us with perhaps the most important legislative enactment in our country's history, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  That was the zenith of liberal democracy in Canada.  It truly was our Golden Age.

Although few of us grasped it at the time, Mulroney ushered in the Era of Neoliberalism in the guise of free trade and the incremental surrender of national sovereignty to the forces of market fundamentalism.  The era of neoliberalism represented the years of Mulroney, Chretien and Martin.  Neoliberalism became our orthodoxy until it was even embraced by the New Democrats.

The third era is upon us.  It is the Era of Illiberal Democracy marked by the rise of the authoritarian state and the ascendancy of the state over the individual.  This is Canada under Stephen Harper.

I don't single out Canada for criticism.  Illiberal democracy is spreading fast throughout the world.  We are just following suit.  It's marked by a general shift to the Right, a skewing of the democratic restraints on government, and the emergence of new power structures.

Ignatieff recast the Liberals as Conservative Lite with his endorsement of a "muscular foreign policy", petro-statehood, and his unbalanced support for Israel.  Layton and Mulcair likewise embraced neoliberalism as they abandoned the Left and Blairified the NDP.

Harper has left no shred of doubt that he holds liberal democracy and especially the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in contempt.  He has sought to flout the Charter over and again, only to run afoul of the constitutional guardians, the Supreme Court.  They alone, not our opposition leaders, have ensured we have something left to fight for.

Illiberal democracy is evident in the workings of the authoritarian state.  It is manifest in voter manipulation and fraudulent elections.  It is the vehicle for rising inequality.  It is masked in secrecy and deceit.  It is the modern surveillance state.  It is the advancement of corporate interests (i.e. pipelines) over the public interest (i.e. action to thwart global warming).  We're even seeing the early onset symptoms of a permanent warfare state, outsourcing much of our foreign and military policy to another nation.

This is where we are today, the era of illiberal democracy.  Left unchecked it will worsen and our democracy will continue to be degraded.  We only have to look at America's "bought and paid for" Congress and its corporatist Supreme Court.

How to get back to real democracy is the puzzle.  It certainly cannot be achieved with Liberals as Conservatives and New Democrats as Liberals.  We cannot even the political keel under that reality and the country can only continue to list to the Right.

I fear the only antidote is progressivism, genuine bare-knuckle progressivism. Liberals need to restore their near-dead progressive wing.  New Democrats have to curb their centrism and return to their indispensable role of anchoring the Left and becoming the conscience of Parliament.  Who even speaks for labour any more?  Mulcair?  Spare me.

If we don't realize where we came from, everything great that we had accomplished, where we are today and just how we got here, we become party to ensuring the perpetuation and expansion of illiberal democracy in Canada.  We have a choice but we take it for granted at our and our children's peril.  Our freedom hangs in the balance.


Dana said...

I don't want to praise you too much. You'll swell up like a mound.

Oh. Never mind.

Brilliant. Again, for chrissakes.

The Mound of Sound said...

I'm glad you liked it, Dana. It was written with a very strong measure of sadness and frustration. The challenge is obvious but I question if we're up to meeting it.

My late father made me understand that we didn't have even one right or freedom that handn't been paid for, usually in blood, often more than once nor did we have any right or freedom that, in unexercised and undefended, wouldn't be taken away from us. What we're witnessing now proves he was right.

Gyor said...

Mulcair does not represent neoliberalism, he supports PR, Investment in Inferstructure, a rejection of austerity, money for a national childcare program, stable funding for affordable housing, a massive cap and trade program, boosting the federal minium wage, he rejected the Nexen take over, opposed Harper's changes for the Canadian Election act and got Harper to back down on many of them, and he's leading the charge on bill C-51, and opposed the war in Iraq, ect...

Mulcair has been said to be the best leader of the official opposition since Deifienbaker.

Mulcair is the only hope we have of having another golden age of democracy and human rights in this country, even greater then the last, the question is, do we have the courage to take the chance and embrace the opportunity.

The Mound of Sound said...

And we'll see when Mulcair's exertions in the next election are focused on Trudeau's Liberals rather than the Conservatives that your man intends to, yet again, keep Harper in power. Sometimes you can't escape the smell, Gyor.

Dana said...

Mulcair is the second coming of jesus christ, yes, everyone knows that. Will you be wielding a hammer after the NDP returns to 3rd party status? Of course you will.

Yes, your father was indeed right. And I fear so are you. I don't think Canadians today even care. Certainly not enough to take to the streets in sufficient numbers to make a difference at any rate.

Many may not notice, so little attention do they pay.

If we had the money I think we'd likely emigrate to Scotland. Edinburgh and environs would suit.

The Mound of Sound said...

Dana, you can thank me later but I think I've found just the place for you. There's even a flat for the deomestic staff and, lord knows, you can probably accommodate the rest in the stables.

Dana said...

Thanks but really I think we'd rather be in town. New Town will do. Been looking at this one longingly.

The Mound of Sound said...

Well, yes, it's definitely in town but a little pedestrian, don't you think?

Dana said...

We like to walk, yes.

Gyor said...

Mulcair has opened the door to coalition talks which Trudeau slammed shut in his face.

And yes Mulcair will callout Trudeau as well as Harper, Trudeau embraces many of the same policies as Harper and when Trudeau said no to the possiblity of a coalition he proved once again he's on the same side as Harper, not Mulcair.

and the next Election isn't over yet, we'll see who ends up Prime Minister Mulcair or one of the two neoliberals and who ends up in 3rd place.

Gyor said...

Its the Liberals who kept Harper in power, not the NDP.

Trailblazer said...

I don't believe in miracles.I wish I did for that is what it will take for a progressive Government to take control of Canada.
Trudeau has little to offer but a pretty face that will split the opposition.
Justin is but a ghost of his father.

Dana said...

Mustn't. Feed. The trolls.

Repeat as necessary.

Marie Snyder said...

Duly facebooked and tweeted.

Anonymous said...

"...the emergence of new power structures..."

Dare to name THE names?
It is good to know identity of the enemy before the fight...

The Mound of Sound said...

A..non. There are several examples that we know of and, I expect, others that we haven't sorted out yet. For example there are the tribunals that are attached to every trade deal we enter that override our laws and our courts. There are the integrated networks of our national police, our state security apparatus and the major energy producers that can be applied to any number of alternative uses. I really want to be circumspect here. Talk of "the enemy" might not be the best way of discussing this.

Anonymous said...

So right on Mound. I spoke with a 44 year old woman from Quebec who is living here illigally. She doesn´t care what is going on in Canada but is about to export to Canada. She is in for a rude awaking. However, when that sort of thing is taking place,is it any wonder why our country is in the mess it is? Anyong