CBC radio’s The Current had an interview yesterday afternoon that every single
person in this country needs to stop and listen to. And yes, I’m being totally
serious. They spoke to retired senator Lowell Murray about the challenges
facing our democracy, and he had probably the most illuminating things to say
of pretty much any commentator on the topic (and the fact that he echoes a lot
of my own thoughts doesn’t hurt).
What Murray points to is the weakness of
the parties at the riding association level – where voters should be connecting
with the political process in our system and seizing the power they claim
to be alienated from. He points to MPs giving up the “power of the purse” in
their role of holding the government to account because the work they should be
doing – scrutinizing the estimates – is deemed to be too unsexy and hard to
bother with, and it’s easier to let the auditor general look at outcomes rather
than deal with the granting or denying of that spending power before it happens.
(As I’ve said before, the common refrain of an MP is that “Math is hard, and I
have to hold a press conference on a private member’s bill that will never see
the light of day!). And finally, Murray says that we need to pay attention to
process, because that’s what makes our system of electoral and parliamentary
democracy work. If we don’t pay attention to process, then it gets abused and
we pay the price.
We should not be so dismissive of Murray’s
experience – he spent 50 years as a part of our political system, starting
out as a political assistant and ending his career as the dean of the Senate. And
We the Media have a role to play in this, too, as we ignore the estimates
process on petty dramas and dismiss process stories because, well, nobody likes
process stories – they’re too boring! But as we navel-gaze about why
voters are disengaging and give rise to a group of “reformers” who promise
gimmicky solutions to problems that don’t actually exist, we should be mindful
of what Murray is trying to remind us – we have a system that
does work if we remember how to use it.
Thomas Mulcair is now officially in the NDP
leadership race with the support of 33 MPs (only four from outside of Quebec).
Not unexpectedly, he’s positioning himself as the anti-establishment candidate
(like about four other candidates are, right?).
Here’s an interesting piece on leadership campaign funding in the context of the previous Liberal race and the current
Stephen Harper says that he supports the
modernization of succession rules for the Canadian (and by extension British)
monarchy, despite his ambivalence demonstrated in the election. (To be fair, he
likely didn’t want to get off-message the day they asked him.) Now the question remains – which constitutional amending formula do we use for this particular
And the Liberals are positioning themselves
as defenders of the CBC – even though it was under a Liberal government in the '90s that we saw the worst cuts to the broadcaster. (Conversely, when the
Conservatives say they’re funding the CBC at its highest levels, we should be mindful that their increases are in the
form of salaries and not programming.)