Fourteen years ago we experienced the Citizens Assembly on Electoral Reform, a costly exercise in cosmetic democracy. The Assembly consisted of 161 members, selected partly at “random” and charged to decide how we elect the Legislature. The assembled members were delivered to Political Science Profs hired to “educate” them on Electoral Systems, to wash out of their heads misconceptions and implant “science”. Through its lifespan, the Assembly was isolated from the political parties lest it be contaminated with something or other.
After they became securely educated, the Assembly was dispatched around the Province to become informed through public hearings. This would prepare them for the third stage which was to mix science with information and concoct a system that would help us “elect” the lesser evils to be “our” quasi-despots.
The Assembly convened in public, as done in parliaments and courtrooms. Transparency is fundamental to democracy but politicians have “modified” the system to obscure what we need to know and have hollowed the facility through which we may foil their plans that we don’t like. Such as Trudeau buying us that rusty pipeline, Glen Clark building the Pussyficat Catamarans, Gordon Campbell selling out BCRail and so on ...
The Citizens Assembly took its role seriously and went on to make truly democratic their labour in “improving democracy”, as they billed their calling. To that end, they attached to their methodology a public forum, through which people could address the Assembly continuously, publicly. This was a leap forward, far beyond the usual system of “Pretend Listening and Practice Wastebasketing”.
This I could not resist and I rushed to it, but evidently I overshot the Assembly handlers’ expectations. I suggested that the Assembly invite ideas for new electoral systems, in addition to inviting comments on the systems the PolySci Profs had schooled the members of the Assembly. This they deemed “disruptive” or worse, and dealt with it resolutely by forbidding “unlicenced freedom of speech”, so to speak. The conduct of the Assembly handlers made me sad, but I saw no reason for remorse.
The Assembly recommended a proportional representation electoral system. Gordon Campbell killed it at its genesis by raising the bar to 60% voter support. This in a society where government could get “majorities” of “Rubberstamps”, “Nobodies” Trudeau (The Father) called them, with 30% of the votes.
Currently the NDP govern us grace of the Greens. The latter desperately need a “proportional representation” kind of electoral system and has the power to wrangle from the NDP. Hence the current visitation to the issue.
This time they forewent grandiose shows of democratic theatrics and opted for the reliable method of Committees & Consultants. PRofessionals are now managing the process including interfacing with the hoi polloi. C&C love “consultation” and they did one, extensively advertised to ensure that no one remains unaware of the devotion of the government to democratic processes.
The advertising was cleverly designed to suppress exploration of new concepts or anything else that would affect adversely the desired outcome of the enterprise. It was made to suppress new ideas quickly, before evolving and acquiring popularity that would render them hard to “manage”. This dissuaded the heretics, the malcontents and other “odd blokes”, who build civilization.
On arrival, the public input was funneled into the PR digester and used to plot strategies to skirt around “sensitive” issues discussion of which could hurt the purpose of the proponents. To enhance confusion and display fake fairness, they list “un-alphabetically to boot, the names of those who answered the questioner – what for, if not to pretend fair process?
The ways and means by which a society elects and empowers those who manage the affairs of the society that must be managed collectively, is for the populace to determine and to keep agile and evolving in sync with the needs of society. Until we, the people, assert our rights to decide this and the other aspects of the people / government interface, democracy will remain lame and what must be done will remain wanting. Like a bright Brit once said, the question is to be or not to be. Free, that is.