The Democratic Revolution
In Ontario, as in the rest of Canada and many places in the world today, there is a growing restlessness among the electorate about the function and effect of democracy, democratic institutions, and, the systems of democracy.
The loudest voices for change cite the make-up of Parliament as unrepresentative of the will of the voters, and, the election of governments with less than 50% of the vote, as evidence of the flawed or even undemocratic system.
The simple fact that people believe there to be a problem with their democracy demonstrates most assuredly that there is a problem with democracy. Yet the evidence cited by reformists falls well short of reason and proof of the specific flaws that may exist today and fails to rationalize their remedy.
In Britain in the 1800’s, the early days of the Parliamentary Reform era, A.V. Dicey identified that ultimately “the electorate are politically sovereign, and, parliament is legally sovereign.” In its fundamental meaning, Dicey observes that while Parliament has authority over law, such authority flows to them only from the people.
In Canada and in Ontario we have a similar reality; that the authority of Parliament flows from the people but we have further constrained the legal authority of Parliament with our Constitution and Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Any democratic system has at its core a complex set of checks and balances laid out against the mechanisms and processes for the exercise of authority by the government. The Supreme Court of Canada refers to the entire complex as our “democratic architecture”, but a more descriptive name for this system is “a house of cards”. Move any single card and we risk collapsing the entire system.
In 1970 the electoral card was shifted. It did not bring down the entire structure but did give rise to instability of the system that has been ever since tweaked and further tweaked in effort to re-stabilize our democracy. In 1970 political affiliation was added to the ballot.
While there is no reason to disagree that at the time it seemed a rational and insignificant change that served to inform the electorate in casting their ballot, it was in fact the beginning of the rot in our system. We gave effect to a middleman between the electorate and parliament called the Political Party.
From 1970 until now, the role and authority of the Political Party has grown and become entrenched as if a legitimate entity in democracy culminating in the Elections Acts of Canada and Ontario, further self-perpetuating the false premise.
Every Democratic Reform that Ontario and Canada must take to restore electoral confidence in democracy relates to untangling the Political Party from Democracy.
1. Electoral Reform
Remove political affiliation from the ballot
Add to the ballot the choices; “ANY” and “NONE”
Permit multiple equal votes for any number of candidates
Count, in addition to votes cast for each candidate, the total non-voting electorate and assign such number as votes for “ANY” and assign those to every candidate equally
Declare the winner as the candidate with the most votes above 50% of their electorate, and failing that, hold a by-election
2. Campaign Reform
Restrict the use of Leaders’ names in all but their own election
Limit the use of Political Affiliation labels on signs and flyers etc.
Replace fixed election dates with a fixed 90 day campaign period
3. Fundraising and Election Finance Reform
Eliminate all tax credits and benefits accruing to political parties and associations
Reduce candidate election spending limits to 1/3 their current levels
Establish a robust per vote subsidy that shall accrue to the candidate and may not be shared or transferred to any political party or other association
Flow all donations to candidates, Political Parties, and or associations anonymously through the Canada Revenue Agency
Ultimately the political party is a 3rd Party to elections and democracy. While the political affiliation is a necessary expedient in organising Parliament it is counter to our democratic architecture.
The independence of our representatives is paramount to our system of democracy. Each may assign or withdraw confidence in the Government at any time; we refer to them as the “Members from…” rather than Liberal 1, New Democrat 2, or, Conservative 8, etc.
Our democracy flows from the representation of each community through a vote of its residents for one member with one voice. The exclusion of non-residents in the vote, the guarantee of equality among members and the equality of their voice in Parliament are the foundations of our democracy. Political Parties create leaks in our foundation and any electoral reforms that serve to further entrench political parties as if legitimate entities will flood our democracy out of existence.