Monday, September 1, 2014

People's Platform

I was scrolling through my Facebook feed the other day when I came across this excellent article by Nora Loreto. The title--Laying the Path to Defeat Harper in 2015--immediately captured my attention. I'm glad that more and more people see Uncle Stephen and his cronies for what they truly are--a bunch of ideological hypocrites, liars, cheats, and thinly-veiled fundamentalists--but I'm also worried that many are missing the point.

Harper and his lot are not the disease; they are a symptom. The Conservatives are merely the most recent in a long line of corrupt politicians dating all the way back to the days of Sir John A. McDonald and you can bet your bottom dollar that the next party to take charge--whether it's the Liberals or New Democrats--will resort to similar behaviour sooner or later.

Getting rid of Harper is a temporary fix at best.

Instead of thinking short-term and plotting Harper's political demise, we should be thinking of ways to implement checks and balances so that we never have to tolerate another Harper again. This mandate takes precedence over all other issues at hand. If we cannot hold politicians accountable for their actions and drastically limit corruption in politics, we'll never be able to address any of the other problems facing our country.

The good news is that we are poised to hit two birds with one stone. We have the opportunity here and now to get rid of Harper and enact changes that would make rampant corruption a thing of the past. We just have to play our cards right.

Loreto mentions a key part of the winning approach in her article: strategic voting.  She is also quick to point out the pitfalls of this tactic:
Strategic voting is dangerous to democracy because it demands that people suspend their desires and vote against their own interests. It requires citizens to vote against something rather than for something. It places way too much faith in polls and is easily corruptible. The result is deep disenfranchisement and the election of a party that is not actually supported by the people.
Ethically speaking, I have no problem with strategic voting. It's the population's way of gaming the system, something politicians do on a regular basis, and I'm all for fighting fire with fire. What I'm against is giving a political party widespread support in exchange for nothing. I want to get rid of Harper as much as the next person but not if it means giving the Liberals or New Democrats the same unregulated power that got us into this mess in the first place.

Loreto encapsulates this as well:
Fact is, either party (Liberal or NDP) would be much better than Harper's Conservatives but neither would bring about the change that we desperately need.
What then?

The ever-astute Loreto lands a glancing blow on part two of the winning approach:
Progressives should unite around a set of demands and push all left-of-centre candidates to unequivocally support these demands. And, where no candidates will support these demands, progressives should put themselves forward as candidates.
Now we're talking! If we're going to offer our votes to a party, why not get something in return? I have a few minor disagreements with Loreto's plan though.

First, why should we limit ourselves to progressives only? I know for a certain fact that many Conservative voters are disillusioned with the Tories. Why not reach out to our brothers and sisters across the political spectrum?

"Because progressives and conservatives don't get along!"

Is that true? Or is that what we've been conditioned to believe after years of bipartisan propaganda? Sure, left and right disagree on a variety of issues, but I'm confident that there are issues on both sides of the imaginary line we can agree on. Why not identify those issues and work together in resolving them? More on that in a moment.

Second, I've already pointed out that certain systemic flaws must be resolved before we can move forward as a nation. I'm not saying that children, women, the environment, indigenous people, and workers--Loreto's hypothetical top five--shouldn't be our priority, only that the best way to address those issues is by repairing the system first.

Until we can install checks and balances to keep our "representatives" in check and doing their job, issues that matter to Canadians will remain unresolved. So long as our government can make policy decisions based on wishful thinking, belief, and ideology, Canadians will never know true representation.

Okay: here's how we hit two birds with one stone.

First, we identify the systemic problems plaguing our government, then list their remedies. Here's what I think such a list would look like:
  • Transparency
  • Accessibility
  • Accountability
  • Proportional Representation (or anything but First Past the Post)
  • Evidence-based Decision Making
Second, we use these items to create a People's Platform, a list of demands that preferably includes specific bills demonstrating how our Platform should be enacted. We'll need the help of various experts to draft these bills but I don't think we'll have much difficulty finding them. In fact, many of the items on my list are already championed by MP's on the left, be they New Democrats, Greens, or Liberals.

Third, we take our finished product and begin an aggressive media campaign. We educate Canadians about the People's Platform in plain, accessible terms and invite people from both sides of the political spectrum to join us. Corruption, lack of accountability, and misrepresentation affect all Canadians regardless of political leaning. Let's put our differences aside while we give our government a much needed upgrade. After that, we can resume our petty bickering (though I hope we won't).

Lastly, we make an open offer to the political parties: our support in exchange for the enactment of our People's Platform. When a party steps forward, we demand that their leader sign a legal contract ensuring follow-through.

And if no party wants to play ball, we have a backup plan: we start a party and take matters into our own hands.

Loreto's article is a breath of fresh air. Finally, someone who understands the power of the masses and thinks outside the box! To my great pleasure, she also understands that the people have a duty to nurse our ailing democracy back to health:
Together, working from outside the formal mechanisms of politics, we have to offer a peoples' alternative, invite everyone to join us, and challenge those people who refuse.
I'm ready to go to work. Are you?

/rant over

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