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Friday, October 17, 2008

Patriotism In Canada

A few days ago, we broke out the Canadian Flag on a new 24' pole on the shore of 42 Alexander at the Oyster Pond. It looks good here in this picture, as it is fluttered out by the north-west wind that seems to be prevailing these days. This image is from our deck, at sunset. I will look for a great picture of it at sun-up some day soon.

I decided to go out and get this pic because I have been thinking about the recent federal election here in Canada... it was last Tuesday. It was the day after Canadian Thanksgiving and it turned out that we Canadians couldn't get the turkey out of our thoughts... so we elected one! I am really glad that the USA election is at the beginning of November... I am certain you understand!

So, we elected a minority government, and the current Prime Minister, Steven Harper was returned as the PM for the next four years. Four years that is, unless he decides to break the law again, and call another election before the four years is up. He has what one could consider 'a stronger minority' following the election than he had for the last two years... in fact he came close to a majority. Before this election, it would only take the Liberal Party and one other opposition party (Bloc Quebecois or New Democratic) to successfully vote a successful non-confidence motion. Now, it would require all three parties having seats in parliament to band together to win a non-confidence motion and bring down the government... a very difficult accomplishment due to the relatively strong ideological and/or geographic differences in the opposition parties.

A translation for folks reading this blog that live in a republic and perhaps don't understand a parliamentary system... in Canada's democratic system, if the party in power does not have a clear majority of seats in our parliament, it can be voted out of power, with what is called a non-confidence motion. If they are successful, a combination of the opposition parties could try to form a new majority. If not, the Prime Minister would dissolve the parliament and call an election. Election campaigns in Canada typically last five or six weeks. (For those who are more familiar with the Israeli Knesset system, where non-confidence motions happen routinely... the difference with Canada is that there are only five major parties recognized in this country. The minority parties are difficult to bring together into an alternative government, due to clear ideological differences. It has never happened that a non-confidence motion was passed, and a combination of opposition parties formed a new government... there has always been an election result from successful non-confidence votes... there have been hundreds of these votes over the years.)

Back to the Canadian flag! At times it appears as if patriotism is in short supply in Canada, because the flag doesn't seem to conjure up a salute, hand on the heart, Oath of Allegiance, singing of the national anthem (many Canadians couldn't recite the words to either). But when the election happens, historically Canadians have been good voters. Unfortunately, in the recent federal election, only 59.1% of the eligible voters actually cast a ballot. While this is more than the 50% of Americans that are eligible who will vote, it is far less than the 95% who typically vote in Australia. Perhaps, this is yet another indication in Canada to a lower level of patriotism.

It seems to me that as the voter turn-out has receded in Canada, the quality of government has also receded. It is anecdotal at best, but we get what we vote for, and lately we haven't gotten much. I think that it is because when we don't participate in the process, we end up with politicians who are not properly vetted prior to them being elected. We have leaders who can demand that the individuals members of parliament vote in a particular way... because the parliamentarian probably will not be challenged by his/her constituents.

There has been evidence in each of the four caucuses of parliament that the leaders are telling the members how to cast individual votes. This means that the members of those parties are not representing the constituents... at best it means an ideology is being invoked; at worst, a leader is implementing an agenda that may not be representative of the platform upon which they were elected.

There are several ways we as a population could begin to take back our parliament, and perhaps instill a resurgence of Canadian patriotism. One would be to work toward higher voter turn-out in all three levels of government... municipal, provincial and federal. A second would be to motivate constituents to attend and participate in party nomination processes. Another would be to start attending the debates, and to encourage others to also attend and participate with questions so that we can vet the candidates based on local issues, party platform, personal experience, capability and intention to represent the constituency. I am certain there are others. We pay our taxes so that we will maintain and improve our situation in life... we should wonder then, why we don't vote on how those tithe are spent.

So what should we do? Does it make a difference if we don't all get out and vote?

It does... I believe that we need to get back to our roots, ensure that the parliament that we elect represents the interests of the electorate. That once seated, the government acts responsibly, in the day-to-day process and to achieve the goals that are laid out in it's platform. Frankly, I don't believe that we are getting these things that we are entitled to... because we are not exercising our privilege,
our right, our obligation to participate in the election of our representatives.

Let me hear from you in some manner if you are concerned about the way we are electing our representatives. Help me understand what you think needs to be done. I am convinced that we need to do something... we are losing our way of life, because we are not cherishing it!





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Grad. Saint Mary's University, 1975, got into the medical device business initially in sales, then various management positions up to president, all in Medical Devices. I prefer therapy products over diagnostic, but they are all fun, and in a way have defined my life. I have now evolved, with help from my 35 year partner Lynnda with whom I now share every hour. I am into staying healthy, photography, kayaking, bicycling, gardening and two books a week. I wish I had gotten to this stage earlier!