Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
December 13, 2004
Let's dump the No Choice Party
The determined commitment of the hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians who have camped out in the cold in Kiev the past few weeks to demand democracy should be an inspiration to Canadians. These people are risking a lot in standing up against corruption, despotism and Russian domination.
Without the demonstrators, the bad guys would have gotten away with their massive electoral fraud in Ukraine. The Western world would have said "tut, tut" and quickly put Ukraine out of mind. But it was the people rising up in protest who not only attracted the world's attention, but also forced their own government out of its corruption-as-usual existence.
One cannot fairly compare democracy in Alberta with that in Ukraine. The stakes in our election were lower than they were there. Yet, democracy not only needs to be won, it needs to be maintained. And when only 45 per cent of eligible voters cast a ballot in the provincial election - leaving the governing Conservatives with the tangible support of only 22 per cent of eligible voters - it undermined the legitimacy of democracy. In Ukraine, even the patently corrupt governing clique managed to garner the support of more than 22 per cent of the people.
One could, of course, blame the people of Alberta for not taking part in a crucial democratic exercise. Certainly some education or greater encouragement should be given to spur a high voter turnout.
But maybe the people are not so far wrong. Many obviously feel their vote does not make a difference. To too large a degree, they are right. Too much power is moving away from elected officials into other hands.
Two weeks ago, U.S. President George W. Bush was in Canada, telling anyone who would listen that Canada should sign up with Bush's planned ballistic missile defence (BMD) plan. Prime Minister Paul Martin, to his credit, said Canada would make that decision. But too many commentators were saying Canada has "no choice" but to participate in American military adventures.
This is all too reminiscent of recent years when the backers of globalization constantly told us that we have "no choice" but to allow multinational corporations to dictate the future of our economy.
And by the time you read this, Canada's Supreme Court will have handed down its "opinion" to Ottawa on same-sex marriage. Again, politicians will say we have "no choice" but to act as the court recommends. Indeed, so many times in the last decade have court rulings based on the Charter of Rights, rather than the democratic will of the people, formed the country's agenda.
With our governments' actions being circumscribed on so many fronts by the "No Choice Party," it is little wonder that people stay at home on election day. When the No Choice Party rules the seas, the 45 per cent of Albertans who do vote are sailing against the breeze.
It should not be too much to ask that Canada's destiny be set by basic morality and the informed will of the people rather than by the courts, multinational corporations or the U.S. military.
In his 1991 encyclical Centesimus Annus, Pope John Paul wrote, "When society is so organized as to reduce arbitrarily or even suppressing the sphere in which freedom is legitimately exercised, the result is that the life of society becomes progressively disorganized and goes into decline."
The pope was writing about pre-1989 Soviet communism; he could have been writing about Canada in 2004. The dynamics were different; the resulting curtailment of democracy at least tends in the same direction. When vigorous debate falters or is hamstrung, apathy and decline set in.
In Ukraine, people are sacrificing mightily in order to gain democracy. In Canada, we may have to do the same in order to regain what we once had.
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