"Cowardice asks the question...is it safe? Expediency asks the question...is it politic? Vanity asks the question...is it popular? But conscience asks the question...is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but one must take it because it is right." ~Dr. Martin Luther King

Friday 8 November 2013

Election is the only option

I just watched the CBC trio  with Peter Mansbridge talking about  Toronto and the Senate situations.

Mansbridge asked the question and Coyne made the point ; voter loyalty to the extent information  provided by the media is ignored, is a problem for democracy.

There needs to be a mechanism to  remove people from office if need be.

He didn't  indicate who  should make the determination

i thought----- a committee of journalists perhaps, elected by their peers.

Heavy weights like Mike  Duffy and  Pamela Wallin  would  no doubt be perceived as excellent candidates.

Chantal Hebert, ever the voice of reason , pointed out -----we've just  had the debate about the
rule  of law. It would not be that easy to find  such a mechanism.

The  true irony is---------we have a mechanism-------it's called an election. ---- it's an established principle of democracy that the people have the right  to choose their representatives.

They haven't always had that right.  An entire generation of young men were torn apart by  the machines  of war ----on beaches drenched with their blood -----before the right to vote was granted.

A heavy price was paid .  To quote Winston Churchill. in the Second World War ------- Never has so much been owed by so many to so few .

We are about to remember that sacrifice.

 For a  century,  local elections were held every year,   For  about twenty, it was every two years. Then  it was three .

In  2003,  democracy was  substantially reduced ----- one might say---neutered---- snipped---scissored----emasculated....  sterilized----- take your pick----by extending municipal terms  to four years.

Four years is half as much democracy as two .  A bad situation is twice as onerous. 

Twice as much damage can be done in four years as in two. 

Four year terms were introduced when Toronto was amalgamated.

Odd thing---- I never heard of a  single learned journalist ---- or team -----.Mansbridge and Coyne were  both around at the time-------I heard  neither  one intone that a four year term  of office is a bad or a good thing.

It is bad but it wasn't even  worth discussing.

Election is  the only mechanism  possible in democracy for dealing with  a  problem of mis-representation.


Anonymous said...

Chantal is great. I won't take the Star but filch her articles regularly.

Anonymous said...

I think the Mayor of London is still in place. & before someone jumps on me, I can't recall what party he is affiliated with, nor does it matter to me.

Christopher Watts said...

Here is Toronto City Councillor Gord Perks response when asked how council should move Toronto forward (this was provided following Rob Ford's radio show apology on Sunday - so before the crack smoking admission and tape of the mayor screaming about how he wants to kill someone):

"Many people are asking me to work to remove Mayor Ford from office. To the core of my being I believe it should not be up to elected officials to remove each other from office.

It is axiomatic that in a democracy the community elects its government. It must also be up to the community to remove its government and replace it with another – through elections. Anything that displaces the electorate's power to choose its government is anti-democratic. Further, our system wisely allows for a range of different points of view in government. If we allow elected officials to force each other out of office, we risk having elected officials who oppose the majority view being pushed out of office. History is replete with examples of how bad that is for a society.

Both before and during the previous election, it was clear that Rob Ford was racist, homophobic, and had problems with substance abuse and honesty. Nevertheless he won the election. We, all of us who care about justice and democracy, need to ask ourselves why this happened.

I have what I believe is part of the answer. It is increasingly common for people and institutions to succumb to anger, resentment, and an urge to punish government for real and perceived failings. Ironically, it was this very anger that helped elect Rob Ford Mayor. Recall the relentless attacks he made as a Councillor and mayoralty candidate on factually small but symbolically large uses of Councillor's office budgets, and his mantra about ending the so called "Gravy Train".

This style of politics draws on the slogans of people like Ronald Regan who said "Government is the problem" and Margaret Thatcher who said "There is no alternative". Nonsense! Government is the tool we build together to solve problems. Its precise function is to find alternatives that bring us to a better future. Theirs is a politics of resentment and anger. Reject it.
When we succumb to that anger, important questions about how to build the City we want are lost and forgotten. For the record, I am not immune to this anger. Over three years of resisting the ugliest parts of the Mayor's assault on good governance I have on occasion lost my temper and have twice decided I had to apologise to Council. Frequently, I have to remind myself to step back and count to ten and remember that I am here to build the City. I am not here to get into pointless conflict. It's hard to do, but essential that I do it.

I want to ask you to count to ten. When you are angry at your government, remember that quick, anger-fuelled solutions usually make problems worse. When a neighbour expresses anger over a real or perceived failure of the government or public servants, speak up and remind them that so much of what holds our society together depends on those same public servants. They work to make sure that we have the comforts and community we all enjoy. When government does not solve the social problems that bring suffering to neighbourhoods, resolve not to grumble but instead to learn, participate, and organize for a better government.
Most of all spend some portion of every month – even just one hour – doing political work to ensure that we don't elect angry anti-democratic leadership to govern this wonderful City that is our home."

I agree that a 4 year term has proven itself counterproductive and would like to see some debate surface about returning to a 2 year term.

Anonymous said...

That is not correct.

Several states in the US, after collecting a specific number of signatures, can recall an elected official and then hold an election to select the successor.

That's how Arnold came to be governor of California.

Anonymous said...

4 Years does seem a very long time. But in the States the terms present problems because their politicians are always ' running ' and trying to get financial support. I'm not sure how their elections compare to ours in cost but they have raise enormous amounts of money.

Anonymous said...

Right this minute I expect that Pamela Wallin is mulling over a choice of book contracts.