The state of Canadian democracy

Photo by Heather Davidson

Photo by Heather Davidson

Before Patrick Boyer began his speech about the Senate of Canada on Sunday afternoon, he warned his audience.
“This is like a Sunday matinée with a double feature. And both shows are horror films,” the former Member of Parliament for the Progressive Conservative party said.

Boyer, accompanied by MP Michael Chong, spoke at Wilfrid Laurier University about the issues surrounding Canadian democracy.

With United Nations International Democracy Day on Sept. 15, the event, which was put on by the Association of Political Science Students and Fair Vote Canada, was meant to “engage students on a political level.”

“We really wanted to get people involved, especially students, to know that there are political volunteer organizations and groups that aren’t representative of one political party,” said James Howard, logistics and finance coordinator and acting president of APSS.

Moderated by Brian Tanguay, a political science professor at Laurier, the discussion began with Chong speaking about the checks and balances in democracy.

He stressed that he “long argued for changes to the democratic system” and that the structure in the democratic system is flawed.

Chong explained that the issues with the democratic system aren’t a result of any one party or leader, but are instead a result of the structure of the system.

According to Chong, the issues have become worse over the last two decades.

He also brought up the issue of voter turnout being low because Canadian citizens only have one avenue of voting — voting for a party because you don’t want a particular leader in power — where other democratic systems allow residents to vote for three different levels of parliament.

“The only way to get rid of a party leader is a vote through proxy,” Chong explained.

Following this, Boyer spoke about the recent scandals in the Senate. He said the Senate scandal “shined a light on what’s really going on” and that it needs to be reformed or abolished in the upcoming years.

While the Senate was created in 1867, the system does not work the same in 2014. Boyer also said he will be pushing to have a referendum question at the next election to abolish the Senate.

Howard emphasized that having the guest speakers talk about general democratic and government issues allowed students and residents the opportunity to hear about issues in a non-partisan way.

“Both of our speakers are members of the Conservative party, but their issues and concerns are bigger than party politics themselves.”
Chong gave examples of scandals involving both the Liberal party and the Conservative party, to which Howard added that all parties are not “knights in shining armour like we think they are.”

Describing it as a constructive conversation, Howard said that APSS and Fair Vote are both aiming to promote the democratic system rather than one party. The end goal is to engage students with politics in Canada.

“It’s democracy. Democracy is what these speakers are here for and passionate about,” Howard said.

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