On the subject of thinning democracies, I wonder how many people read last week about Dr. Milner's (a political scientist: you know someone who knows something about political science) report charging Canada's political institutions with being among the most dysfunctional of any in Western democracies. From Fair Vote Canada:
Canada has replaced Italy as the prime example of unstable and ineffective political institutions, according to Dr. Henry Milner, writing in the just published winter/spring 2010 issue of Inroads: The Canadian Journal of Opinion. As he puts it:Our political institutions are a joke, our electoral system is inherently undemocratic, our levels of political apathy and lack of civic engagement: unprecedented. I don't need the detainee issue to tell me that our democracy is in crisis!
"Political science undergraduates used to learn about Italy as the model of dysfunctional political institutions, characterized by frequent elections and constant uncertainty under minority governments at the mercy of shifting political alliances. Italy transformed its electoral institutions in the 1990s, and while hardly perfect now – as the antics of Signor Berlusconi demonstrate – it has lost its place as model of dysfunctionality among stable democracies to, of all countries, Canada.
Dr. Milner is one of Canada’s leading academic authorities on electoral systems. The complete article is available here.
“Every nation wants to be number one at something,” said Fair Vote Canada President Bronwen Bruch, “but our political leaders should be ashamed of this dubious achievement. How long will they continue to impede electoral reform in Canada? How low does voter turnout have to fall and how high does public cynicism have to grow before they take action? Let’s hope there is a young Tommy Douglas of Democracy out there with the courage and ability to push ahead on long-overdue electoral reform.”
Phrase du jour: "crisis in our democracy" sometimes used interchangeably with "democratic renewal" (cf. Dalton McGuinty). When a prominent Liberal uses either of these phrases, it typically means "The Conservatives are overtly undermining what we erode surreptitiously and more elegantly. Besides when we get caught we have the good grace to say "oops we're sorry, let's move on now". Now let's count the votes, I think we can win."
There is a glaring difference, however, between the two warnings regarding the state of our democracy. Andrew Coyne, to whom am I ideologically opposed, writes with his usual deliberateness, genuineness, and competence. Coyne, let's not forget, is one of the few conservative (or liberal for that matter) voices in defense of electoral reform.
Warren Kinsella's lament over the state of our democracy, very quickly and predictably reveals itself as little more than an opportunity to hammer Conservatives and gain leverage in a purely political game. If Kinsella thinks the Liberals have been any less complicit in the erosion of our democracy, he is not only incompetent, he is delusional.
What troubles me most, however, is that more people may inform their opinions of the current sate of our democracy from the likes of Kinsella than from those who are more capable and knowledgeable. This is not a matter of being ideologically neutral in political commentary (that is impossible in my view), but it is a matter of competency, integrity, and knowledge. Kinsella's very skilled at manipulation and messaging (i.e. politics), although I'm not sure I'd consider him an academic authority on political science.